Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Parlez vous Frenglisch?

Last  week we had a French exchange student staying with us. 

It's part of Ben's French language study at school, Ben goes to France for a week, staying with a French family and having only French spoken all around him and we had a French child to play with for him to experience life in the bosom of a German family in Germany.  Except of course our house isn't run to typical German standards, we speak English at home (the teachers can never get over this) and we watch English TV and we eat in the English way (a cooked tea rather than a cooked lunch and a casual breakfast of cereal or toast not the full scale bread, ham and cheese marathon.) 

I dread to think what A reported back to his teachers and his parents about life with an English family who just so happen to live in Germany, I can imagine that neither his German nor his English have improved greatly for although he listened, he barely spoke.  Although close questioning of A revealed that he's been learning both languages for three years and I got the impression that he didn't find one any harder than the other which would annoy the Germans who always smugly report that English is easy to learn while nodding sagely when I complain that German is sooooo hard.  

Most of the week A looked rather like a startled rabbit caught in the headlights of oncoming traffic, desperate for someplace to hide (ideally where they would speak French or at the very least leave him alone.)  He would speak only when spoken to and even then would use as few words as possible, although apparently in the school environment and when with his fellow French students he opened up more.

Fortunately the school had organised activities for the children, they explored Kettwig on Monday morning (somehow managing to make that last two hours - and yes, Kettwig is lovely but two hours?  When you come from Grenoble, which is way bigger and far prettier I'm sure, Kettwig must seem teeny.)  
Tuesday morning was the Aalto theatre in Essen, which we now know has the biggest elevator in Europe with a capacity for 200+ people (Jas then informed us that she's also been there (with school) and that that lift can also take horses) 
Wednesday was a trip to the Erfahrungsfeld der Sinne which I realise that I have been to, although A's description of it (i.e. none) didn't prompt that recollection but rather the wonder of Google.
Thursday was a whole day trip to Dusseldorf with the German students - which meant that the locals got the day off from school.  Over dinner when they got back I interrogated them; 
What was the film museum like?  Full of rubbish German films according to Ben.  
Was the point of going up the TV Tower just for the view?  Apparently so.  
What did you do for lunch?  Pizza. 
And in your spare time in the afternoon, what did you get up to?  Dusseldorf has trams.
So?  They had small change left over from the pizza, it was even smaller (or maybe just thinner) by the time the trams had run over it.
Friday was school time, followed by free time and the goodbye party which the girls were in charge of (well they volunteered and the boys foolishly agreed) at the last minute, due to the wonderful warm weather, the girls decreed the party would have a theme, and this theme would be 'Summer', thus allowing everyone to dress in summer gear - except for the French kids that is, who would have packed for early spring in Germany.  It seemed to go well, I asked A what music was played, 'lots' he said.  So I tried again, what music did he like I asked?  'Lots' was the answer, at which point I gave up,  I had tried in both German and English (my school French has long since sounded the retreat in the face of the advancing German grammar) but to no avail.

I spent the whole week stressed.  Worried that A wasn't enjoying himself, but unable really to do much about it as the responsibility for entertainment was Ben's, I could make suggestions as to what they might want to do, but at the end of the day they're both teenagers, and teenage boys at that - how on earth can I know what they might find cool, teenage girls shop and gossip, teenage boys just seem to hang about, rather like the faint odour of B.O. that accompanies them.  Who would have thought that being the recipient of an exchange student could be so mentally taxing?

The funniest thing about the whole week was the fact that all the other German students spoke to their French exchange kids in English, and I guess on the return leg the same thing will happen again, (although from memory, the French on home turf are far more demanding of visitors, expecting them to at least make an attempt at their language) while Ben spoke only German to A.

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