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Is this the end of school French exchanges?


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The death knell for school exchanges has been sounded...

 

http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/the_way_we_live/article6887803.ece

Is this a good or a bad thing?

What about your own experiences? Anyone got something funny to share?

It's no wonder I'm a Francophile - I have recurring nightmares of my GERMAN exchange with a very moody Hamburgian teenage girl who would serve her mother with a shot of schnapps each breakfast time.

Carolyn :-)

 

 

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My mother stayed with a French family during the hols when she was young.  The kids grew up and I stayed with one of the daughter's families when I was little (first time at the age of ten.)  However, I spent a month at a time with them and thus I was truly immersed in the language and culture whilst still at the "sponge" age and it did really help my language skills even though it was years before they were really put to the test when we moved here.

Last year, when I was in hospital following a car accident, the same couple whom I'd stayed with forty five years ago, drove about 100k to come and visit me, even though they are now both in their eighties.  It's a relationship which not only benefited me in terms of the language and living over here, but it has also stood the test of time. 

Richard I guess I agree with you in that I'm not sure a week would make much difference either way in language terms, but there are surely benefits in sharing a different culture by living closely with a family of a different nationality and background, even if one never goes to France again or uses the language?  It would be a shame if that opportunity were lost.

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My first French exchange was when I was 12 - and had only been learning the language for six months.

Three weeks in a strange country, not understanding a word anyone said to me for the first fortnight (Parisien French, so very, very fast) and partnered with a girl three years older who obviously thought I was NOT the person she wanted to learn English with. (she ended up refusing to complete the exchange and didn't come to England) . First meal for a 1960's English suburban 12 year old? Whole artichokes to dip into a vinaigrette followed by pommes de terre puree and horsemeat steaks.

It went down hill from there!

Saving grace? The Magic Roundabout in French with Dougal the dog an English accented immigrant! I understood everything he said!

And I didn't give up, the next time I travelled independently to a lovely family. And here I am, more than forty years later living here and loving it.

Kathy

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Well the Times article may ring true for some, but I found it a load of rubbish. [;-)] I had two foreign exchange partners in my mid-teens. The first (an only child) lived in Hamburg, and I visited and was visited by her 2 years running and am still in regular contact with her 46 years on. [:D]  The second was in France (Allier to be precise) and she and her large family (8 children, if I remember rightly) were delightful and extremely welcoming, though sadly we lost touch a few years later. In both cases the visits were at least 3 weeks long, long enough to make a real difference to my language skills at that stage (6th form). In both cases too, the exchanges were organised through school and we had had some correspondence with our partners before the actual visits, which helped a lot.  Speaking personally, I found my exchanges interesting, enjoyable and enlightening and wouldn't have missed them for anything.

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I was 13; the journey from the north-east to the south coast of England took a whole day, the crossing a whole night. And what a night - rough seas all the way! We 40 teenagers didn't even have chairs to sit on, so I mostly tried to wander the heaving deck between throwing up sessions; I knew I was going to die! Back on dry land, I still felt ill. There were 2 trains to catch and then a coach; I felt seasick throughout and couldn't walk straight.

We were met by our exchange partners; but what on earth were they saying? None of their words sounded anything like the small amount of French strangled by a strong north-eastern accent that I knew. And the noises she made came out so fast; but not as fast as those of the parents and grandparents who I met later. I couldn't understand a word; Renee's English was as bad as my French, and the rest of her family had none.

Walking round their 3-storey apartment was difficult; I remember having to cross their dining room, and them laughing, as I still couldn't manage A to B without going via Q. And then dinner - a nightmare! Probably the best thing would have been a bowl of soup and bed, but no. First oysters. Oysters? I'd never seen them before in my life; and they were straight from the shell, and using those knives! Yuk! A huge platter of fruits de mer; I had seen shrimps, also crabs and lobsters before; and I do mean seen- after all, I did live on the north-east coast. But eat them? No, never, not in a family like ours. They ate with relish, I managed bread.

Course after course kept coming, as they did throughout my stay. I'd never met most of the fruits and vegetables they served, and the huge plates of meats were a revelation. We had meat at home, but they were small pieces; these were huge stews, steaks - almost unbelievable to me then. And I never did get used to the waste from artichokes!

Things improved; I felt better, ate most of the food, enjoyed the sunshine, visited markets, dolmens and little seaside villages; I even managed to understand a little and make myself understood, too. The 3 weeks sped by, and I didn't want to leave, ever.

They were a kind family, but their luxurious home, huge amounts of food and inability to communicate with me had left me homesick. What must they have thought of this strange-sounding teenager who felt ill, couldn't walk straight for a couple of days, and who only seemed to eat pureed potato at first!

I still can't manage oysters or a platter of fruits de mer. My almost life-long love affair with France and the French continues. We spend half the year in our apartment in France, and  I love our life there. Thank goodness my parents managed to send me on the French exchange; I've gained from it ever since.

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Very interesting.

I think part of the problem is that UK families these days are so busy and do not have the time to entertain an exchange partner. They would rather send their children off on expensive organised ski holidays or Disneyland trips than have the bother of welcoming a French or German exchange into the home.
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i wasnt luckily enough to go on a french exchange but a visit to calais whilst at primary school and a week end in paris at secondary school started my love of france. I have over the years welcomed into my house various sets of mainly girls from france for a week at a time ( i had 3 girls of my own so wanted them to gain from the visits) I also had two Itialian girls for four weeks who taught me how to make a lovely pasta etc.

I think the whole experience was worth while and i would do it again if i could.
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My first experience of an exchange was in the 6th form, and much of what has been said already applies to me.  My sister had the better exchange, all mine wanted to do was chat up the boys, and one memorable day, we went to the nearest large town and danced - it was my first experience of dancing with a French lad, never has the tango seemed more romantic (I have no idea whether it was right or not, I didn't learn the tango properly until years later!).  She did not return the exchange, whereas my sister's did, and became a good friend for some years.  I also remember the "poisson d'avril" and watching Ivanhoe with Roger Moore (that dates me!) being dubbed into a horrible French voice, not like Roger's at all .....those were the days. 

Is that when my love affair with France started - I don't know, but I do remember being very impressed with Sacre Coeur.  I suspect it was more the exchages we had with the Rotary clubs at about the same time, and later our first family holiday all the way down through Burgundy, which showed me the real France and which got me hooked.

Still, language problems or not, it is always valuable to share or explore another world, so I do  hope they do manage to continue exchanges in some form or another.

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Aged 14 (1968) my father put me on the boat train in London and I travelled alone to Newhaven, then on the ferry to Dieppe to meet my correspondante who I knew only from some schoolgirl letters and some poor black and white photos of her family.  Her dad was boss of the local woodyard, her mum a housewife and they had 3 other children.  There was no inside loo in their farmhouse and I had to share a bed with Martine and her sister Edith. The house, the room - and the bed - were enormous and really old and I was a bit horrified by the chamber pot.  It was like going back to Victorian times but I LOVED it.   No-one spoke a word of English and I had to speak French or not communicate.  The only thing I hated was when her granny asked me to chose one of the exotic chickens in her grden - and when I did she killed it for our dinner!  They ate all kinds of things I'd never seen, allowed us to drink wine with water and they all smoked like chimneys.  I was a thoroughly modern miss with mini-skirts and Martine had to go to school wearing a brown overall and grey ankle socks.

When I went home I told my parents what a wonderful time I'd had.  I edited out a few bits like there being no proper bathroom as I feared they might not let me go again.  Martine and her friend Evelyn came to stay with my family and we exchanged several more times.  We continued to correspond until well into our 30s when sadly we lost touch.  My love of France was born there (my parents had never been abroad) and at 18 I was living in Paris as an au-pair for the family of a professor from the Sorbonne.  I look back on that time as a marvellous adventure.

Perhaps today's children who go on exotic holidays practically from birth would simply not relish the sense of adventure and being grown up that that experience gave me.  I'm glad I was able to do it.

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Aged 17, I went on an exchange arranged by my school with a school in Rennes. The French family lived in a tiny village miles away from Rennes - I remember going into school very early in the morning on the bus, travelling along country roads with dawn breaking, mist wafting off the fields and the illumination of the yellow headlights of the French cars on the road. The family's residence was in the centre of the village and was the butcher's shop as well as the café and restaurant - ie it WAS the centre of the village. At lunchtime the square would be occupied by about half a dozen farm tractors and trailers. The family had a smallholding up the valley, where they raised cattle for beef. There was limitless fresh bread three times a day and a bread guillotine in the enormous kitchen, which was the centre of the household. The food was wonderful. The family were really lovely, welcoming people. We toured the area on Mobylettes. No-one spoke any English: my French improved considerably. I recall a French TV programme called "Les Inconnus de 19:45" which was on just before the news, which we watched in the kitchen in the evenings. I had an absolutely brilliant time. It was a great introduction to France and a real eye-opener for me. A couple of my colleagues on the trip had rather different experiences: one was suspected (entirely unjustly) by her host family of being a potential Jezebel, and found herself being pretty much ostracised ...

Regards

Pickles

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My son reminds me to say that he went on a French exchange at age 13, too; he and Philippe exchanged letters for a few months. He arrived, met the family, and he and the two French brothers went to play football in the garden before dinner. His nose was hurt by the ball, and it bled. He thought it looked a bit different, but didn't like to make a fuss, nor would he have known the words.

A couple of days later they went into the mountains. He was asked if he skiied. Yes, he said, on the Jungfraujoch ( a plateau on the Jungfrau in Switzerland, for summer skiing, which he did for about half an hour, until his brother was overcome by altitude sickness and had to be taken quickly down the mountain). They obviously thought 'Jungfrau - wow!', and set him up with gear, all went up high and started skiing downhill. He said he thought the best thing was to fall over, which he did, breaking his leg in two places. (this son has always been accident-prone; thank goodness we had him when we did; he was well-known in A & E and in later years he might well have been taken into care, and we'd have been found to be unfit, battering parents!)

After several hospital visits because his leg kept swelling, all proceeded well. We went to meet him off the plane at Heathrow, fully expecting him to appear in a wheelchair, with crutches - but not for his whole appearance to have changed due to his broken nose!

Normally only one exchange visit was allowed, but as M had not managed to go on any of the visits, he was allowed to go a second time. We thought the exchange family was very brave, but incredibly nothing went amiss that time - bet they had their fingers crossed tight, though! Philippe's two visits to us were very tame, apart from his great distaste for English food, apart from cottage pie, and flooding the bathroom. Oh, and I shrank his posh Lacoste t-shirt!

The two boys lost contact, but the two sets of parents are still very much in touch; we normally see one another each year. We went to Philipe's wedding a couple of years ago, and were honoured guests. We gave up at about two in the morning; obviously not yet French enough by then to stay the course! [:D]

 

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1st exchange at 11 a long weekend to Paris and a whilwind of visits with a lifelong love of the country. Subsequently a long correspondence and exchanges with Anne who to my mothers horror taught my baby sister to roll cigarettes that she smoked out of the bedroom window on her visits to us before dropping the buts on Dad's prized roses for later kicking under. When visiting her, I learned that as the only kid on a push bike you hung on tight to the shoulder of those on a mobyletter and NEVER let go or you'd crash, we disappeared for hours on end before returning to her posh house & 4 course meals served by a maid who answered a bell rung by madame. At the weekends out to the family farm which was ramshackle & run down but allowed us to ride horses and tractors and have great fun.

My older wo sons both did ski trips rather than exchanges, but our youngest has done the English half of a 2 way exchange - much to the amusement of the family he stayed with..

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