Hills’ Honors French IV Class Meets Valley’s French Exchange Students

By Amber Leung

The Honors French IV class and the French exchange students pose together for a group photo at the end of French-American activity day. Photo by Jane Conboy.

The Honors French IV class and the French exchange students pose together for a group photo at the end of French-American activity day. Photo by Jane Conboy.

Amber Leung, Editor in Chief

On Mon. April 24, students from Grasse, France visited the Honors French IV class at Pascack Hills to further learn about each other’s culture and practice speaking in their foreign language. It was an opportunity to learn beyond the classroom, and was an interactive platform for students to learn on a personal basis.

For the past three years, Teresa DelGiudice, a French teacher at Pascack Valley, has been working with teacher from France, opening communication between her students and those in Europe. This year, the French students, most equivalent to “seniors” in America, arrived in the United States on April 19, and have been staying with families from Valley for the past week.

Rather than spending their whole time at Valley, Jane Conboy, the Honors French IV teacher at Hills suggested that the French exchange students visit Hills to experience a new environment. Setting up an activity day in the cafeteria of Hills, the event streamlined French-American communication and aimed to introduce American culture to the French students, since the Honors French IV class was the host.

Stations were set up in the cafeteria – a music station (it was surprising for some to realize the French listened to much of American pop), a cereal station (the French students were amazed by marshmallows in breakfast food), a board game station (including games such as Battleship and Operation), and a junk food station (featuring snacks like brownies, Doritos, and Pop Tarts). One of the most collective stations was “Heads Up,” where American and French students worked together to find who was “it.”

A buddy system was established for the day; each student from the Honors French IV class had an assigned French student. Rather than gather all the French classes at Hills to participate in the event, Conboy wanted to keep it intimate and personal for both sides. As all students were speaking in a language unfamiliar to them, it would be less scary for them to take the risk of communicating when it was a one-on-one situation, resulting in smooth communication through the day.

Junior Francesca Ferraro, who participated in the activity day, said, “I thought it was really interesting to meet students who perceive English the way we perceive French. At first, I was really nervous to speak French since I know I have an American accent, but everyone was really nice and helped me if I made a mistake or didn’t know a word.”

While the students mingled, the three teachers from France exchanged teaching styles with Conboy, anxious to take the ideas back to Grasse. The teachers were taken aback by the informality of American schools compared to the traditional structure in Europe, yet praised the interactiveness of the classes and how directly the students learned.

“This day was definitely a success. I am hoping for at least some sort of communication between the two schools in the future,” Conboy said in response to whether or not it will be probable for Hills to host such an event in the next years.

Although there is no guarantee for a direct exchange between Hills and the school in Grasse, since this is the first time the schools are working together, Conboy still wishes to continue virtual exchange. This would include Skype, email, and even pioneering a pen pal system.

Ferraro said, “[This event] showed me that teenagers are teenagers no matter where you are – we all like the same things and talk about the same things. The experience was absolutely incredible. It can be easy to forget that French is an actual language that people speak day in and day out, but the truth is that French is a lot more than just some grammar rules.”