Arlington There were three French girls at the Yorktown Homecoming game. The only problem was, they had no idea what was happening on the field. Maëlle Dubois, Julie Choaim, and Solène Hurson had never been to an American football game. They have seen playing fields as big as the one the Yorktown team was playing on, for European football (soccer), but the immensity of the “production” was really surprising: that there would be cheerleaders, two marching bands, a choir singing the national anthem, and parents and fans getting snacks and watching the game on a full set of bleachers — that was not something seen in France.
Arlington students of the French language and culture welcomed exchange students from Reims, France on Oct. 12 for a two-week stay. French students attended classes with their hosts at Wakefield, Washington-Lee, Yorktown, HB Woodlawn and the Career Center for the school day on Oct. 13. This cultural and linguistic exchange between Lycée Marc Chagall and Arlington Public Schools began with its first trip in 2001 in conjunction with the Arlington Sister City Association (ASCA) and focuses on inbound and outbound exchanges between the two cities.
Like many Europeans who come to the U.S., the three French girls were surprised by how big everything was — how “yuge,” Solène said with her French accent with a barely aspirated H.
The three girls speak very good English, somewhat better than their Yorktown hosts speak French, said Mary Kate Cousins, one of the exchange host parents. But there is a reason for that: they have studied English for 5-10 years, whereas their American counterparts have studied French for 3-5 years. Both sets of students get roughly three hours a week of language instruction. The French girls found Americans pretty easy to understand. They were supposed to be speaking only in English during this trip, and they were getting a full immersion, complete with pizza and American fast food, a homecoming dance, a picnic, and of course, football. But this was the weekend: during the week they had gone to class, and they were almost more surprised by that difference than anything else. The French girls were astounded at the culture of the American classroom, where one can speak freely, and the less strict rule system. They weren’t sure which system was more likely to get results, but the freedom made an impression on them.