After a seemingly relentless Advent half-term, eight Upper School French students piled onto a mini-bus outside of the Modern Languages building for a week of sun, sight-seeing, and speaking French, accompanied by Mr Maguire and Mme. Corvi. Awaiting our host-families upon our arrival in Montpellier, there was many a panicked cry of ‘how do I even say “nice to meet you” in French?’, and I don’t think it would be entirely unfair to say that for many the prospect of spending the next 36 hours being only able to converse in French was not a wholly exciting one. However, after our host families reunited the group on the Monday morning outside the LSF French language school, everyone excitedly recounted their weekend’s exploits, and I think I can speak for everyone in saying that we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Montpellier, as well as having improved our French. I spent the week chez Huguette, an incredibly kind lady who listened to my frequently slightly shoddy French with impressive perseverance, and she also was hosting two teenage Mexican boys. On the Sunday the Mexicans took me on a tram ride to the beach with their friends, and although it was rather windy, I got a further opportunity to improve my foreign language skills by learning some Spanish colloquialisms of the youth of Mexico. The evenings were spent with our host families, and it was certainly worthwhile to be able to discuss over dinner different topics, including French culture, traditions, and social issues. From Monday to Friday we reconvened at the LSF school for a morning of lessons with our native French speaking teacher, Grant. We played many different language games which were useful to improve our confidence in speaking French, and we also got further opportunity to discuss some of the topics in our course. Our morning lessons on the trip also included translating a French song and doing a survey in the main square - the Place de la Comédie. It was surprising to discover how happy most of the locals were to spend ten minutes of their morning discussing topical issues with groups of English students, and throughout the trip I would say that the Montpellierains seemed friendly and relaxed - perhaps too much in the case of the man who invited me back to his house for a beer after a brief chat on the tram back to my host family (which I graciously declined)! The afternoons were spent doing various activities in the area, or occasionally we had free-time to wander around the city and enjoy the French cafés, chocolatiers and patisseries. On Monday evening, we were given a guided tour which helped us to gain a better sense of direction as well as a greater understanding of the history of the medieval trading city. Tuesday involved a visit to the Musée Fabre, which contained a large collection of historical art, as well as an exhibition by Francis Bacon.
I appreciated much of his work, however I think the group mutually agreed that the gold-sprayed plastic dog spit roast piece hanging from the ceiling was perhaps a step too far. On Wednesday afternoon we took a mini-bus to Nîmes, where we saw the Amphitheatre, Maison Carrée, and the Tour Magne, all impressively preserved relics of the Roman period. On Thursday we went Ten-Pin Bowling (in which Mme. Corvi displayed great skill by achieving a strike on her first go) and visited the Odysseum shopping complex, which after an altercation with a lost Pull and Bear bag, was followed by an evening meal altogether at a city centre restaurant. On Friday we watched a French film before returning back to our host families to pack. We were all sad to depart from Montpellier on the Saturday morning, and not only was the trip highly enjoyable, it was also very useful to learn and practice aspects of French ‘on the field’ as opposed to in a lesson environment. I feel that all of our French undoubtedly improved throughout the week in both confidence and proficiency. I would like to thank Mr Maguire and Mme Corvi for leading such an excellent trip, and I would definitely recommend it to future French students.