Hello ! I’m Emma Caroe.
I expect some of you know me and my family, and if you do, then you might have heard of how my brother and I have done long-term exchanges to Germany and/or France for several months. I’m sure you must have some questions about it, and hopefully I’ll answer them here.
We didn’t do our exchanges with school (anyway, we are home educated), but with a private organisation called ALLEF, which stands for Association for Learning Languages En Famille. The exchanges are aimed at children aged 8-11 years. It’s non-profit and run by volunteers whose children have also done six months exchanges in the past. You have to fill in a detailed dossier all about you, your parents, your house etc. which is what ALLEF uses to match children. Because of all the information you give, they’re able to match you with someone that you will really get on with – vital as you will live together for a whole year. After that they step back a bit and you get in touch with the exchange family.
The most frequent response I get when I tell people about my exchanges is along the lines of ‘Isn’t that an awfully long time?’ or ‘Wasn’t it hard away from your parents?’ It’s true, six months does seem a bit daunting at first but I can tell you that it goes incredibly quickly. It also seems to be very young to go away, but this is the age when you learn languages best and have fewer commitments than in the teenage years. Being so young means you adapt easily and make friends quickly. I found that I got very close to my exchange families so that I hardly missed my parents back in England. In fact, the parents often find the separation harder than the children! So no, my parents are not horribly cruel for sending me away so much! I really enjoyed my time abroad, because apart from learning a new language, you experience a different culture and try things you wouldn’t otherwise. It’s a fantastic opportunity.
My first exchange was to Berlin, Germany age 10. My exchange partner was called Paula, and we got on really well together. The first time I met her, neither of us spoke each other’s language so we went up to my room and silently played with dolls together, communicating using signs. In a few months she was speaking a lot and we were trying to stop her from doing the Yorkshire ‘u’! By the time her mum came to pick her up you really couldn’t tell she wasn’t English. A few weeks later I went over to Germany. After talking in English for the first few weeks, we soon settled into German and I became increasingly understandable. After six months I was perfectly comfortable, with a few struggles with the complicated German grammar. This year I have done another exchange, this time to France with Maëliss. I was at hers in the spring/summer. I found that being 2 or 3 years older meant I didn’t pick the language up as fast and we didn’t become as close friends as quickly as I did with Paula. She is here now, with one more month to go, and her English has improved dramatically. Here she is now:
Hello, Bonjour, Guten Tag ! My name is Maëliss Justin and I’m fourteen.
Like Emma I did two exchanges, a first one in 2012 in Bonn, Germany when I was nine years old. It was great! My exchange partner, Annika Rabsch, came to my house in Normandy, France, first. After six months I went to her house as well. There I met a lot of friends who I am still in contact with now. My second exchange is this Autumn-Winter 2016 in Totley (some of you might know me, I’m at King Ecgbert School in Dore). To communicate first with Emma we were talking German! It was the only language we had in common! After three weeks of German we eventually swap to French, my parents were relieved! My brother, Elio also did an exchange Paula’s (Emma’s German exchange partner) brother. Now our three families know each other very well.
I now want to talk about the good aspect of these exchanges because it is not just learning a new language, it is a lot more! It is discovering different cultures, different landscapes, different type of food and dinner times, starting new activities and games, but it is mostly find a French, German or English friend for a very, very, very long time !
We hope that you found this interesting, we’ve really enjoyed our exchanges. If you have questions, please come and talk to one of us whenever we see you.
MAELISS et EMMA
(2 échanges chacune en 2012 et 2016)