|Impressive lycee in Perpignan named for Aristide Joseph Bonaventure Maillol, |
As practice partners for French high school students who are preparing for their English language exams next week. With about 25-30 other adult volunteers.
We worked one-on-one with about 6-8 students each; the students rotated about every 15 minutes to try their skills on a different Anglophone adult.
The older students I spoke with had a pretty good command of English, both reading their prepared compositions on Myths & Heroes as well as conversing, which required them to understand what I was saying then mentally and verbally compose an appropriate response. One young lady wanted to become an obstetrictian. A young man want to study psychology and behavioral sciences.
The younger students, ages 15-16, were much less sure of their English skills and often struggled to find the right vocabulary word. Sometimes they would tell me the word in French and ask me for the equivalent word in English - on occasion, I actually knew it.
Not surprising that they struggle with another language. They only spend 3-4 hours a week on English in class, and once outside the school walls they have no opportunity to use what they have learned. From my attempts at learning French, surrounded most of the time by Anglo colleagues and friends, I empathize with their challenge.
One thing that surprised me is that most of the teenagers had not traveled very far from their homes in the south of France, and consequently they knew very little about other countries or cultures. This is not unlike American kids who have not had opportunity to travel, so to them their own backyard in Texas or California or Wisconsin seems like the center of the universe.
I really admired one young lady whose parents are from Morocco. For the first 15 years of her life, she grew up in Spain, before they moved a couple years ago to France. She knew no French, yet was dropped into a francophone high school and culture, and seems to be doing very well. Her English was exceptional with a couple minor pronunciation issues. She also speaks Arabic at home. As a multi-lingual, I expect she'll succeed in her career.
Every young person in every country should learn a second and even a third language. As the world grows smaller, the ability to speak and think in another person's native tongue is of immense value in business and personal relationships.