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13 November 2014

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You are in: Leeds > People > Your Stories > Exchange as good as a rest!?

Matilda & Juliette

Matilda & Juliette

Exchange as good as a rest!?

A Leeds schoolgirl is heading for North West France as part of a foreign exchange programme aimed at turning more young people into linguists.

Easter 2009 and Leeds youngster, Matilda Parslow is heading to Nantes in France to complete a unique six month cultural exchange programme. Matilda, will leave her parents Roger, a Leeds University lecturer, and Emma, a nurse, behind as she embarks on a trip of a lifetime. Her French exchange partner, Juliette Souliman, has been living with the Parslows for three months before the girls head to Nantes to complete the six month exchange.

ALLEF, the charitable group which organises six month foreign exchange programs for children aged between 8 and 13, has been relaunched at a time when the number of students studying a modern language in British schools has slumped.

Roger Parslow enthuses about the programme: "For our daughter we thought it would be a great idea - she is very resilient.  We both felt that language teaching isn't given much of a priority in schools (our children go to a state school with fairly mixed levels of ability). Also, what a fantastic experience if it worked well."

"We heard about ALLEF from my sister-in-law and Matilda was enthusiastic from the outset. Matilda's cousin said 'oh, that's tight, why didn't you send me to France when I was 10?'"

"We hope the overall benefits will be the exposure to a different language and culture for our daughter and the benefit in terms of widening her horizons. For us, it has been great to have another teenager in the house (no really!). It has made us evaluate our own family dynamics. We would most definitely recommend an exchange to everyone - the time flies by. Matilda can't wait to go to France."

Juliette was able to play violin with the City of Leeds Youth Orchestra and rowed competitively for Leeds Rowing Club in her three months living with the Parslows.

Janet Turley, ALLEF co-ordinator, said: "About 300 kids from the UK have completed our programmes, but there is greater interest in France and Germany so we need more children in the UK to pair up with children abroad. Our vetting procedure is lengthy and rigorous. We interview every young candidate separately from their parents to ensure the interview panel is happy the child really wants to go and understands the time they will be away from home. Because the candidates are so well prepared they don't have problems with the timescale. It's usually much tougher for the parents!"

"You can see from the many case studies the various life changing benefits the whole experience brings. The cultural benefits are huge, the children's confidence grows enormously and naturally they increase their fluency in a foreign language at an early age. Their understanding and tolerance of people who are not their own family also improves greatly. The earlier families get in touch with us regarding an exchange, the better."

ALLEF (Association for Learning Languages En Famille) is a non-profit organisation with charitable status. It was set up to organise French and German exchanges for children aged 8 - 11. However, a lack of UK participants so far has led them to extend the age range of eligible children to 8 - 13. Further details can be obtained from the website:

last updated: 06/04/2009 at 16:52
created: 06/04/2009

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