AUCP students set themselves apart by committing to speak French day in, day out, during their study abroad experience. They even sign a language pledge! But why? It’s not enough to just live in France, you’ve got to live in French! Five reasons why we promise that speaking French all the time is totally worth it, right here:
- Speaking French all the time makes your brain work.
Logical, right? Think about it…speaking French 24/7 takes a lot of brain power. Each time you struggle through finding the right words for a certain something, each time you make the extra effort to describe a situation without resorting to English, you progress. Think of it like muscle memory, the more you do a movement, the easier it gets (even though you might be sore in the beginning!). Studies have found that bilingual children score higher on certain cognitive tests, bilingual adults have been found to be more efficient at tasks, and the bilingual elderly were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Making your brain work has serious benefits, and the language pledge helps you get there!
- Speaking French all the time helps you cultivate local friendships.
Speaking French in France is a sign that you respect your host country, and that effort is widely appreciated by the French. Walking around in Aix or Marseille while maintaining the language pledge makes you instantly more approachable – you’re not just another group of Americans speaking English loudly. Being capable of holding a discussion in French is also a great conversation starter. When people realize that, despite the fact that you are not a native French speaker, you are still making the effort to go the extra mile, they’re usually pretty impressed, and they’ll want to know how you got to speak French so well!
- Speaking French all the time multiplies the opportunities to learn.
No brainer, speaking exclusively in French with your host family, language partner and in class is a way to improve your French on a daily basis with the help of native speakers. But keeping the pledge while within the AUCP student group is a learning experience that is just as valuable. Each and every AUCP student comes abroad with a set of language skills. Some students have strong grammar skills, others have a knack for French pronunciation, and still others possess an extensive vocabulary. It’s this diversity that makes the language pledge so useful. Sometimes there are certain French mistakes or difficulties that some native speakers have a hard time explaining, and that’s when your fellow AUCP classmates can come in handy, giving you the help you need.
- Speaking French all the time makes you more confident.
Perhaps in French class you were quiet and shy – but you could afford to be, because your French speaking was limited to a few hours a week. In France, the slightest action requires speaking French. And the more you speak, the more confident you’re bound to become. The first time you order a croissant and café, it’s totally normal to have sweaty palms and a pounding heartbeat. But every time you order your croissant and café, raise your hand in class, answer a question, ask for directions, make a mistake… it gets easier. And before you know it, you’re ordering everything in the whole boulangerie without batting an eyelash.
- Speaking French all the time works.
Research shows that high-intermediate level speakers benefit from speaking in the target language 24/7, even if they make mistakes*! Independent testing proves that AUCP semester students achieve, on average, an impressive 34% of their achievable language progress**, and full year students average a whopping 46%, thanks to the combination of experiential learning, mentoring and the language pledge. And that’s just the average; some AUCP students have even made an astounding 83 % of their achievable progress! At the AUCP, a student’s initial French level is bound to improve (and usually, it improves a lot!). And staying in “French mode” all the time simply creates multiple opportunities to associate language learning with your every day experiences, making your language learning experience that much richer.
One of my favorite parts of AUCP Study Abroad is the language pledge. When I meet other American students in Aix, and try to speak to them in French, they just can’t do it like the kids at the AUCP can. – Kaitlin Curran, AUCP Full Year 14-15, Colby College
The French language pledge is just one of the ways that AUCP students improve their French skills: the AUCP helps students get their best chance at fluency through all-French university classes, an individual French homestay, local community service, a club and a French language partner. Want to know more about the ways AUCP students become part of their host community? Visit the Immersion page of the AUCP website, or see the Meet an AUCP student category on le Blog to discover individual AUCP Study Abroad experiences.
* Davidson, Dan E. (2007). « Study abroad and outcomes measurements: The case of Russian ». Modern Language Journal, 91, 276-280.
**What’s achievable progress? In short, it’s a way of measuring student progress against their potential for progress – it’s more accurate for comparison than simply the number of points a student gains. It’s an important part of how we evaluate the effectiveness of the AUCP program. See this document to learn more, otherwise check back soon for a blog post that explains it further!