IT brings 500 foreign visitors to Bury St Edmunds each year but you will not find it in the guidebooks.
The Bury Language School, on Angel Hill, started 15 years ago with one classroom in the town’s Farmers’ Club. This week it will run seven classes and by April, it will double that. Principal Ben Logan says they are looking for a third property and more host families.
The school has to market Bury to group leaders and schools abroad but Mr Logan said: “They like the fact it’s safe and historic and, unlike Cambridge, it’s not full of language schools.
“We say we’re close to Stansted, close to Cambridge and close to London for trips.”
Students are mostly from Europe but they also come from China, the Middle East, Thailand and Japan. A party of 15-year-olds who came from Tokyo this week were in flight when the earthquake struck.
Teachers and hosts do not need to be multi-lingual. Mr Logan explained: “Most students aren’t beginners. We do everything in English. Our skill is in being able to break the language into parts.”
Diane and John Nash have hosted BLS students in their Chevington home for four years and say language is not a problem. Diane said: “We had some Thai students whose English was poor but they picked it up very quickly.”
They say the school helps with difficulties, like home sickness, and most students keep in touch afterwards.
John said: “We don’t do it for the money – it’s student money. We do it for the interest.”
Diane added: “It’s nice meeting people from different countries.”
The Nashes’ children have grown up, but they say the value of hosting is even greater for families because it gives British youngsters a chance to mix with other cultures.
For details on hosting, call BSL on 01284 765511.