GEORGE TOWN: Customers will not just walk in even if you open your doors widely. You need to sell, but even if you have your selling skills down pat, imagine how hard it must be to do it in a language you are not used to.
That was the case here yesterday for 35 homestay operators from Kampung Lahar Yooi, a hinterland of padi fields stretching to the horizon 10km from Butterworth.
Their assignment was, using only English, to sell their homestays to foreign tourists.
“It’s my first time talking to Mat Salleh (Caucasians)! I’m so nervous,” Norliah Abdul Rani muttered just before she readied a book describing her kampung and pitched her homestay to Australians Justin and Lucy Hughes at the Esplanade.
As she went on in English, she was rewarded by their nods of understanding.
“Phew! I calmed down when they started nodding. I enjoyed it very much,” Norliah, 59, smiled.
The group has been learning English since December under a programme by the Prime Minister’s Department’s Implementation Coordination Unit with cooperation from the Bayan Baru Community College.
The trip here yesterday – Penang Educational Visit – was meant as a practical lesson.
They went around the Esplanade, Penang Botanic Gardens and several other tourist hotspots.
Their English coach, Fatimah Saidin, 43, is an architect who has been teaching English to college students for 10 years.
Although Lahar Yooi offered a delightful rustic holiday experience, Fatimah said the homestay operators had been targeting only Malaysian guests and it was hoped that arming them with a practical command of English would lead them to tap into foreign markets.
“I focus on core English components like grammar and vocabulary. They are quite weak in these two.
“It is all about stringing up clear sentences especially when greeting, answering enquiries and giving directions,” Fatimah said.
Her main concern, she added, was not their ability to learn but to find time for lessons because of their other commitments but was happy with the results here.