A letter from Emma

Hi Aquila readers!
My name is Emma, I’m 13, I’m English but I speak both French and German fluently. That’s because I have done six month exchanges to both countries! I did them through an organization called ALLEF, which stands for Association for Learning Languages En Famille. I sent in a file containing loads of information about me and my family, which helped them match me up with girls that I would get along with – important as you’ll be living together for at least a year! I was 10 when I did my exchange to Germany, with a girl called Paula. She came to our house first, and lived with us for six months. She spoke no English when she came, but by the time she left she had no accent whatsoever and people who met her didn’t even realize she wasn’t English! Then I went to Germany to stay with her family. I was quite nervous at first, but I soon settled in. After 3 months I was speaking comfortably in sentences, and by the end I was fluent! I enjoyed it so much that I decided to do another one, and go to France. I was 13 by this time, and I stayed with a girl called Maëliss. Doing ALLEF exchanges isn’t just about learning the language though – it’s an amazing opportunity to experience the culture in a way you just can’t on holiday, andd you also make great friends. As well as Paula and Maëliss, I made other friends at school which I am still in contact with.
Six months seems like a really scary amount of time to be away from your family, but you settle in so well, time flies by! I found that my exchange family became like my real family and I was hardly ever homesick. In fact, I often got annoyed when my parents phoned me (which they did once a week) because it interrupted what I was doing. My brother did get very upset on the first 6 weeks of his first exchange – he was only 9 – and it was quite difficult for my parents knowing that he was far away and homesick. But then it was the summer holidays and he went away to the Alps and had a great time. It is so worth sticking with it because it is just such an amazing experience. And parents: no you are NOT cruel uncaring parents for sending your child away to strangers for six months! In fact, you are the best parents ever for giving them that chance to learn a language, grow their independence, and experience the culture of different countries.
So if you are aged 9-11 (but you can start thinking about it younger, or even if you are 12 you’re not too old), you are at the best moment – tell your parents, think about it – you could look up ALLEF online at www.allef.org.uk for info, and DO IT!!!
From Emma Caroe

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