Communication tips for international guests
Use body language to communicate a warm and welcoming attitude
Simplify your communication: Choose simple words, point, and use gestures
Draw pictures to help you communicate about ideas, objects, and locations
Use translation apps to help you compose notes, emails, or instructions
Warmth and kindness speak volumes
Language differences may at first seem daunting, especially if you’re new to hosting, but there are a lot of ways to work around them—starting with being open-minded, welcoming, and kind.
“I think most people who visit are grateful and happy if you attempt to converse with them,” says Jan, an English-speaker hosting in France. But if anything gets really lost in translation, he enlists the help of a native speaker nearby. “If it becomes really difficult, I usually offer them a beer and shout for my neighbor who is French and always happy to help me,” Jan adds, acknowledging that a beverage can be a universal sign of a warm welcome.
Simplify your communication
Once you’ve established a warm rapport with your guests, you can turn to gestures, drawing pictures, and simple sentences to understand one another. “Use very simple language: noun-verb-object. This takes practice, as we all use idioms way more than we think!” says Michele, a host from Massachusetts.
Sara, a host in London, found drawing Pictionary-like sketches over breakfast for a Korean guest who spoke no English was enough to plan out his entire day. “I drew little pictures for his directions, and we had great fun with them,” she says. “I also got a [London Underground] map and circled all of the places he wanted to see as well as which station he needed.”
Tech tools can save the day
Beyond the usual human modes of interaction, technology can lend a helpful hand. Australian host Louise often leans on translation apps to communicate with her international guests. "I use Google Translate on my iPhone,” she says, “which deals with both text and spoken words reasonably well.”
There are many translation apps to choose from, including Airbnb’s own software, which automatically translates your listing details and messages into 30+ languages so guests from all over the world can learn about your space and interact with you in their native language.
Provide important info in the guests’ native language
One other tactic that some hosts have used is to make sure key information or entertainment for guests is available in their native language before arrival. Louise says, “I get a lot of guests from China, and they're such wonderful guests that I want to encourage them to book. To this end, I paid to have a copy of my House Rules and a summary of my house manual professionally translated into simplified Chinese so they know exactly what is expected and feel welcome.”
As these hosts have shown, creativity, open-mindedness, and maybe a little technology are all you need to overcome language barriers. Embrace the uniqueness of each new interaction, and you’ll be rewarded with opportunities to connect with guests from all over the world.
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