Gathering around the French language

The Association Francophone des Rocheuses du Sud (AFRoS) has almost wrapped up the first year of Le club Baguette, or The Baguette Club.

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The Association Francophone des Rocheuses du Sud (AFRoS) has almost wrapped up the first year of Le club Baguette, or The Baguette Club. The Free Press spoke with Isabel Craig, treasurer for AFRoS and one of the organizers of the club, who started this year’s program.

“We – Tecla and I, felt the need to create a gathering concept that would allow kids to get together around a common theme, the French language,” she said. “We feel that it is important for kids, and anyone for that matter, who are learning to speak French at school or have French at home, to be able to identify themselves to the language in a informal, social way. The Baguette Club aims to offer a safe environment to hear, practice, play and socialize in French. We believe that one of the best ways to break down barriers in communicating in a second language is to do it while playing with the language through games, songs and short fun conversations.”

While it is currently a pilot project, Craig hopes to see The Baguette Club continue for years to come.

“The program started Oct. 17 and it will run until Nov. 28 of this year. It runs every Monday between 3:45 p.m. and 5 p.m. at the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy (CBAL) office downtown. The doors open at 3:30 p.m. and it is a free, drop in program. The club, for the moment, is for kids between the ages of eight and 12 but others are invited to join but the facilitated part of the session is organized with the eight to 12 age group in mind,” she said. “Every session, we start with sharing a few words by greeting each other and exchanging thoughts about our day while enjoying a light snack that includes a baguette, of course. Our facilitator then creates opportunities for the kids to speak French through guided games. For the last half hour of the session, the kids have the option to read, read to each other or explore board games, all while being encouraged to speak French. Also, if they want, they can get support for their French homework during this time.”

According to Craig, the program could not operate without some key contributors.

“We are lucky to currently have two facilitators who are excellent at guiding our groups through the sessions. Madame Josée Renaud joined our team, and with Madame Tecla Mouchet, they create a fun filled French atmosphere.

“Parents are welcomed to stay and enjoy playing with the kids while brushing up on their French also,” she said. “With the help of a financial contribution from the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) and a space donation from CBAL, we are able to offer seven weeks of what we hope will be the start of a long lasting program. We are hoping to find other financial means of support to offer two more seven-week sessions starting in January and in April of 2017.”

While this may be the first year, Craig told The Free Press that the program has been on the back burner for a while, taking the right combination of people and funding to get it off the ground.

“Our vision for this club is that eventually it will grow into an exchange group where kids get together to hang out, play games and speak, practice or learn French. Anybody who is proficient in the language and would like to volunteer to support the facilitator, they are encouraged to get in touch with us,” she said.

The Baguette Club has only had three sessions so far this year, but Craig believes they have been very successful.

“Most of our participants are from the IDES French immersion program but we also have kids from École Sophie-Morigeau, from our homeschooling community and from the Fernie Academy. We have all levels of French. It is amazing to see how, the kids who are new to the language, are eager to communicate in French and to see how our bilingual children are so pleased to help and contribute to the group,” she said. “The first two weeks, we had 28 and 24 participants which was way more than we were expecting. We were so pleased with the turn out. The third week we had six kids but it was Halloween so the small turn out was to be expected.”

This is not the only program being offered by AFRoS, who are also offering a new program called “Les Tiguidous” for children aged zero to four.

“It started this fall and it replaces our long running weekly French Story Time. Les Tiguidous is a weekly program that is held at Infinitea every Thursday between 11 a.m. and noon. Julie Comète, the facilitator, brings great energy, enthusiasm and loads of ideas to this exciting new successful program,” said Craig. “Both programs welcome all levels of French. AFRoS is excited to see the involvement from the participants, young or older, that are keen to speak French no matter what their experience is with the language. AFRoS seeks to promote the French language, of course, but also wants to create opportunities to live with different cultures and language in an inclusive, fun and fulfilling way.”

The Baguette Club is almost finished for the year, but Craig encourages participation in the drop in program. While it is a drop in program and there are not a limited number of participants, Craig asks people to sign up their children, as the program will adapt to the interest of the group.

“We do encourage parents to get in touch with us to sign up their children so we can plan the games and snacks accordingly,” she said. “They can get in touch with me directly at 250-430-7047 or by email at isabelcraig@yahoo.fr.”