The trick to learning a language, they say, is to speak it like a local, even on the first day. The French language is particularly tricky because the accent plays a huge part in its mastery, and could spell the difference between poisson, which means fish, and poison, which needs no translating. The best way to learn, then, is to go directly to the source. And that’s exactly what a group of students from the De La Salle University-Manila (DLSU-Manila) did last August.
This group of 15 university students are part of the Go-Lasalle Project, an international effort by UniLaSalle in Beauvais, France to expose students within the La Salle system to academic environments outside of their own. DLSU-Manila students who had been studying French with the Alliance Française of Manila flew to Strasbourg, France to learn French at the Alliance Française counterpart there. During their two-week stay, they not only got to study the language but they were able to use it on a daily basis, too, speaking French to ask for street directions, or to go shopping at the supermarket.
Flagged down: De La Salle University-Manila students visit the EU Parliament in Strasbourg during their linguistic residence last August.
Student Renz Marik, who studies European Studies and Advertising at DLSU-Manila, remembers how much of a challenge it was to perform a simple task he had no problem doing back in the Philippines: ordering at a restaurant. “It was fun because we were ordering pasta, and it’s like your French class turned into reality, because they really speak fast,” Renz recalls. “And we were thinking, ‘Oh my God, what is he saying?’ And the menu is all in French. You know some of the words, but the context might be different. It was so hard, but when we got our orders and then asked for the bill in French, it felt really fulfilling.”
The DLSU-Manila students unanimously agreed the cultural experience was like no other, after visiting many parts of France — Paris, of course, was on the itinerary — to see just what the country had to offer.
Whatever challenges the students faced in Strasbourg were matched by their desire to come back. During the reception at the home of the French Ambassador to the Philippines, the DLSU-Manila students unanimously agreed the cultural experience was like no other, after visiting many parts of France — Paris, of course, was on the itinerary — to see just what the country had to offer.
And just as the Filipino students said au revoir to their Strasbourg stint, dozens of students from UniLaSalle Beauvais were just arriving in the Philippines for a trimester-long stay. Because UniLaSalle specializes in Life and Earth Sciences, many of the French students who have come to the Philippines are here to learn about agriculture and the food industry. They’ve all been scattered across different La Salle schools in the country, like De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, La Salle Dasmariñas, and La Salle Araneta.
It’s not typical for many Filipino students to get into agriculture and the food industry, but for three students from Beauvais — Perrine Bernard, Emma Bredoux and Jeanne Clippet — learning about agriculture is a continuation of France’s rich farming history. Many of the students are studying agriculture as its part of their family business, or because they come from a long line of farmers back in France. “My dad is a farmer,” Emma says, “So this is natural for me.”
It was why they wanted to learn agriculture from an entirely new perspective, because they want to bring back something new to their tried-and-true methods. “It’s also a way for us learn English,” says Jeanne. “And agriculture in France is really, really different. Here, you have rice fields. The weather is really different there, and we can’t produce rice in France.”
“We could maybe innovate in France with (the Filipino) technique,” says Perrine. “Maybe!”
The students still have four months of studying in the Philippines, and in typical French fashion, they have strong opinions on our food (“Too sweet!”), though they love our mangoes and — most importantly — they’re excited to bring home lessons that they can use their own agricultural industry. “We could maybe innovate in France with (the Filipino) technique,” says Perrine. “Maybe!”
France and the Philippines may not have much of a shared history, but thanks to exchange programs like the Go-Lasalle Project, this friendship is stronger than ever. After all, our cultures share a deep appreciation for many of the same things: good food, celebrations, and — who knew? — even agriculture.