Mariko, a Japanese university student, is studying for a month in Auckland and has booked a homestay. She arrives at her homestay and meets her homestay parents, Jenny and Paul.
Jenny: “ Hi, you’re Mariko, aren’t you? I’m Jenny and this is my partner Paul.”
Paul: “Hi Mariko how are you? You must be really tired after your flight. Bet you’d like to freshen up, maybe unpack or have a shower, eh?”
Mariko: “Thank you Mr and Mr Jones. It’s really nice to meet you and very kind of you to let me stay”
Jenny: “Mariko, please call us “Jenny” and “Paul”. We really want you to feel at home! Our house is your house while you are here”
Paul: “Let me take your bags for you. They look like they weigh a ton!”
Jenny: “How about Paul shows you to your room and I make us all a nice cuppa? Tea or coffee?”
Mariko: “Sorry but what is a “cuppa”? I don’t know that word.”
Jenny: “Oh sorry. I mean “a cup of tea or coffee”. My dear Mum always says this or that she’ll “put the kettle on”. So what’s it to be?”
Mariko: “A “cuppa” of tea would be nice, thanks”
Paul: “OK, Mariko, let’s get those bags upstairs and then we can show you round. Do you like cats? Hope you do because Mr Boots sometimes sleeps on your bed. Jenny dear, has the jug boiled yet? I’m as dry as a little wooden god!”
Teacher Ray says:
Kiwis are usually quite informal and most would rather that you used their first names (but it always pays to check first). They like visitors to feel relaxed as soon as possible so Jenny and Paul want Mariko to know that she can treat her place as her own. Most homestays have just a few basic rules but should be places where students can relax and learn outside of their classroom.
“Hi, you’re Mariko, aren’t you?”
This is “tag question” that is used to check information and continue a conversation. Very commonly used to start a discussion with a stranger (“Shocking weather, isn’t it?”). Jenny knows that this is Mariko but she wants to make her feel relaxed.
“weigh a ton”
The bags won’t really be this heavy but Paul is exaggerating this because he wants to help Mariko.
“(I)Bet you’d like to freshen up……”
Paul leaves out the subject of his sentence. This is very common in spoken language.
“as dry as a little wooden god”
This indicates that Paul is thirsty and would really like a drink. The construction is called a “simile”: “He’s as slippery as an eel” (Negative meaning indicating that you can’t trust him)
“Tea or coffee?”
Jenny leaves out “Would you like tea or coffee?” because native speakers often leave out some words if the meaning of what they say is clear.
“cuppa”; “weigh a ton”;”put the kettle on”; “as dry as a little wooden god”
Jenny and Paul use these expressions without thinking that other non-native speakers will not know them and will be confused as to their meaning. But not the readers of the Downtown Desk website!
Have a great safe stay in New Zealand!
See you again soon!
Teacher Ray (the “friendly” Kiwi)