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Foreign Exchange a Dual Winner
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Shanghai families are opening their homes rent-free to foreigners in return for English lessons.

Host Chinese families should have at least one spare room in their home and be willing to help foreigners with their Chinese-language skills.

The service, initiated by the Shanghai Lioo Business Consulting Co Ltd, is only open to foreign students or foreigners who work and study in the city. No tourists or short-term visitors will be accepted.

Foreign tenants need to sign an agreement with both their host family and the company about how long and how often the language tutoring will be carried out, and the payment of ancillary fees.

"We want to play matchmaker with the two sides and provide a live communication environment for people who want to understand each other's culture and lifestyle better," said Zeng Zhangqiu, the service's initiator. After working in the foreign-affairs sector for decades, Zeng said he sensed a great demand for language-exchange services.

In Western countries, host families have become a popular accommodation choice for overseas students on short-term study trips. That spurred Zeng to adapt the practice into a home-and-language-exchange service in China.

Tenants must have their personal documents, such as visa, passport and employer's information, registered at the company for the sake of security. The two parties are also required to register with police.

The service is free for Chinese host families, while foreigners need to pay a placement fee of 300 yuan (US$37.50) to 500 yuan per month.

Zeng said he received more than 10 requests from foreigners seeking to be placed in a Shanghai home after the Spring Festival. Most of them are from the United States, Canada and Australia.

(Shanghai Daily March 10, 2007)

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