Ça veut dire quoi en anglais?

One of the reasons that I chose the API French Language and Culture Program is the teaching internship that is offered, where students have a chance to teach English to elementary, middle, or high school French students.  The academic credit is optional, but I knew that I would be foolish not to take advantage of a wonderful opportunity such as this regardless of academic credit.  Student teaching in another country will allow me to view another part of France that I would not have gotten around to observe otherwise: the school system.  As a result, my worldview will expand even more, my French will improve, and I will be able to get an idea of what teaching as a profession would be like, since it still remains one of my post-graduation options.

I started my teaching internship last week, and all I can say is that I absolutely love it!  I chose to work at an elementary school because I knew that I would need to use more of my French, considering the level of the students’ English is relatively lower than that of middle or high school students.  The staff and teachers that I have spoken to are all incredibly sweet and welcoming, and the children, needless to say, are adorable!  When they see me, they greet me with a timid, “Hello,” and always say, “Bye-bye!” when I leave the room for the day.  I am beginning to realize that I enjoy working with this age group, because they are generally so inexperienced with the world itself that they are willing to learn about anything that comes their way.  When they hear, for example, that they have an opportunity to speak English with me, they eagerly jump at the chance to.  I don’t know if it’s simply because I am a new and different change from their daily routine, but I find that enthusiasm for learning unfortunately tends to calm down considerably as children get older.  In any case, it really makes me happy to be surrounded by students who want to learn, and who see it as a fun, enriching experience.

Although I find that I am doing different activities in different classrooms, I am typically focused on teaching/reviewing similar topics: colors, numbers, shapes, and animals.  I do this by reading English-language books, going through flashcards with pictures, and even singing songs (I sang “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” in class the other day, which felt appropriately nostalgic and heartwarming).  Since they are so young, the key to having them learn English words and phrases is repetition.  The ultimate goal here is to not have them in complete language immersion, but to familiarize them with English words at an earlier age so when it comes time to learn English more intensely as they get older they will have had some experience beforehand.

One of the English stories I have read to students.

One of the English stories I have read to students.

One of the lessons that I am starting to learn through this experience is that English is, in fact, a valuable language.  To explain my point even further, for the majority of my life I thought that having the ability to speak English wasn’t anything particularly special or helpful, because I lived in the States and, naturally, everyone spoke it.  Being in France, I realize now that being born and raised in an English-speaking country has been a blessing in the fact that I can help these kids learn English on a more authentic level.  Many of the professors aren’t completely fluent in English, and when they do speak it they have a French accent.  Since I am a native English speaker, the professors often let me pronounce the words because it gives the students a clearer idea about how they are supposed to sound.  Never before did I think that my knowledge of English—the language I grew up speaking—would be a helpful tool to others in a country all the way across the planet.  Having been a language learner for so many years, it is certainly interesting—and rather fulfilling—to be on the other side of the classroom.

In doing this internship, all I can hope to accomplish is to ultimately make a difference in these children’s lives, however minute it is.  If I could finish this internship knowing that the children understand more English than they did at the beginning of the semester, then I have done my job!  In any case, I am very excited to ultimately see where this internship will take me as well (because what good is an experience if I don’t grow and learn myself?), and am excited to take you along my journey! More updates are sure to come!

Abby is a student at St. Michael’s College and an official API student blogger.  Abby is currently studying abroad with API in Paris, France.

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