ASMSA students spend three weeks in French-language immersion experience

4 months ago

Seven Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts students recently spent three weeks living as a resident of Quebec City, Canada, as part of a French-language immersion program.

The students participated in the three-week language program through Edu-Inter, a French immersion school in Quebec City that offers programs throughout the year that allow students to take French classes, participate in various activities and experience a home stay with a native-speaking family.

As part of the program, the students stayed with French-speaking host families who spoke only French, attended three hours of French language courses each morning, and spent afternoons participating in various cultural activities provided by Edu-Inter. During their stay, the students clocked 45 hours of French language contact in the classroom.

This was the second year in a row that ASMSA has participated in the Edu-Inter program as part of ASMSA’s Global Learning Program. Edu-Inter provides students an opportunity to not only improve their French language skills but to also learn about the culture of Quebec City while living with a host family. During their stay, students are not allowed to use English and must abide by the “French-only” rule.

This may sound strict, but the students catch on very quickly.  Two students who participated in the program had never formally studied French.  One of the students was overheard as saying, “L’anglais, c’est pour les faibles,” which translates roughly to, “English is for the weak (students)!”  Obviously, this was said in good-faith and became a little mantra for the students to remember to respect the French-only rule. 

Within the program at Edu-Inter, students advanced through various levels of French in the morning classes according to their progress each week. Although the school is in Canada, it employs teachers from French-speaking countries all over the world, giving students the opportunity to learn dialects of French other than Canadian French. The students also are from across the globe.

 In the afternoon, students participated in various outings such as guided historic tours of Old Quebec, museum visits, an evening at the Maple Syrup Sugar Shack, Montmorency Falls, canoeing, white-water rafting, mountain climbing, and many other activities which are all included in the cost of the program.

Each year, the trip is organized to also coincide with the Festival d’Eté de Québec, which is a 10-day, internationally-recognized music festival with about 1.5 million attendees per year.  The ASMSA students who participated in this summer program were able to enjoy live performances by P!nk, Nick Jonas, The Backstreet Boys, Lady Antebellum, Metallica, The Gorillaz and The Who, among many others.

ASMSA students who participated in the program were Cassidy Alexander of North Little Rock, Laken Deal of Huntington, Louis Lammers of Blytheville, Jenna Means of Hope, Gigi Powell of Conway, Brock Rigsby of Crows and Nate Williams of Hot Springs. They are members of the Class of 2018.

ASMSA French instructor Bryan Adams said participating in the program in Quebec City has many advantages. The city is safe and offers numerous cultural and linguistic learning opportunities, he said.  The program also allows students to realize that the French-speaking world is not so far away.

While the classes at the school were an excellent opportunity for the students to begin to learn the language, it was their stays with native speakers and independent time that was more vital to learning the language, Adams said.

“The most important thing was that they were immersed in the language,” Adams said. “One of the biggest benefits is they go to practice independence. They were allowed to go out on their own. They had to use the bus system to get to school and around town.

“The first day some of them may have been terrified, but how do you build self-esteem if you don’t challenge yourself?”

Adams said it was easy to give the students such independence because Quebec City is a very safe city. Students could travel the city on their own without many concerns, he said.

“I feel comfortable allowing the students to explore the city, and I find that the people of Quebec City are always eager to help students when questions arise,” Adams said.
 
According to The Overseas Security Advisory Council (www.osac.gov), Quebec City has one of the lowest crime rates in Canada, Adams said.

At the end of the program, students are rewarded with a graduation ceremony and diplomas that attest to their progress and time spent learning French.  These can be quite useful when applying for university admission and encourage the students to continue their language learning, Adams said.

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