Doing something practical really helps the language to sink in”
Louisa Hallewell, 46, lives in Montesquiou, Gers with her husband Stuart, 49 and children Harmonie, 11 and Phoenix, 10. She runs English-speaking cookery classes.
We used to host teenagers for week-long immersion courses but because we also run a farm with everything that entails, it was a little bit too much for me to fully commit to.
While the kids loved helping out with the animals and the repetitive nature of it was good for building up their vocabulary, one of the things I found difficult was that it was almost impossible to take them out somewhere which was also an English-speaking environment. That’s why I had the idea of running the cookery classes – I have several friends locally who host both children and adults for immersion courses and they love coming to me for the afternoon. It’s something a bit different for the students and it gives the hosts a bit of break!
We always make something very English like Victoria sponge or sausage rolls – or perhaps cheesecake, the idea of which French kids find bewildering. Cupcakes are always popular, as is banoffee pie – most of the students have never tried that before. We speak only in English unless they are total beginners and there is a safety issue, such as how to use a grater or a sharp knife. Even if they are struggling with the weights of ingredients, for example, they always get there in the end. They need to be overseen but as I only have around four students at a time, it isn’t a problem.
While the cakes or whatever we’ve made are in the oven, I will dictate the recipe and then go over it with them. This gives a bit of structure to the afternoon and also means they have the recipe to take away with them if they want to cook it for their families when they go home.
The students leave with whatever they’ve cooked and always seem to enjoy it. I think doing something practical while you learn, whether it’s feeding animals or cooking, really helps the language to sink it. It’s easy to let your mind wander when you’re in a classroom but if you’re in the kitchen, you have to concentrate on what you’re doing!
After the cookery class I give a guided tour of the farm, which also offers the chance to include some more new vocabulary. The children can also collect eggs and see the animals which, for city kids, can sometimes be the highlight of the whole afternoon. Along with eating cake, of course!”
As Louisa already had her hands full running the family farm, she switched from offering week-long immersion courses to afternoon cookery classes