MFL: Senior School French Exchange Pupils Quiz Year 8

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If you have ever learnt a foreign language in a classroom, you will know that the experience is a demanding one.

A student gradually builds a bank of words, acquires familiarity with the rules and patterns that govern their usage and pieces together, slowly, a working knowledge that allows him or her to express practical needs, reflections and intentions in an increasingly sophisticated way.

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It is a time-consuming process whose success is usually measured in the classroom by the teacher who has presented the language. It is more difficult to measure success with native speakers in an authentic setting, but a visit last week by 29 French pupils and 3 of their teachers offered Year 8 pupils at the Prep School just that: an exciting opportunity for some lively practice of the French language they have been learning with French children of a similar age.

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The group, from Lille in Northern France, is currently part of the exchange programme being run in conjunction with Bede's Senior School, and they visited the Prep to widen their experience of seeing language learning in action on this side of the Channel.

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Whilst there was some trepidation on the part of the Prep pupils at the prospect of communicating in real time for a real purpose with strangers, there developed a natural 'sink or swim' philosophy, and they quickly found themselves deeply engaged in the business of actual communication.

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An 'ice breaker' activity was quickly followed by some rapid examination-style question-answer practice and, finally, after a well-deserved refreshment break, the afternoon concluded with a boisterous word game played in mixed French-English teams.

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The atmosphere in the language classrooms was a buzz of energy and excitement as French and English students supported one another in their attempts to say the right word.

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As inevitably happens when our self-imposed limitations are swept away, the feeling of our Year 8 pupils when the afternoon had drawn to a close was one of enormous achievement and surprise at how much fun language 'work' can be.

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Judging by the delightful messages left on the mini whiteboards, we concluded that the French students thought it a worthwhile experience too!

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