French students write letters to global pen pals


Edy Henley

Edy Henley (11) reads the two letters she has received from her foreign pen pal.

Short of traveling to another country, there aren’t many ways to establish a personal connection  with someone from a different culture. However, Stephanie Altman’s French 3, French 4 and AP French classes have figured out a way.

These classes have an ongoing assignment where every student exchanges letters with their pen pal living in Antibes, France in the French Riviera. Altman’s students have completed two cycles of letters and, for a special holiday bonus, shared videos of their holiday traditions.

“I had a pen pal when I was in French in high school, and we are friends to this day,” Altman said. “I’ve seen her several times, every time I travel to France.”

Hoping to help her students foster a deeper connection with the language, Altman began this assignment, and many of her students, including Edy Henley (11) and Daniel Phebus (12), embraced the opportunity.

“I think this is a brilliant assignment,” Phebus said. “There is no better way to learn a language than to communicate with a native speaker and experience communication.”

Phebus  also described how he and his pen pan, Gulheim, have become better friends, a sentiment reflected in the relationship between Henley and her pen pal.

I can really tell by looking at our first letters that what we write about has become a lot more personal,” Henley said. “At first we just introduced ourselves, but now we talk about how we’ve been feeling and what we’ve done recently.”

Aside from helping academically, Altman has also noticed a change in the attitude of her classes.

“They’re just more excited about using the language, and they’re more excited about learning because they know that they’re gonna get to use it with their pen pal,” she said.

Whether her students go on to become fluent in French or not, one thing for sure is that the friendships they have built will not end with the school year.