Everyday conversations: Are you homesick? [audio]

A student stares out a window thinking about her family. (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)

Six students from around the world meet. What do they have in common? They are all exchange students studying at a U.S. university for a semester. Throughout the semester, they learn more English, learn about U.S. culture, and learn more about their fields of study. This series of Everyday Conversations is about these six students and their experiences during a semester at a university in the U.S. These conversations are for intermediate-level English-language learners or higher.

In this conversation, students (Peter and Jana) talk about missing their home countries and their home languages.

Peter: Hi Jana. Long time no see. What’ve you been up to?

Jana: Just studying a lot.

Peter: You seem a little down. Is everything okay?

Jana: Yeah, everything is okay. Thanks for asking. Sometimes I get a little homesick and miss my family and my language. I didn’t realize how important my home language is to me. It’s really part of who I am.

Peter: I definitely understand that. Even though my parents and sisters are multilingual, we usually only speak our first language with one another.

Jana: But you don’t seem to ever miss your home language.

Peter: Of course I do! But this is a very multicultural campus and city. There are people here who speak your home language. It has helped me to find people who speak my first language. We get together every couple of weeks to talk.

Jana: I’m glad you understand. Part of me thinks I am a failure or I’m not acclimating to the U.S. if I don’t speak English all the time.

Peter: Nonsense! All of our languages are part of who we are and part of our identities. We can’t ignore that.

Now let’s review the vocabulary.

Long time no see is an expression in spoken English. It is said when you see someone you haven’t seen for a relatively long period of time.

What’ve you been up to? is a question used in informal spoken English. It means What have you been doing recently?

To seem or be a little down means to seem or be a little sad or less happy/energetic than usual.

Homesick is the state of being sad because one is away from one’s family and home. Usually, the verbs used with homesick are be and feel. For example: She is homesick. I feel homesick.

A person who is multilingual is able to speak and understand more than two languages at a high level.

Multicultural: relating to or including people who have many different customs and beliefs.

To acclimate means to adjust or adapt to a new place or situation. Often, acclimate is followed by the word to plus a place or situation. For example: She is acclimating to the new city. He quickly acclimates to the cultures of other countries.

In this context, nonsense is used to show that the speaker thinks the previous statement is untrue.

Ready to learn more English? Our materials can help.

The American English website offers a variety of free resources for learners and teachers of English. The American English Facebook page posts learning materials for English-language learners daily.

Everyday Conversations are developed by the State Department’s Heidi Howland, a senior program officer in the Office of English Language Programs, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.