'I have learned kung fu,' declared Christie To, a pupil at Hong Lok Yuen International School (HLYIS). From another corner, Wang Jinqiao of Kun Peng Primary School, Tianjin, shouted: 'I have conducted scientific experiments!' They were among a group of students who took part in a week-long home-stay project, studying, playing and learning from each other in an informal atmosphere. There were English and Putonghua lessons, table tennis, drama, dancing and 'fast beat' - a traditional Chinese performance of rapid-fire speech conducted to a rhythm. 'Understanding English is the most difficult for me,' said Li Hao, a Primary Five pupil from Tianjin. 'But our buddies will translate for us,' schoolmate Lin Mo added. They also made interesting discoveries about the different classroom atmosphere. 'Back in Tianjin, we have to sit like this,' Li Hao said, as he put his hands behind him and sat up straight. 'But here, they sit on the floor. And they can sit like this, and this, and this,' he said, as he changed from one relaxing posture to another. The parents of HLYIS pupils were happy to see that the project had provided a much-needed boost for Putonghua. 'I used to tell my child that Putonghua was important because all Chinese spoke the language, but it never rang a bell,' said Matthew Shing Ming-kong. 'Now they know it is important. They have to speak it so that they can play and have fun.' The families of HLYIS students also benefited from the scheme. Rose Rainbow, one of the host parents, said her youngest child, who was only 20 months old, learned a few words from their guest. 'We have enjoyed learning about the way they live in China and we have practised a bit of Putonghua,' the mother-of-four said. 'It is also a different experience for our guest. Coming from a one-child family, staying with us must be very noisy for her.' Parents and teachers at HLYIS first came up with the home-stay idea after some of them visited the mainland last July.