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Can UK children go to French Summer Camps - does it improve their French???!

(12 Posts)
Mima1 Thu 20-Jan-11 11:21:47


I am not a regular poster so please let me know if this is in the wrong topic!

I am looking ahead to school summer holidays and booking a summer camp week for my 14 year old son. Both he and younger son did a UK summer camp last year and had great time. Now with French GCSE looming(not a natural linguist but needs to do it for EBacc), I am wondering if there are summer camps that mix French and English speaking children. Could be UK or France and would need lots of activity/sports/adventure. Maybe a language element but he would refuse to go if there were formal classroom based lessons so a language school is probably out - also the few I've seen look really expensive!

I know PGL etc operate in France but not sure whether French children go too? I don't see the point in sending him to France to have a totally English experience. For the cost involved it would need to be more than a token 'french flavour', I would want him to have to use French most of the time. I have seen local camps of French children in Brittany etc but don't have the language skills myself to seek out and book. Also if I used an English company they would maybe accept childcare vouchers which would certainly be more affordable.
Does anyone have any experience of this?

All suggestions welcome!

Many thanks

AlisonItaly Thu 20-Jan-11 15:12:46


I'm not a regular poster either, just really started today!

I can't answer the questions regarding the availability of camps etc but have a few thoughts about whether it is a good idea to go.

I lived in France for 7 years, so know what it is like having to learn the language, and what level is needed to speak and understand in different situations. We also had a few English teenagers visit us, who would have had the same level of French as your son. Sorry to say it but with only GCSE level French (and as you say not really a natural linguist) if your son was mixed in with French teenagers he would not understand a word they said, and a two week summer camp would really not improve his French at all. He would also have a very hard time understanding instructors etc. If it was a mix of French and English teenagers I think it is inevitable they would stick with their own nationality. At that age and level of ability the communication barrier is just too great for them to have any real interaction - apart from the very basics. I'm sorry to sound so negative but it could end up being a really miserable holiday for him, understanding virtually nothing and being forced to try and speak French all the time, speaking from experience it is often very difficult, frustrating and not enjoyable to do that if you don't have a very high level.

I think it is a great idea to try and improve his French but really don't think this is the way to do it. Maybe a couple of weeks in the summer at home with a language teacher in a far less formal setting than school, perhaps with a few of his friends (so you could share the costs) would be more beneficial to him.

Again, sorry to be negative but hope it is helpful anyway.


frenchfancy Thu 20-Jan-11 18:24:15

I'm afraid I agree with Alison.

Two weeks total immersion is only going to help someone learn a language if they have someone with them helping them to understand - not by explaining in English, just by rephrasing things, speaking slower, and using gestures to explain.

A French summer camp full of French children won't have the staff available to do that. Your DS may get lucky and find another kid who takes a shine to him and takes him under their wing, but then again he may not. Alot depends on personality as well of course.

In general I think one on one lessons for a couple of weeks would teach him much more.

mummytime Thu 20-Jan-11 18:31:41

You son may interact very well with French youngsters, but it will only marginally improve his French or their English. You people together find the best linguists to translate and communicate in a mix of the language.

A regular tutor, maybe coupled with an exchange or a holiday in France (or a French girlfriend) might work better.

Mima1 Thu 20-Jan-11 21:24:05

Thanks - that's really helpful. Alison's point about the insurmountabilty of the language barrier is a great one. I can see he might be very isolated however friendly the group was generally.

I am really wondering how to boost him forwards. Thanks for your ideas Frenchfancy; can't have a French exchange student for various domestic and work reasons so getting that chance to try out in a real life setting is tricky. We have holidayed in France several times but ashamed to say most French people in tourist areas natually conduct the conversation in English when they realise our French is (primary!)school level. I like the tutor idea as long as he doesn't rebel against it - a summer of teen moaning doesn't appeal! It is so hard to motivate boys!!

I could look out for a local student though which might be less formal. Heaven forbid a French girlfriend Mummytime! - actually the distance involved might make it safer than an English one! Thanks to everyone for such thoughtful responses, I'm going to go down the tutor/student track and organise a holiday for fun instead.

AlisonItaly Thu 20-Jan-11 22:15:37

Hi Mima,

Glad you found the answer helpful. I did have another thought but not sure if you could find someone. When I was learning French in France it was very common to find a partner who wanted to learn English. They would do an hour or two together, just talking, half hour in French and half an hour in English. They would correct and help each other as they went along. If you could find a student on an English language course in the summer it may be an idea. Your son might like it as it is very informal. Even if the student is at a higher level than your son it would still be useful - the student would always learn something from a native speaker and someone with a higher level of English may be able to help your son even more. A girl may be a good idea (as in attractive to your son) but he may be a bit distracted. (He also maybe completely tongue-tied - my nephew couldn't bring himself to speak a word to our French babysitter of the same age - both 18!). A young guy same age or a bit older might appeal - they could talk about football, girls or whatever it is that teenage boys talk about these days - just watch out for the swear words!


BarkisIsWilling Sun 22-May-11 08:45:03

If you are in London, perhaps check this out:

robino Sun 22-May-11 08:54:13

You could look at Village Camps. They definitely do a camp in French -speaking Switzerland and you can sign up for the French language course. It's been 10 years since I worked for them but they certainly used to do French lessons in the morning (one with a teacher which was a bit more serious, one with a counsellor who backed stuff up with more practical activities). Then the whole camp do various activities in the afternoon. It is an international camp so your son would be mixing with people from all nationalities (off the top of my head we had European, Middle Eastern, American, African), it wouldn't be immersion.

CliniqueMum Sun 22-May-11 09:10:37

Years ago my friend and I booked a cheap learn to ski holiday advertised through the YHA which was to fill up spare places at a scheme run for French young people (in their twenties on average) to learn to ski. We failed to realise that the lessons would be in French (niavely expecting them to also teach in English also). We both had O level French and unsurprisingly this was not enough to understand the instructions. Everyone was friendly but at mealtimes/evenings there was a clear divide between the English and French groups - perfectly natural due to the language barrier. Would I recommend the experience to anyone even though I learnt to ski quite well as the lessons were so intense - no! Definitely look for something more appropriate.

Bonsoir Sun 22-May-11 09:13:53

There is a camp in Switzerland that is bilingual French-English: Le Pré Fleuri

frenchmum1 Mon 25-Feb-13 22:47:42

Hello! My kids are bilingual but they feel more comfortable in speaking English. They enrolled in French language summer camp and spent unforgettable holidays with international atmosphere in a camp in France. It was CREA-LANGUES and they enjoyed their stay so much there! I know this camp is closed now but they have a successor. the new camp is called FIL - Francais Immersion Loisirs, I know the FIL team is the same than the previous camp and they are very professional. The children attend French original workshops on mornings and enjoy fun activities in the afternoons. The individual guidance is great as well. My kids met a lot of young people coming from all over the world and they made new friends. My daughter is stil in touched with some of them and she can practice French language through social networks with her "international" friends. She has learnt a practical French and did not felt like being at school. You can try it as well: - I hope this post helps you. regards

mdaniel Sun 30-Mar-14 16:39:41

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

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