Relax and Talk
One of the big worries for any new language student is that of being able to relax and speak to the locals whenever the opportunity arises to do so. If you plan to do this when you bump into people at the market or in a restaurant you might not have the time to settle your nerves and show how much you know. Things are a lot easier if you are staying in a family home and can chat to everyone around the dinner table or when you are all watching television together. This will also give you a chance to build up a relationship with some of the different family members and start to feel confident about speaking to them about anything which pops into your head, rather than restrict yourself to stilted conversations which you have planned in advance.
Learn Everyday Language
There is nothing like repetition to help you learn certain words well. If you are staying in a family home and eating with them then you will quickly begin to pick up the words which are useful in everyday situations. These include expressions you would use around the dinner table, general chat about how your day was and other domestic matters. This means that even when you are taking it easy with your host family you will be learning all the time in a natural way.
Make Lifelong Friends
The most lasting benefit you will get from staying with a host family is the friendly bond you will make. By spending a lot of time with your hosts you will find out how they live and what their interests are far more easily than you could do in most other circumstances. Your hosts family will help you when you have problems or are feeling homesick and will include you in family celebrations and activities. You will become a part of their family and surely lifelong friends.
Understand Local Culture
When you are living on your own in a foreign country you will only be able to scratch the surface of the culture you are living in. When you live with a host family you will discover daily local rituals, foods and customs. You will find out how local families celebrate holidays, how they eat and interact with each other and with their neighbours. When you live with a host family, not only will you improve your language skiills, you will have the chance understand the fabric of the local society through its culture.
Photo courtesy of AFS USA.