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Alors! C'est le dreaded French Exchange coming up soon. Any tips?

(42 Posts)
TawnyPippit Thu 15-Sep-16 08:32:05

As you can see, I am virtually fluent in French so no problems there hmm

I am assuming that we will acquire a monosyllabic 15 year old French boy to sit alongside our very own one which we already have at home. They will either barely interact or spend most of their free time playing x-box (actually, no problem with that). I also have a DD who is one year younger, and, erm, growing up, so I'm hoping we do not get a handsome, charming one to further add to the mix.

Anyone got any tips on things that have gone well/things to avoid?

Seeline Thu 15-Sep-16 08:38:56

Now idea, but I assume a moody 13yo girl will arrive in our household in the New Year, alongside my own and a grumpy 15yo DS.
We have had no info from school apart from the actual dates yet.
We don't have people to stay normally.....
So shamelessly place-marking grin

namechangedtoday15 Thu 15-Sep-16 08:47:29

Nothing helpful to add except to recount my family's experience. In the days before mobiles, the (much older) boyfriend of my 15 year old french exchange friend turned up on the 3rd day. My parents couldn't get hold of her parents / teacher and he said he had nowhere to stay. My dad let him stay on thd couch for the night (hoping he could sort it the next day) but sat up all night on the landing to make sure he didn't try to sneak upstairs during the night grin

Seeline Thu 15-Sep-16 08:50:32

Oh God namechanged - that's really helped!! grin

OutDamnedWind Thu 15-Sep-16 08:55:01

Google translate is a marvellous thing grin

I'll never forget my mum trying to describe the washing machine when asking if our exchange student wanted any clothes washing. She did an impression and everything. I can still see the terror in the poor girl's eyes.

Lancelottie Thu 15-Sep-16 08:55:59

We've so far had the totally silent Spanish girl who sat with her coat on throughout, despite the best efforts of our central heating, and the monosyllabic French boy who didn't eat bread or cheese.

Best tip is to meet up with another similarly afflicted family as soon as possible. Pets can also be a good bet, or something like roller skating, or table tennis (I'd avoid anything more dangerous where they could legitimately 'not hear' the safety warnings).

Keep repeating 'It's only a week... it's only a week...'

namechangedtoday15 Thu 15-Sep-16 09:12:46

Sorry grin but 20+ years later, I can still see my (very straightlaced, traditional) Dad's face thinking "Oh god, what do I do?" whilst the french exchange student threw herself at her boyfriend!!

I agree with planning outings with other families / barbecues / walks.

TawnyPippit Thu 15-Sep-16 09:15:52

Yes, that's a good point about doing something with other people in the area, will get DS to find out if any of his nearby mates are also sharing this rich cultural experience.

I think its something like they show up on a weds evening, either go into school or do days out stuff with their school on Thurs/Fri and again Mon/Tues. so its really Friday evening and the weekend I think we need to cover.

I usually spend most of the weekend lying on the sofa drinking wine, so I'm going to have to think of something a bit more culturally enriching. Presumably just stuff like going on the tube/buses will be interesting (clutching at straws...)

Ancienchateau Thu 15-Sep-16 09:19:25

Be prepared for a very busy bathroom although I still recommend investing in some air freshener just joking. As someone who is surrounded by such monosyllabic 14/15 year olds, I wish you "courage" as we say in these parts.

ShotgunNotDoingThePans Thu 15-Sep-16 09:24:06

We've been through a grand total of five exchanges (three dcs, two languages). Seems to be the luck of the draw as to how it works out.
I agree planned outings are good; the less parental involvement the better, obviously smile.
We live in a rather small rural town so are quite limited, but our lot used to get together for bowling or shopping trips into the city by train (for the girls). We did a sleepover, with three boys and their guests - helped get the weekend over with!
One year it snowed so we went sledging, with the 18yo French guy still in his little plastic bomber jacket and stripey t-shirt that he never let me wash. He commented that he'd really enjoyed it, and said something about really enjoying the 'simple' British lifestyle, French families being too cool to indulge in such a thing!

Noofly Thu 15-Sep-16 12:27:59

We had a 14 year old boy from Taiwan stay with us in May for a week. It was fine and actually DS found it far more stressful than we did! We also had a weekend to fill and it forced us out and about to do some touristy stuff. I hate to admit it, but it was great fun- we never do that sort of thing!

The hardest part for us was sorting out food that he would eat. He also came over with hundreds and hundreds of pounds in cash because his mother had asked him to go to the Burberry shop to buy her a scarf. That put me in a bit of a panic and I did a fair Amount of emailing back and forth with the mum to make sure she really did want that amount of money spent! DS(14) took him along to the shop one afternoon which was a bit of an eye opening experience for him. grin

TawnyPippit Thu 15-Sep-16 13:33:50

Yes, I need to get the itinery from the school of what they are intending to visit and then work out where I think is good that is not covered. We are in London so there will be plenty to do. I think I need to gird my loins and sort out a very full day of sightseeing for one day.

I never did one as a child as I was one of 4 children and my mother had a mantra of never submit to something which you could not face doing 4 times over!

Leeds2 Thu 15-Sep-16 14:09:21

When DD's Spanish exchange was here, we took them to Leeds Castle in Kent, where we met up with six or seven other exchange families. Worked well, the girls went round the castle, rowed on the lake etc. We also met up in London with the same girls. We met up for lunch and went to the theatre. Cant remember what else we did, although remember visiting Harrods.

It was much easier for the English and Spanish students if they were all together as a group, although probably didn't do much to improve their language skills!

Archfarchnad Thu 15-Sep-16 14:43:03

So how long do these exchanges last in the UK? Not long enough to be effective for either party, surely? Why do people do it if the host seems to dread it and the poor kids seem petrified and don't say a word?

We've done a - wait for it - 3 month exchange with a French 15yo. Went fine on the whole. We're not in the UK though, longer exchanges are more common here in Germany. DD and the French girl chose each other from a closed forum too, which helped them bond. Things generally went fine with the French girl. She was appalled by German culinary standards grin and the large amounts of carbs eaten, so I brought her shopping to choose her own fruit and veg. She was impeccably polite with us, but did smoke behind our backs on the way to school (only found that out later).
The one 'incident' in 3 months was when I banned her from going to a certain disco because I wasn't sure about safety, and she went anyway then stayed out all night in an unsupervised apartment. I gave her the 'most disappointed in you' speech, phoned her mum, who threatened to have her sent home immediately and gave her HELL, and afterwards things were great. She's a lovely girl, now 19, we're still in contact, she's a student now. And DD1 got so much out of her 3 months in France that she's now studying there! But that wouldn't have been possible in two weeks.

Lancelottie Thu 15-Sep-16 15:14:50

I'd say they're semi-effective. I can still remember some of the German phrases I had to work out in panic during my German exchange several (cough) years decades ago. Not sure I can remember anything just learnt from classroom lists of phrases.

Archfarchnad Thu 15-Sep-16 15:22:57

What kind of stuff was that then, Lance? Amazing the kind of thing you end up needing to express in a foreign country which never gets taught in schools.

We had a problem with our car once in France and when the mechanic came all I could say was 'la voiture est mort', which he found hilarious.

On DD's exchange, she spent the first month in blind panic, not really clicking with the language, then it started getting better and she came back effectively fluent in everyday French. Then she did the equivalent of A-Level French here and her grammar got better, but her colloquial speaking deteriorated dreadfully.

Footle Thu 15-Sep-16 15:34:40

One daughter had a two-week exchange with a very unworldly French girl who was appalled that we thought homemade soup, bread, cheese and fruit counted as lunch, as well as being appalled by almost everything else.

When my daughter went to stay there, she reported that the family had two five-course meals every single day. The poor mother was a cleaner in the bank her husband managed, which left her time for her culinary marathons.

My daughter has ended up bringing up her family in France. The 'friend' never came back.

The other daughter did a couple of exchanges with an East European country, which were a great success and led to interesting developments.

Lancelottie Thu 15-Sep-16 16:32:46

On cars... my mother can still say 'My tyre has a puncture, could you fix it for me?' in some sort of Yugoslavian dialect after a memorable road trip in te early 60s.

Sadik Thu 15-Sep-16 16:53:48

"So how long do these exchanges last in the UK? Not long enough to be effective for either party, surely?"

I went to France for maybe 10 days aged 14, and it definitely made a big difference to me. I'd never been abroad before, so I guess firstly it gave me more motivation to work at the language. But also, even with being pretty monosyllabic, having to speak nothing but French for 10 days did force me over the 'hump' of being scared to speak, and give me experience of what real proper spoken French sounded like.

It was an independently arranged exchange with a penfriend though, so a bit different to a school based one where you have the option to speak English to your fellow exchangees at least some of the time.

I still regret the 6 month exchange to Sweden with the son of a business colleague of my Dad's that never came off though! Would have been super-cool to end up speaking Swedish smile

QueenofQuirkiness Thu 15-Sep-16 17:41:56

I did the French exchange, it was great fun, except my partner didn't eat anything that we cooked...naturally my parents were worried and thought she may have had an eating disorder. They were going to contact the school and ask why they hadn't informed us of it, but I later walked in on her stuffing her face with m&m's grin
DD15 is doing the exchange this year, and if it truly goes to pot just remember, it's only a week!

Hulababy Thu 15-Sep-16 18:04:31

We've a Spanish one coming up next month for a week, with DD going over there in April.

Could be a girl or a boy apparently (as DD selected either and we do have a spare room) - DD is at a girls school but the exchange school is co-ed.

What on earth would I do with a 14y boy??? Never had one of those before!

Oh, and me and Dh know absolutely NO Spanish bar what I can remember from For the Explorer, from when DD was about 4!

Archfarchnad Thu 15-Sep-16 19:07:54

Thanks for explaining, Sadiq, that does sound worthwhile.

Wriggle45 Thu 15-Sep-16 21:29:09

We are mid German exchange at the moment... thankfully she is sweet and on trips from school Thurs, Fri and we have group activities with other exchange-ites in London Sat and Theme park Sunday... then home Monday.... feeling not too bad at mo!!

Pradaqueen Fri 16-Sep-16 04:48:28

No experience of exchange personally OP but a cautionary tale of how the simple things go wrong...

My friend had a German exchange last year organised by the school. On the whole, all was well except for when the UK school organised a trip to London for the German kids only whilst the UK kids went to school. We are in Greater London so great train links except for the fact that the UK school teacher put them on a platform at a major London station unaware that the first train departing from the platform was to destinations on a different fork of the train line. None of the German kids knew they were on the wrong train nor had a clue of the journey time, just 'get off at x station' which of course never arrived. It then appeared that the uk hosts didn't have a mobile for the teacher. Cue all parents waiting as requested at the station for three hours shock while the situation descended into a farce as the exchange kids got to the end of the line at a seaside town miles away from anyone and apparently no ability to call anyone.

So.... Make sure you have a mobile for the UK teacher if they go out of school by themselves and that the exchange student has yours plus a detailed map of the rail links and likely journey times to get from a to b.

My poor friend was beside herself but couldn't leave the station in case the poor kid arrived to find no one there. As not all kids had to get off at the same station not all of them were missing hence the problem.

On the whole, the exchange was a success and she is doing another one again this year for her next child. Her opinion is that it definitely helped her child's German.

Best of luck!

BellaOfTheBalls Fri 16-Sep-16 05:14:16

I went on a French exchange at 14 before mobiles when I was still nerdy enough to think I'd never drink before I was 18. Was on my own in a tiny village with no other exchange students and a family who spoke no English. By the end of the week I was thinking about how I convey to my mum how much I'd missed her in French before realising I wouldn't need to speak French any more. I was very homesick, and it was a bit of a culture shock (I wasn't told about the kissing hello thing!). It brought my spoken French on massively though.

Trying to explain in French my reasons for being a vegetarian were interesting though...

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