Free lodging in China, but only if you speak English

Tue May 11, 2010 7:22am EDT
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By Farah Master

SHANGHAI (Reuters Life!) - Visitors seeking to see China on a budget would do well to brush up their English language skills to take advantage of a scheme that offers free lodging in Chinese homes in exchange for English tutoring.

With the cost of one hour of English tuition costing up to 500 yuan ($73.26) -- unaffordable for the vast majority of Chinese -- a not-for-profit Chinese organization called Tourboarding launched the initiative last month.

Lodgers must speak at least two hours of English a day in return for their keep while their Chinese hosts can learn for free from a resident live-in English teacher.

"In the past 30 days, 5,000 Chinese families have signed up," said Ken Chen, 38, one of the founding members for Tourboarding.

Chen said the aim of the company, which is run online (, is not to make money but to provide opportunity for the millions of Chinese keen to learn English.

Tourboarding hopes to tap into foreign demand for cheap accommodation in China, particularly in Shanghai, as hotel prices have soared since the start of the World Expo in May.

"Travel industry hates us, people love us," is the motto on its website, which prides itself on offering travelers airport pick-up and drop off, free accommodation with a family and two meals a day.

Travelers can choose to exchange their language for free accommodation, tour guiding or even Chinese cooking lessons.   Continued...

<p>A general view shows buildings at the French Concession area at the centre of Shanghai January 12, 2010. REUTERS/Nir Elias</p>