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Kinder Exchange
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Best French Language exchange immersion in France
Best French Language exchange immersion in France

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Provins : The Jewel of Medieval France

Nestled in the heart of the #Champagne #region lies one of the most significant, beautiful, and well-preserved Medieval towns in France. Stepping through the gates of Provins feels a little like stepping back in time as it’s not only the buildings that have been preserved, but the #medieval traditions too.

Believed to have been medieval France’s third largest city, in its heyday Provins was a commercial hub, envied for its wealth and famed for its biannual Champagne fairs which attracted merchants from the length and breadth of Europe. These fairs doubled up as celebrations, complete with singing and dancing, and served as a cultural melting pot where ideas could be shared and connections made. Flourishing in the spotlight of European global trade, Provins even minted its own coinage, which was recognised and accepted throughout #Medieval #Europe.
Discover ancient architecture…

It is said that the Champagne #fairs of #Provins owed their success in part to protection that the Counts of Champagne offered to journeying merchants as they travelled through the region. Whilst highwaymen are certainly less of a concern on today’s roads, it’s not difficult to imagine the impression that the Provins skyline would have made upon a visiting merchant. Possibly the most striking feature of this skyline is the Tour César. Built between 1152 and 1181 as a symbol of the Count’s power, the Tour César was originally used as watch tower and prison and is an excellent example of medieval defensive architecture.

The Tour César also offers panoramic views of the defensive walls that surround Provins. The innovative design of these ramparts served as much to showcase the skill of Provins’ craftsmen as to protect the town. Built between the 11th and 13th centuries, the 1200m town walls are made up of rectangular, octagonal, and trapezoid (among other shaped) towers which were a true feat of medieval engineering.

Whereas the #Tour #César evokes the wealth of the town, the church just metres aways tells a different story. Begun in the 12th century, the Saint Quiriace Collegiate Church remains unfinished to this day as its constructionwas halted due to financial problems throughout the French kingdom. Now the starkness of this colossal building adds to its beauty, and it is an unmissable monument to the fascinating history of this extraordinary town.
Experience medieval customs…

The traditions of #Provins are as well-preserved as its monuments and, in tribute to its medieval history, activities such as Equestrian Falconry are still practiced, and it’s not uncommon to see knights galloping within the city walls in the daily shows put on by the town throughout the spring and summer. The Champagne Fairs may have seen a decline in the 14th century, but the tradition has been upheld all the same and #Provins plays host to Champagne Fairs, nocturnal celebrations and musical events which celebrate the customs of the region.

On top of the excitement and drama of the medieval shows, peace and tranquility can also be found in Provins by visiting its rose garden. Here you’ll find a quiet place to relax whilst learning about the history of the rose, its contribution to Provins’ success and, of course, its place in French cuisine!

Just 50km from our hometown of Fontainebleau, Provins is one of our favourite places to explore. We especially recommend tasting Confit de Pétales de Roses: a delicacy of the region!
Written by Hati Whiteley for Kinder Exchange

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At school, no one seems to take language classes very seriously. I didn’t particularly enjoy them either; I could never imagine being able speak French fluently and it all just seemed like a waste of time.

Somehow 10 years later I’m living and working in France. Recently I’ve been trying to work out why speaking another language never seemed like an achievable goal. It seems like it all comes down to the myths about learning foreign languages which are born in the classroom and which convince us that #learning a #language just isn’t worth the effort. It turns out that it is worth it after all, so here are the facts behind those classroom myths…

Myth 1 « Learning a language at school is no use in real life »
When you’re practicing French in the classroom with your mates it can seem a bit pointless, but there are countless reasons to learn a new language. When you speak a second language you can meet and talk to a whole world of people, travelling becomes easier and more enriching, and you can become immersed new culture. What’s not to love? Bilinguals also gain access to the global job market, earn a higher salary and have better job prospects in general; put simply : employers like language learners. Most importantly there’s nothing better than the buzz you get from having a conversation in another language, or using some new vocabulary for the first time.

Myth 2 « Learning a language is too hard. »
Learning a language can be hard but it doesn’t have to be… it all depends on how you learn. Did you know that there are different styles of learning? These are known as visual, auditory (listening), reading/writing, and kinesthetic (practical learning), and by finding the right balance between these styles we can make learning easier, more effective and more enjoyable. Sometimes Myth 1 makes language learning even harder, because if you don’t see the purpose of learning a language, it’s hard to find the motivation! I found that immersion in a French family gave me the motivation that I needed to apply myself to learning a language, and also served as an interactive way of learning as I had no choice but to listen to and speak French all the time, making the whole process more enjoyable.

Myth 3 « It’s embarrassing to make mistakes when speaking another language »
I have a degree in #French and work in France, but only a week ago I accidentally offered a stranger a punch in the face (un coup de poing) instead of a helping hand (un coup de main). Making mistakes comes with the territory of speaking another language but it shouldn’t prevent you from trying – in fact it’s often the best way to learn. Instead of worrying about getting things wrong when you’re speaking another language, try to remember how amazing it is to be able to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak your native tongue. Most people are very understanding when you make mistakes too, which in my case was very reassuring!

Myth 4 « Most people speak English anyway »
I’m afraid not! Although English is becoming an international language, you’d be surprised by how many people don’t speak a word of it. In fact according to the #British #Council, only 25% of the world’s population has some understanding of English.There are many countries in the world where speaking the native tongue is an absolute necessity for travelers. It’s a little unrealistic to want to learn all of the world’s languages (although don’t be deterred from trying) but I’ve always found that when travelling, meeting people, and looking for jobs, the more languages you speak, the better!

Written by Hati Whiteley for Kinder Exchange.

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L'ouverture sur le monde ne s’apprend pas dans les livres. Elle s’apprend par l’expérience et l’épanouissement personnel. C’est dans cet esprit que, depuis 2011, #Kinderexchange propose des #échangeslinguistiques et #culturels de qualité entre la France, l’Espagne, l’Italie, l’Allemagne, l’Irlande, les États-Unis, le Canada et le Royaume-Uni.

Comment apprendre une langue étrangère sans voyager dans d’autres pays? Comment envisager l’immersion dans une autre culture en restant chez soi? Cela ne se peut. C’est pourquoi nous veillons à ce que nos #echangeslinguistiques et culturels soient personnalisés.

Les jeunes sont mis en relation selon des critères d’âge, de centres d’intérêt, de passions, et d’attentes. Ils sont enthousiastes à l’idée d’un échange mutuel. Et parce que leurs #familles attendent de vous un bon accueil à la venue de leur enfant en France, ils offrent le meilleur au vôtre, afin que son séjour soit inoubliable.

L’accent est mis sur l’intégration dans la vie de famille et sur les conversations en langue étrangère, de sorte que l’apprentissage de la langue se mêle au plaisir du voyage. Et parce que l’#échange est #réciproque, une bienveillance similaire est attendue en contrepartie.

Les inscriptions pour l’#Espagne sont de nouveau disponibles.

Article écrit par Victor Suret pour Kinder Exchange.
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Fontainebleau : the True Home of Kings

Just a stone's throw from the capital, Fontainebleau is a favourite weekend destination for Parisians looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city and to breathe in that fresh countryside air. If you have already visited #Fontainebleau this will come as no surprise, nestled in the centre of a tranquil forest it's hard to believe that you're only an hour from Paris. It is also home to #Kinderexchange HQ and when we're not busy organising exchanges we enjoy discovering the hidden treasures and exploring the rich history and culture of our town.


#Fontainebleau's history boasts as many exciting tales as a BBC period drama, many of which revolve around the beautiful palace in the town centre. A former hunting lodge transformed into a one of the largest French royal châteaux, the Château de Fontainebleau served as the home to the kings and queens of France and witnessed many momentous historical events over the ages, even hosting Pope Pius VII (be it for an involuntary visit) during the French Revolution. These days the Palace of Fontainebleau is open to the public, including its throne room, allowing you to immerse yourself in the extravagant and meticulous decoration and furnishings of the French monarchs. In every direction stretches innumerable gardens, courtyards and parkland, providing the perfect setting for enjoying a picnic or for basking in the splendour of French renaissance architecture.

Surrounded by forest, it's easy to understand why Fontainebleau became "The True Home of Kings". (Napoleon in Saint Helena)

Whilst the building has medieval origins, French Monarchs were later compelled to develop the site in order to benefit from the abundance of game in the surrounding forests. Although the eight centuries of sovereign residence in Fontainebleau have long since come to an end, the forest still plays host to a thriving population of game and other wildlife and the tradition of hunting is still practiced. In addition, the forest plays an important role in the history of mountaineering and is now known the world over for walking, horse riding, climbing, and mountain biking.

In order to make the most of the diversity of foliage and the extraordinary rock formations which comprise the unique landscapes of the forest, many walkers take to the "sentiers denecourts". These walking paths, traced in the 19th century, were initially created to allow visitors to explore the massif. Now maintained by volunteers, these routes are signposted by blue marks on the rocks and trees along the route and guide visitors through areas of remarkable beauty throughout the forest. Although these footpaths are reserved for walkers, a myriad of trails and paths throughout the forest provide a source of adventure for mountain bikers and horse riders alike.

Choosing to view the forest from an entirely new perspective, climbers flock to #Fontainebleau from the world over to test their strength on the boulders of the forest and to make their mark in climbing history. Whilst Fontainebleau is celebrated among the climbing community for its powerful and technical style of climbing, it is also renowned for its accessibility and you certainly don't need to be Tarzan to enjoy climbing here! Climbing circuits and painted onto the rocks and range from absolute beginner (marked in yellow) to world-class athlete, and offer an alternative way of exploring the forest.

To find out more about our charming town, you can visit Fontainebleau's Tourist Information Website : http://www.fontainebleau-tourisme.com/

Written by Hati Whiteley for Kinder Exchange
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Recipe for a great exchange: the student

If it's the first time that you're embarking on an exchange, it can be difficult to know how to approach it. To help you to ensure that your time abroad is nothing short of spectacular, we've come up with the perfect recipe for making the most of your exchange.

Throw yourself into the culture, head first
When in Rome, do as the Romans do - this works even better if you're heading to Rome! An exchange in a host family is culturally enriching experience as you will participate in day-to-day family life in another culture. Allow yourself to be fully immersed in the culture by saying yes to new experiences and stepping a little outside of your comfort zone. Whether it be food, a local tradition, or a family member's hobby - you're bound to learn something new and meet some interesting people along the way.

Share your culture
'Exchange' means giving one thing and receiving another; so whilst it's important to immerse yourself in your host families culture, remember that they'd love to learn about your culture too! Try cooking a meal, watching a classic film, teaching them a traditional song, or explaining idioms of your culture to help your family get to know more about you.

Communicate in your target language
This may need a little self discipline! When away from home, communicating in a target language can be frustrating and it's all to easy to slip into your mother tongue at the earliest opportunity. However, the more you speak your target language, the more you learn and the easier communicating will become. Although you may make a few mistakes, use every blunder as a way to learn something new by asking your host family and friends to correct you.

Don't be an island
Arriving in a host family that you've never met before can be overwhelming and your instinct may be to hide away in your room - especially if you're feeling homesick! By spending time with your host family outside of organised activities, you'll begin to feel at home in your new environment and will become part of the family. Not only does this help to stave off any feelings of homesickness, but through interacting with the family you'll learn more about the culture and language, and will form lifelong friendships!

Written by Hati Whiteley for Kinder Exchange. 
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Finding the perfect gift for your host family

Finding a gift for your host family is an important part of your exchange preparation. This gift doesn't need to be particularly snazzy or expensive (in fact, it's better if it isn't) but should help you to break the ice and share elements of your culture, whilst also serving as a token of your gratitude.

That's a lot to ask from one gift, without mentioning that it needs to be fairly portable too! Luckily after a few years of practice we've learned a thing or two about buying presents for host families, so here are a few idea to keep in mind:

Conversation starters
Anything that gets the conversation flowing is generally the sign of a good gift. Bringing traditional food from your country is a great way to break the ice: there's nothing better than a block of English cheddar cheese; a jar of marmite; a box of tea; or a tin of Heinz baked beans to get the a good debate going around the dinner table. Just don't forget to think about how well your food will travel before packing it into your suitcase!

Something that represents your culture
What is your town or country known for? This could be something that's produced in the area; a town tradition; or a photo book of your city - the more original the better! Whatever it is, it will give you the opportunity to describe elements of your culture to your host family and they'll get the chance to learn more about you! Hint: A good way to find a gift that represents your hometown is to think about what you'd buy as a souvenir for a friend if you were visiting the area.

Something for the whole family
Instead of worrying about finding an individual gift for each family member, why not get something that the whole family can share? Games are a great family activity and create a lively, competitive atmosphere that will help you to relax into your new home. There are tonnes of games available that can be played in multilingual environments, such as Bananagrams and Dobble (after a trilingual game of Bananagrams, we can confirm that it withstood the multilingual test, and it definitely added to the fun!). Not much space in your suitcase? Why not take a souvenir deck of cards from your hometown?

Get crafty
Nothing says gratitude like a DIY gift: homemade presents are not only unique but show that you've put in some thought and effort. Websites such as Pinterest are full of ideas for you to bake, knit, sew and craft your way to gift success! If you enjoy crafts, this is also a great way to share one of your hobbies with your host family!

Don't over think it
Remember the gift isn't everything and doesn't need to be extravagant. The best gifts we've received have been simple, such as a paper cutting bookmark from China; spices from India; or photos of the area from France. Whatever the gift, your host family will appreciate the gesture and will be delighted to have a momento of your visit!

Written by Hati Whiteley for Kinder Exchange
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What to expect from your Kinder Exchange

If you've never done it before, the process of organising your exchange might seem like a mammoth task; and the idea of finding the perfect family and location - nigh on impossible! This is why we try to make your planning your exchange as simple as possible by taking on some of the legwork ourselves and supporting you every step of the way! Here's what you can expect when you join the Kinder Exchange community...

Questions, questions, and even more questions!
Don't worry, it's not a test! Our aim is to find you an exchange partner who will become a friend for life! To do this, we'll be asking you lots of questions in an informal interview before matching you up. Give some thought to what you want to get out of the experience, where you want to go, what you enjoy and what type of people you get on with. This will help us to find you the most compatible partner possible!
We'll also be asking for you to send us some photos of you, your family, and where you live to give your exchange partner an idea of what you're like, so we love to receive photos where your personality is really shining through!

References
We understand that going to stay with a family that you've never met before can be daunting. For extra assurance that you are in safe hands, we ask for two references for each family involved in the exchange. This reference must be from someone who isn't related to you and has known your family well for a long time.

Sit back and relax!
We really do mean it! As we do all of the searching for you, your next step is to breathe easy whilst we search our database for your perfect exchange partner. Once we've found them, we'll send out the your profiles to the other family, and their profile to you and if everyone's happy you can start getting to know one-another!

Over to you!
Once you've been matched up, it's time to get to know your exchange partner and their family and start preparing for your cultural adventure! Make sure to talk to your partner and their family about the logistics of your trip, such as the length of the visit; arrival times and meeting points; dietary requirements; and house rules. It's also worth doing some research about the local area (you could ask your partner about this) so that you know what to expect and how to respect the local culture. Finally, we advise all exchange students to take a gift for their host family, this might be a game, something that represents your culture, or even food!

Remember: if you have any questions or worries, you can always contact your country's Kinder Exchange partner who will be happy to answer any of your queries!

By Hati Witeley for Kinder Exchange
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Bilingual schools: indispensable resources or inaccessible luxuries? And can we make do without them?

Enrolling your child in a bilingual school is an excellent way to ensure that they learn another language. However not everyone has a bilingual school on their doorstep and even if they do, the price and the popularity of bilingual schools mean that for some families they just aren't an option.

Consequently, many parents look to less formal methods of raising bilingual children, but is it realistic to expect children to learn another language outside of school?

Predicted investments in language learning software look promising for those looking to give their offspring a bilingual education outside of formal schooling. Already we are spoiled for choice as the internet zaps foreign languages into our households in the form of television programmes, films, e-books, radio and social networks. E-learning software, apps and distance learning enable children and adults alike to attend classes taking place thousands of miles away from the comfort of their living rooms, and websites such as #Kinderexchange connect host families and exchange students who'd have never met otherwise. Some families even hire au pairs or nannies who speak to the children in their native tongue and after-school language clubs, Language Nests (home-like environments in which 0 - 5 year olds are immersed in another languages) and Master-Apprentice imitation and immersion programmes are gaining in popularity the world over. With so many options for language learning in the home, surely it's possible to raise bilingual children without the help of the education system!

Whilst we can be fairly surely that language acquisition in an informal setting is possible, specialists are divided on how this approach measures up to formal schooling. Studies have shown that children who learn foreign languages among friends and family speak with more fluidity and confidence that those who have learned in a more formal setting, as well as with a more natural and convincing accent. Learning a language by speaking with family and friends is also viewed as a more fulfilling approach, as children are employing what they have learned in real life situations. However on the other side of the argument specialists claim that the formal classroom setting produces children with better syntax, grammar, and use of vocabulary; these children also acquire the language quicker as a result of the intensity of the classroom environment.

Parents have also spoken up in favour of school-based language learning as they worry that playing the role of teacher and parent may negatively affect their relationship with their child. Parents who take on the educator role are often left with countless questions, not quite knowing where to look for answers: "What if the child mixes the languages?", "What if the child refuses the language?", "How and when should I correct errors?". Some parents choose the OPOL (One Parent One Language) approach, which can be highly effective but requires huge amounts of discipline and can lead parents to lose out on the opportunity to practise another language themselves. To add to this, despite advances in technology, not all languages are equal when it comes to resources. Learners of French, for example, can get their hands on hundreds of resources which appeal to a whole range of interests; whereas less widely spoken languages have less resources to offer, making it harder to parents to teach their children themselves.

So whilst the raising bilingual children without bilingual schools seems like an achievable goal, this method of language acquisition might not be for everyone! However, it's reassuring to discover that is no one perfect path to bilingualism, and every direction you take will come with its own benefits.

Written by Hatie Whitely for Kinder Exchange

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