by Chris B '15 by Ricardo A '13

Virtual Exchange in French Class at BSGE

BSGE is among many schools in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey who are partnering up with schools in Montpelier, France. Why? Because it is all part of an effort by the French Consulate in New York and the schools from the east coast and France to help foster communication and mutual understanding between students in both countries. Monsieur Mahajan, BSGE’s French teacher, believes that “this interaction will be beneficial to both schools. It will promote an exchange between the two cultures in which the students from BSGE will learn more about French culture while the students in France will learn more about American ideals. It will also help shun any stereotypes students in either school may have about the other’s culture.”

11th and 9th grade French classes at BSGE have begun communicating with 2 different schools: Le Collège La Garriguette in the town Vergèze near Montpellier by the Mediterranean sea, and Le Collège Jean-Jacques Rousseau, just outside of Paris. The latter is partnering with section 11-2. This whole project started with pen pal letters written in the target language. In the letters, students from both grades in BSGE introduced themselves and talked about their interests in school and out of school. The initial response has been positive. Madame Marie-Virginie Vollmer, a teacher at Le Collège La Garriguette, said that she and her class were very surprised by how well and professional the BSGE french letters were written. Soon after, they sent their responses written in English.

It only took a while until the project expanded into a video of each representative class. “Not only are BSGE’s French students participants of this project, but they are also ambassadors representing New York and American Culture,” Monsieur Mahajan said. The french classes then commenced filming themselves, discussing very general things. All students were filmed and after reviewing the video, Monsieur Mahajan posted them up on a website named “Mon École Transatlantique” or My Transatlantic School in English. Here, schools from both France and America put videos of their representative classes and to communicate with other schools. Marcos Delgado ‘15 said that: “I felt it was a good experience but weird at first because we had to be on cameras and videos and speak an other language over video. But overall, it was really fun and I enjoyed this exchange.”

With this interaction between both schools, students should be able to increase their knowledge of the language, such as French/American idioms with grammatical improvement and an increased vocabulary. By communicating more often, both parties will hopefully gain confidence when speaking to other French-speaking or English-speaking people. Mr. Rajiv believes, judging from what he understands about his students, that “they will prove to interact well with the French students by acting responsible and kind. Nada Bourara ‘13 said, “I find it to be both an educational and intriguing experience because, as I look forward to hearing more from my fellow pen pals I also look forward to broadening my culture awareness and expanding my multilingual knowledge of the French-speaking world.” The interaction and understanding of one an other’s culture will definitely prove to be beneficial beyond academics because the student may become more aware of the world around them, and its diversity. This will be greatly improved if the relationship between the schools turn out to be long-termed.

When reading the letters and viewing the videos from BSGE, the French students were very surprised with the amount of diversity in the classes. They were amazed at seeing so many different cultures in one classroom. People from all over the world, India, Romania, Argentina, England, Ecuador, Japan, and so on, in just one room.  They never saw something like this, even some of the teachers were amazed as well. Monsieur Mahajan’s next move? He will start with student-to-student interviews, and then hopefully move on to a livestream communication between schools via Skype. At the looks of it, this project will only expand, with more interaction between the schools, and long lasting partnership.

By Mr. Lakhaney

TOK Teacher

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