Lessons from the Experts: How Exchange Students Can Help Teach Their Native Tongue


The advantage of having a foreign student in your school or classroom is exponential. Not only will your students and staff gain critical cultural understanding, but there is also an academic benefit from these exchanges.

“Yuri taught me some vocabulary and somewhat helped me with improving my Chinese speaking,” said Michele Lett, whose family hosted Yuri, an AIED exchange student from China, at her home in New Jersey. Michele takes Mandarin courses at her school, Bishop George Ahr (BGA) High School.

This benefit is connected to bringing an “expert” into the classroom. A Chinese student coming into a Mandarin classroom is a great resource and provides a unique opportunity for most students. Though only students themselves, our exchanges students bring in the real world example that is sometimes missing from language classrooms.

“Yuri participated in the making of an audio comic book put together by Chinese IV Honors… This provided me a live example when I teach about classroom culture of China,” said Lei Liang, Mandarin Chinese teacher at BGA.

Beyond academics, having someone from the country where students are practicing the language also allows them to realize what they are studying is actually useful. Our hope is that after local students have this kind of interaction, it will inspire them to focus more and work harder in their language studies, or even in other subject areas.  

The student exchange at Kellman Brown Academy (KBA), located in Voorhees, New Jersey, did provide this kind of inspiration through cross-cultural learning.

On Peter, an AIED exchange student from China, KBA teacher Terry Silver had this to say: “Our students were fascinated with Peter, and they were excited to welcome him into the class… When he spoke in front of the class, they got a glimpse of his world. They were surprised to learn how much he has to study in China, [and] how advanced he was in math.”

Whether bolstering language classes or simply gaining a better global awareness, schools that host exchanges provide an opportunity to their students that will become invaluable throughout their lives. We hope that all students can be given this chance one day.

This post was written by Ryan Allen. If your school is interested in hosting students from AIED Council, please visit our “Become a Host School” page at aied-edu.org/become-host- school.html. For other questions, email him at ryan.allen@aied-edu.org.   

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