Fifth-grade linguists preparing for Franco-American exchange ANNE ARUNDEL EDUCATION


Don't be shocked if you overhear the language Crofton Woods Elementary School fifth-graders are using these days when they address their teachers.

"Bonjour, madame," for example, or "Qu'est-ce que vous voulez?"

They're just practicing for the first ever French-American elementary student exchange in the county this spring.

With the approval last week of the Anne Arundel County Board of Education, about 10 fifth-graders from Crofton Woods will visit France for three weeks in the spring and attend French schools.

"They'll be learning how to convert dollars into francs and how the metric system works," said Patricia Orndorff, coordinator of foreign language for county schools.

She and Principal Peter Zimmer made the pitch to the school board Wednesday.

"In November, we'll begin French lessons and cultural lessons," she said. "As far as multiculturalism, this will be a global experience for the students."

To get ready for the trip -- and to help students who won't take the trip get ready for their French guests -- the fifth-graders will study French schools, haute couture, leisure activities, French cooking, holiday celebrations and "real life dialogues."

"This way they'll have at least four months of French," Ms. Orndorff said. "And we'll offer evening classes for parents who are acting as host families."

Students who take the trip to France will pay $1,200 each toward their 20-day trip.

During the visit from May 16 to

June 6, the American students will attend classes on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday; Wednesday is a day off for students in France.

The specific community the students will visit will be determined by demographics.

In preparation, they'll learn phrases such as "Oui, je suis Americain" (Yes, I am American); and "Quel age as-tu?" (How old are you?) to help them make new friends.

Ms. Orndorff reassured school board members, saying the fear that students might become homesick was not likely to become reality.

"In all the years they've been operating this program, only two students had to be sent home because they were homesick," she said.

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