It all began two years ago when we hosted a fellow educator who has quickly become family to us. She has a friend, another educator, who has two sons, one who is slightly older than Mon Cœur (MC).
When we visited France back in February, we had the chance to meet this family – we had a nice dinner together followed by illumination lights at a château (castle) nearby. MC and this garçon (boy) became quick friends, flirting and running around in the restaurant, and continuing to chase each other throughout the festively lit château afterwards.
It wasn’t until it was time to say goodbye, that there was a little misunderstanding… MC went to say goodbye, and when I told her bisous (kisses), I heard from her new Ami (friend) very shortly after, “Pas sur la bouche! Pas sur la bouche!” (Not on the mouth! Not on the mouth!)
Needless to say, since MC couldn’t give bisous on the bouche, she didn’t say goodbye at all. But the correspondences have continued for both our friend and for this family and boy. All throughout the coronavirus stay at home orders, we would receive a French children’s song once a week from this family, and we reciprocated with a song in English.
On top of this, she received, about a week later, another magazine – Picoti joue also published by Milan, as well as a birthday card and a painting. This girl is loved!
In the card, her Ami had some questions for her – typical toddler questions – and one stood out – When will you come to visit me? This has been very helpful in giving MC cause to let me speak to her in French.
The other day when we were driving and I was speaking to her in French, she gave me her usual, “Don’t speak to me in French, Mommy.” plea. But after receiving that card, I asked her, “Don’t you want to go back to France? And visit your Ami? You will need to speak French if you go to visit him and his family…” and then I continued, ”And you want to invite your Ami to come stay with us, right? He will need to know English. I bet his Mom is teaching him English so he can come visit you.”
This has been an amazing experience for MC to have – exchanging songs, notes, and magazines in different languages, and it gives her a need to learn French other than just because I speak it to her. I look forward to the day when we will actually be able to have summer exchanges and host her Ami as well as send MC to France.
Her Ami’s brother is celebrating his birthday soon, and MC had some questions to answer from her birthday card she received. So today, we sat down to write in the cards she made yesterday. She stayed focused, and dictated what she wanted written in each card. After I was done writing her letters, she drew a picture in each, and we wrapped up the cards and activity books.
How we’ve been corresponding:
I can’t take any credit for beginning the correspondence, only in continuing it. The mother, a preschool teacher, is the one who initiated the exchange of songs, activities and letters. We’ve followed suite, responding to the communications in kind. Below are some technologies we’ve used to sustain our international friendships with her Ami, as well as other amis.
- WhatsApp – texts, phone and video calls
- Instagram – DMs between families with video clips, short messages, and pictures
- Old-fashioned mail
How it works:
- They send us a song in French one week
- We send them a song in English the next week
- Extensions from songs include:
- Pictures inspired by songs (we received one of a spider from the Itsy Bitsy Spider);
- Exchanging songs back practiced in the other language (MC sent him Petit Escargot, he sent us The Wheels on the Bus;
- Picture flashcards to help learn songs – I wrote one line each of the song to Petit Escargot on an index card and drew the hand gesture that went with the line.
They send us mail in French. It is my instinct to want to respond in French and practice, but I know that is selfish of me, so I fight the urge and respond in English. I should have realized this earlier with all my other correspondences, but I get it now, so I suppose better late than never.
I read everything that is received in the language it is received to MC, and when we respond, I ask MC in English, and I write her answers in English, too.
Although our exchanges have been a little more sporadic due to summer break and also being able to leave our homes, it has been such an enriching experience and something that MC looks forward to. I am so glad for the opportunities we’ve had to meet our international friends, and for the technologies that have allowed us the level of exchange while we are physically distanced.
We’d love to hear of other ways people are communicating and exchanging internationally. How do you sustain your friendships with international friends?