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Bonjour Yseult Bouygues!

Bouygues practices greetings with a student in Sherry Edward's French class.

Piedmont was treated to a taste of French culture when Yseult Bouygues, a VIF teacher from Sun Valley Middle School, spoke to World Language and World History classes.  She spoke of frog legs, the Baccalaureat, la bise, and le Louvre as the presentation helps set the tone for Piedmont’s annual International Week on April 27-May 1.

Mademoiselle Bouygues arrived in Union County Schools in August 2014 and plans to teach at Sun Valley Middle for three years.  Her resume includes teaching internationally in the countries of Vietnam, France, and the United Kingdom.  She is currently the chair of Sun Valley Middle’s Globalization Committee, where she uses her international experiences to foster a global awareness among students and staff. 

Bouygues informed the classes about the current French President, Francois Hollande, who has a focus on education of young people.  She noted that most classrooms in France are behind in the incorporation of technology, many only having chalk boards.  The French President has vowed to spend money on the schools to add Smartboards for high school classrooms, rebuild some schools, and provide more opportunities for post-secondary training and study abroad programs. 

There were many differences in the French education system that were presented.  One of the biggest differences is the strenuous and lengthy Baccalaureat exam, an exam given at the end of high school.  Students must pass this exam if they wish to enroll in a university.  Students who fail must repeat the entire last year of high school, and they can only retake the exam 5 times! If you do not pass this exam, you cannot attend college.  One student asked if there was an online option for taking the test, and Bouygues noted, “There is no online testing nor online courses in France at this time.  Students must be present physically for both the Baccalaureat and for daily classes.”  Students were particularly interested in the education system and learning that students attend school until 5:00-6:00 in the evening and have little opportunity for extracurricular activities or sports.  August is a big month in France as it is “vacation month”!  Typically, nobody works in August and families take their vacations since school begins the first week in September each year. 

Tourist attractions in France also provided a surprising revelation.  When many people think of France, the Eiffel Tower comes to mind.  According to Bouygues, the Eiffel Tower is no longer France’s number one tourist attraction, but rather Euro Disney!  She described the famous L’Arc de Triomphe, that contains the grave for their unknown soldier.  This landmark is known for “driving like crazy” as French people drive in a round-about manner with no lights, no road signs, and often not even in the same direction.  Furthermore, le Louvre art museum provided an interesting example of how the French love art.  She described the government removal, despite popular opinion, of famous statues at the entrace of le Louvre so contemporary glass pyramids could be built to increase tourist interest.  The French people have grown to love the new pyramids, however, the line to see le Louvre is typically 2-3 hours long, seven days a week! 

French food was next in the presentation as Bouygues described the traditional French favorites of baguettes, wine, and “stinky cheese”.  She noted that in America, it is very hard to find stinky cheese as most American cheese is much milder.  The French have historically been the #1 wine producer in the world, and they therefore take great pride in their wine.  However, in the last decade, California wine makers and those from China have increased the global competition on the market, which is a concern for the French.  “Cheese on a fresh crunchy baguette with red wine is heavenly in France,” according to Bouygues.  Other popular French cuisine includes frog legs, snails, and escargot—all of which taste very similar to chicken.  Food is very important to the French people, and family dinner time is an important part of the day.  French love to partake in 5-course meals that involve a lot of family time and conversation, somewhat different from the evening meal environments in many American homes.  “This can be a culture shock to people who visit France at first.”  One student asked if there were “French fries” in France?  She replied that they have “fries” in France, but the word “French” was added in America and “French fries” are not even produced in France, but rather in Belgium!

Bouygues concluded her presentation with teaching students how to properly say certain French greetings.  As part of the greeting, she noted that French love to do “la bise” (kiss on the cheek) during a greeting.  French find the American equivalent of hugging to be “too close” and uncomfortable as opposed to their “la bise”.  Interestingly, the number of kisses one receives on the cheek during a French greeting depends on their location in France.  If coming from northern France, you will do 4 la bise, if coming from Paris, you will do 3 la bise, and  if coming from southern France, you will do 2 la bise! 

Piedmont would like to thank Mademoiselle Bouygues for sharing her French culture with students and is hopeful that many more international insights will be gained during International Week as each classroom will be transformed into a different country!

Written by: Donna Helms - Web Editor
Posted: Apr 20, 2015 by Donna Helms

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