Pen pals chat across the pond

Sally Kuan, Staff Writer

Later this year, French foreign language students will have the opportunity to communicate with students from France through a program called ePals. French teacher Ms. Chèrie Delio introduced this idea to her students in an attempt to incorporate writing into the curriculum for her  post-Regents French classes, including AP French and French Culture and Civilization. ePals is an alternative to writing traditional in-class compositions. Students correspond via e-mail with French-speaking students.  Ms. Delio is currently organizing the first e-mail exchange.

“I wanted to do it in a way that would be a little more interesting, natural, and current,” said Ms. Delio.

About three years ago, Ms. Delio’s classes completed a similar activity. Those students did not use ePals and the process was less organized. This year, students can communicate safely and easily. ePals was designed in 1996 to be a safe and secure learning environment allowing students to freely hold conversations.  Teachers are able to view their student activity feed to ensure that no dangerous, illegal, or offensive messages are exchanged. Student privacy is also ensured. There is also a built-in virus scanner to detect potential dangers in any e-mail attachments.

The function of ePals exceeds that of typical e-mail.  ePals has a built in language translator that can instantly translate into 58 different languages for those who need assistance in communicating in foreign languages.  ePals users operate in over 200 different countries across the globe.

“I think it will improve their writing skills; I think it will also be a great way to meet new friends, to learn current vocabulary and current expressions,” said Ms. Delio. “I think it would be a fun experience overall for the students.”

Some students feel that the program would be beneficial for improving their reading and writing skills in a particular language.

“It’s an efficient way to practice a language that you are weak in,” said junior Anan Rayn.

ePals offers the opportunity for students to communicate with others all around the world.  It is different from the typical social networking community in that it facilitates connections between a wide variety of cultural backgrounds.  It allows students to learn about the culture and lives of other students living under different circumstances. An added benefit of exchanging conversations one-on-one with native speakers is that it exposes students to commonly used colloquial terms that may not be taught in classrooms.

“When it comes to learning a language, it’s really important to learn about the culture as well, so this program is particularly helpful in that regard,” said senior Jackson Shain. “Speaking with a native is the perfect way to learn slang and save yourself from embarrassing miscommunications.”

“I look forward to forging a relationship with my ePal,” said Shain. “Who knows —maybe if I’m ever in France we could meet up!”