I have been working ,voluntarily, for three years teaching & building links between a small Staffordshire village school and our local village in the Pay de la Loire. The children have exchanged pictures, letters, postcards, drawings and messages of all kinds. I have endeavoured to share something of the culture of the two countries looking at similarities and differences.
Consequently, I produced a leaflet for parents explaining the twinning of the two groups of children and, out of courtesy posted one through the door of our village Mairie. The reaction and counter reaction from both villages has been amazing; first the French mayor rang & came to express his interest, then the Head in the UK presented the information to the Parish Council . And so it was that the local newspaper, the 'Leek Post &Times', picked up this story and published .
When we arrived back in France I gave the maire a copy of said press article and what happened next was not what I expected. First a call from a local bilingual Brit, who has lived & worked in France for 30 years, then a meeting with the mayor...twinning it seems between the villages is what was on his mind! And that last week we found ourselves in a meeting with two French ladies from a local twinning association, our British aid and the mayor. To say immersed in French would be an understatement, more drowning. We sat, like watching Wimbledon, whilst the discussions bounced around the comfortable room. Of course we had to partake of coffee, wine and chocolate (choose any two from three) and as we began to think it was all beyond us, it suddenly struck me there was a lot of repetition of ideas.
This is a republic so everyone must have their say and then re affirm their view and then all come to the conclusion. Our bilingual host worked gallantly to keep the conversation moving and the pace was such that at times I was not sure which language we were in; English v French , which was it|?
Finally the maire concluded, " Je propose..." and it was agreed that he would write to the Parish Council, contact the local linked village maire and talk with parents about a proposal for the children to perhaps visit each other. My job was to get the contact names & update the Headteacher in England.
Meeting over, shell shocked we stayed to talk to our new English acquaintance, a fellow artist / photographer, and muse over the developments and whether and at what pace things might come to pass. Art talk led to art teaching and links with the local Art Bo and this led to Ron agreeing to teach drawing to amateur artists...in French!
Our French teacher in the UK offered some good advice when we started living for longer periods of the year in France; "Join everything" Jessica advised, "show enthusiasm, join in...anything that interests you". Not being club people in English the concept was a bit alien to us and finding groups & interest a challenge.I tried swimming, but you don't actually talk much when ploughing down the pool. Then we tried a motorbike group and went on a moto ballard . What was it a that made me think, that sitting alone on a bike for hours, would aid our French communication?
Now it seems that what we have done is invent our own groups...just didn't expect it to be international or high order French art teaching. When does a problem become a challenge? Answer when you open your mouth, in either language, too soon.