Mrs Cooper’s French Experience

Mrs Belinda Cooper – our Languages Leader of Learning – has been on a Ministry of Education  Language Immersion Award through term one. She writes in at the end of the experience to talk about what she has learnt. 

My three months in France is almost at an end and it has been an amazing learning experience – linguistically, professionally and culturally.

My life has been characterised by total immersion in French from breakfast at 7.30am with my host family, a school-day lasting until 5pm then home, afternoon tea, dinner, talk around the table,  TV watching and reading a French novel often until midnight. There have been times of frustration when I’ve wondered if I’ve made any progress at all but then others when I’ve had extended conversations with people; the most heartening being an hour long interview with a journalist from the regional newspaper.  A weekly clarinet lesson, 2 hours at church each Sunday, many visits with French people and a week of intensive language lessons in the regional capital of Lille have all contributed to my ‘kete of knowledge.’

At St. Bernadette’s (private Catholic school) I’ve had lots of class time presenting NZ to 3 –  19 year olds. There’s something very cute about little 5 year old French children singing ‘Te Aroha’ with great gusto!  However, most of my time has been with the English classes working alongside the teachers, helping with pronunciation, encouraging speaking of English but also getting resources for SHGC French classes – the most useful being written and video texts in French on different topics. I have got to know the staff well and recognise most of the students. I was given such a wonderful farewell I cried!

On a cultural level, I’ve been able to gain a deeper understanding of the North of France and have become quite adept at using public transport. A most memorable weekend was hopping from France through Belgium to go to Luxembourg and then a little side trip to Germany.  Coming from an island nation, this was pretty exciting! I’ve climbed a few of the famous UNESCO heritage belfries, visited a number of museums, art galleries and WW1 cemeteries.  There were a few very proud kiwi moments when I discovered that 500 of our miners built 20kms of underground tunnels to hide thousands of Commonwealth soldiers for 10 days before a surprise attack on the Germans in April 1917.  And in Le Quesnoy (sister town to Cambridge) when our soldiers scaled the ramparts to liberate the town occupied by the Germans for 3 years.  We are well remembered and loved in a number of French towns.

I’d like to express my thanks to the Ministry of Education and AFS (NZ and France), to the BOT and Senior Leadership of SHGC for releasing me for Term 1 and especially to Vicki Cotton acting as HOF and Christine Bryant with Catherine for taking my classes.