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PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2010 10:51 am 
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DS has the opportunity to go to Sauveterre next term with a local British prep school. All classes, sport, music lessons,meal times, excursions will be taken in French by native teachers. The only English spoken will be amongst the pupils outside the classroom and when given important safety instructions or talking to a doctor or member of staff about a problem.

They say that by the end of the term most children will be speaking some French but they will definitely understand nearly everything. They will also go to a weekly French school and interact with the local children, play football matches against local clubs etc. They do not leave France during that term so parent's have to go over for the holidays.

My main question is for those who have lived abroad or are French/European. Social impact aside, how much French do you think a 12 year old will learn in a term? Will it make a difference or when he goes back to school will he be at the same (bottom of the year group) level and not made a significant improvement? Then there is the question of how to keep what he has learnt at a good level as if he only does class French for a year afterwards will his French still be much better?

FWIW, he wants to go. There were many French exchanges we could have chosen and although this is not complete immersion we felt that it would be better for DS to have English friends that attend a similar prep and are off to similar senior schools so he would not feel as isolated or homesick and feel he had something in common with the boys.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2010 11:48 am 
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I think it sounds like a wonderful idea and guaranteed to improve DC French! :D


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2010 12:23 pm 
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There is an article by Vicky Tuck in today's telegraph where she talks a bit about immersions http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/ed ... bject.html

From my own rather unscientific knowledge, 3 months really isnt a lot to learn a language. He will probably communicate all the basics like greeting, thank you but I think you will need a miracle for him to speak more words. He will understand quite a lot more but its the speaking that takes forever. On the plus sides if he really has a good time there then he may love the language and culture which will give him motivation in his French and perhaps get him from the bottom group :lol:

Its easier to understand but speaking a language is a lot harder even a year immersion is not enough. Have you tried Rosetta Stone? Its a language software which is quite expensive but I heard its quite good (havent used it myself). It will probably be more useful after his exchange to keep his french going or even before he leaves so he has a good grasp of some basics.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2010 8:11 pm 
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(Vicky Tuck being outgoing head of Cheltenham Ladies College)


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2010 10:34 pm 
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Children can learn a lot, partly because their linguistic demands are much less than those of an adult (who use far more abstract concepts).

I don't have a completely analogous experience but we moved to francophone Switzerland when our daughter was in year 3, so aged 7. We put her into the local French school at the end of February. It was hard work. I helped her for an hour in the evening doing her homework, basically it was learning to read, which probably took the local kids 15 minutes. They had the local equivalent of SATS at the end of the school year, June (the term ends at the beginning of July). At that stage she still did not speak French well enough to sit all the tests but she had read her first book - a 22 page delierately quite repetitive childrens' book.She then had 8 weeks summer holiday and I ensured that she had a French activity every other week (holiday club or similar) beacuse I was afraid that otherwise she would loose her hard won French. At the end of August she started the junior school (everything is a year later) with new teachers - after two weeks she came home triumphant: 'Mummy there's nothing I can't do because my French isn't good enough.' So it took 4 months of school and the equivalent of one months holiday activities to be able to keep up with native French speaking contemporaries. (I remember her first major piece of written work that term - a fairy story).

BUt its a case of use it or loose it. Also even if absolutely fluent at 10 or 11 it doesn't compare with the language acquisition of an adult.

Her current secondary school (in England) teaches the humanities to the top sets in their first foreign language (either French or German) and gets outstanding results.

Go for it. Its a wonderful opportunity. Then build on it.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2010 11:56 pm 
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Location: Chelmsford and pleased
At age 19 I lived in France and for 3 months spoke no English. At the end of that time I could understand the radio, read a newspaper, etc. But expression, either written or spoken, took another 3 months to be fluent (in the fluid speech definition). I still write with my accent!

I took both children to France when they were 6/7. Our experiences were similar to P's mum. We were there for two years and both still have reasonable French at ages 13/14. The lovely thing about their French is the accent, the horrible sounds that I have to work at to produce come naturally to them.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 17, 2010 10:49 am 
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Thanks for the replies, especially P's mum and moved.

I'm generally anti sending my kids abroad for the summer holidays as holidays are holidays to me but as he will have done a term in France do you think he would cope with a couple of weeks on a French activity camp just to keep him topped up? As it is his brother is touring France with the choir in the summer but if we go then he won't learn much, although he may need to order for us!

I am not too concerned about his French speaking. Of course it is of vital importance but for his schooling, his listening and reading comprehensions are much more important for his scholarship exams. Not that long ago he could not even understand or respond to the phrase, "what is your name" and that is after 7 years of school French! :shock:


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2010 10:24 pm 
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Hi Waiting for Godot,

I am not sure that the experience of your DS could be similar to moved’s and P's mum’s children for two reasons:
- Length of the stay abroad (only one term for your DS versus two years for moved and also many months for P's)
- Age of the child in immersion (at around 9-10 years old, the children lose the proper ability to hear correctly foreign sounds: they become ‘deaf’ to the sound which does not exist in their language) :evil:

So the impact of such a stay for one term won’t be as magical as you may wish, though there will be certainly many gains for his level in French (I do doubt your child would stay in the bottom set after such an experience! :D ).

However, it would be excellent for developing cultural awareness, helping your child to be more independent and mature (being away in a foreign country for a whole term for a twelve years old is not an ‘adventure’ any child would be able to undertake. By the way, for phone conversation, I would recommend you to use skype) ... and I really do hope that he would meet there an excellent French friend with whom he could make exchanges during the summers to come.

On his return, I would recommend him to watch TV in French regularly. For example:
- French news (if he likes to keep informed... It is not everybody’s cup of tea): everyday at 7:30 p.m. on TV5 europe (journal d’Antenne 2), or little news bulletin (duration 10 mn) every half an hour on France 24 or continued half an hour news bulletin (+ advertisement) on BFM TV
- French films on TV5 or Arte (you can check daily the programmes on Arte at the bottom of the site http://www.lefigaro.fr ( a French daily newspaper).

- French cartoons on TiVi5 on Saturdays and Sundays morning on TV5 monde (I think it finishes at ten). Well, to begin the day by watching TV is not a great start, but you could at least record the cartoons your child might enjoy (le petit Nicolas? Commandant Cousteau?). Here is a list of all the hero on this channel http://www.tv5.org/TV5Site/tivi5/heros_liste.php

- You could also buy some DVD of French films (http://www.amazon.fr or http://www.fnac.com) (Ignore all the British films or American ones and choose the French ones! DVDs are more expensive in France than here). As Christmas is approaching, you may have some promotions (the cheapest DVD in France would unfortunately be 5 Euros; generally there are offers like two DVD for ten Euros ... or 6 DVD for 30 Euros. See http://www.amazon.fr/dvd-dvds-doccasion ... ode=405322). And in January, there will be some sales. If you know some friends in France who could receive these films for you and then you collect them at their home, it would be cheaper as you won’t have to pay for the European chipping fees.
Personally, I did buy two French films on amazon.co.uk:
- Belle and Sebastien - the complete first series. Attention, this is a very old film, made in the sixties, so in black and white. The story might not be up to the taste of a teenager used to American blockbusters! However, my 9 years old DS really loved that series and was always impatient to see the next episode. (you don’t have subtitles when watching the French version, but you have the option to see the film entirely in English, unfortunately spoken with a very heavy French accent)
- Shut Up! (Tais-Toi!) [DVD] [2003] Starring Jean Reno and Gerard Depardieu (you can have the subtitles while watching the film in French). It‘s a comedy.
There might be some other films available here but I am not aware of them as I tend to buy films in France.


On his return, it could be also a good idea to get some information about the subscription to French magazines for teenagers having English as the mother tongue. I am sure the French department of your DS’s school could advise you on that. Or even, your child may be able to read these magazines at school without you having to pay for a subscription! :wink:

Well, I really do hope that your DS will be enthrilled and have an excellent experience in France in you choose that option... and I hope you will keep us informed of the results afterwards! :wink:

PS: I couldn't understand clearly from your post if your DS will keep in touch with the curriculum in UK schools. I think it is important he does, at least in English and science... You are lucky there are no more SAT for KS3 but I do believe it will be important for him to be sure he doesn't miss important concepts...


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2010 10:30 pm 
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Waiting_For_Godot wrote:
I'm generally anti sending my kids abroad for the summer holidays as holidays are holidays to me but as he will have done a term in France do you think he would cope with a couple of weeks on a French activity camp just to keep him topped up?

According to your child hobbies, you could choose a holiday camp corresponding to his tastes...' L'ecole des glenans' is very well known to learn/improve sailing... or you could find a horse riding camp... or skiing during winter... I am sure there are many options though I don't have any information about any camps :oops:


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 21, 2010 10:04 am 
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Go for it. I sent my two girls to France last Summer. My 16 year old stayed in a very rural remote vineyard for one month with a family. An experience in itself. She gave up French at school 3 years ago so was nervous about the prospect of looking after 3 children in a foreign country. She survived the experience and came back with a great French accent and was able to converse in basic French. My 12 year old stayed with another family for three weeks and then one of their daughters came to stay with us for 3 weeks. Her understanding of French improved in that time and also her accent. However confidence in speaking was limited but I think that depends on the childs confidence! All in all it was a good experience for both of them. The younger one was homesick and when I asked her if she would do it again she said yes but maybe not for 3 weeks, it felt like a long time to her. My 16 year old is very pleased that she did it something to put on her uni application etc!! She did miss her boyfriend though (probably more than us!) I honestly believe that in life you should take up any experiences/opportunities that present themselves. Learning is not just done in the classroom. I think that as your child is going with the school they will have the support of other friends/class mates which my girls did not have.


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