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From parlé to pate—BYU French Summer Camp gives students immersion experience

With the advent of summer, approximately 40 high school students will study intensively at the second annual Brigham Young University French Summer Camp, where their itinerary will include a variety of lessons from fencing to French cooking.
Immersion is a key language-learning technique, and the French Summer Camp creates an ideal environment to support and instruct in order to nurture and see improvement in the French abilities of teenagers, according to Robert Erickson, coordinator of the camp and associate director for Instruction and Curriculum at the Center for Language Studies.

Classes are based on language instruction, speaking in French is encouraged as much as possible and those who choose to stay in the Heritage Halls dormitories work with counselors.
Charlotte Van Wagenen, a French teacher at Copper Hills High School and an instructor at the camp, said students will be active and engaged in the learning process, such as playing Boules, a type of French bowling sport, as well as acting in skits.

“Instead of reading an article about cooking, they actually get to cook French dishes,” she said. “Last year, I saw them have a great time making Ratatouille as they watched the film 'Ratatouille.' It was fun to see their personalities really come out in French.”
Erickson said the camp is relevant to students’ needs as French-learners. “A lot of time in school you talk about language,” he said. “This is an immersion situation — we encourage them to speak all the time.”

Two groups of students are created according to the speaking levels of the camp participants, and group members their various classes and presentations on such topics as the Tour de France, Senegal, King Arthur and Robin Hood.
Van Wagenen stressed the way to learn a language is much more involved than simply conjugating verbs. “It requires opportunities to speak and practice in a variety of settings with several different speakers of the language,” she said.
Due to a generous subsidy provided by BYU’s Center for the Study of Europe, participants attend for significantly reduced costs and have the option of staying on campus in Heritage Halls.
The department has put forth major recruitment efforts, including flyers in every Utah high school, online articles as well as a presentation at the Utah Foreign Language Association Convention. As a result, this year’s enrollment numbers are significantly larger than last year’s.
Attendees from Utah and other states will attend in an effort to overcome their language anxieties and speak French as they never have before.

“It is like a mini trip to France for a fraction of the cost,” Van Wagenen said.
For more information, contact Carolyn Haynie, (206) 605-2435 or, or visit

Writer: Caroly Haynie

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