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The joy of speaking French

Language immersion school brings something new to Lake Oswego
by: VERN UYETAKE Instructor Patricia Isler has  Amelia Nieland communicate with her using the French language.

Is Lake Oswego like Europe?

Massene Mboup certainly thinks so. That is why he wanted to bring his International Leadership Academy, a French immersion school, to this area.

'Lake Oswego is pretty European,' Mboup said. 'There are the cafes, the way people dress, the boutiques. When I came here I thought, 'This is our place.' '

Mboup felt even better about his decision when LO Mayor Jack Hoffman showed up for the school's ribbon cutting last Friday, and Mboup found that Hoffman speaks French. Also that Mrs. Hoffman speaks French.

'Mayor Hoffman is a wonderful man. We are lucky to have a mayor and his wife who speak French,' Mboup said. 'We feel very welcome here.'

Now, Mboup, the school's director, and teacher and pedagogic director Patricia Raclot intend to teach a lot more Lake Oswego people how to speak French. Just a month after starting to advertise, the new school has signed up 13 students.

'We can do something in a world that is changing at a very fast pace,' Mboup said. 'We don't even know what jobs will be out there. When I was in school there were no such jobs as web designers.

'Here we will teach adaptability, flexibility, integrity and respect for others. The only way to achieve that is to learn other languages. By doing that you learn to think differently.'

'Speaking foreign languages is a necessity,' Raclot said.

One thing is quite noticeable about the schools first class. Its youngest student is 2 ½ years old, which Mboup thinks is quite the best age to start learning languages.

'They are language learning machines at that age!' Mboup said. 'A West Linn lady, who is a teacher, told me her daughter is dreaming in French now. When they learn French young they learn it fast and they have no accent.'

This is no surprise to Mboup. A teacher of French for 25 years, he said, 'My second graders in America did better on tests than French kids in Paris. Every year.'

While learning French is at the forefront of the new school, there is much more. Everyone starts the day with 30 minutes of exercise, which Raclot calls 'our dynamic welcoming. It works very well. It helps our students become very focused.'

By the third grade, students can choose a third language, like Arabic, Spanish or Chinese.

'We follow the French curriculum, so we can be recognized by the French government,' Raclot said. 'Specialists will be coming from France to judge how we are doing, and hopefully we'll get accreditation next year.'

Although it has just arrived on the scene, the International Leadership Academy is already planning to reach out to the community, especially other schools.

ILA offers an extensive after-school program, which is also open to adults. Private lessons will also be available, and teachers can give lessons in people's homes.The academy is located at the New Thought Center for Spiritual Living at 1040 Ave. C in Lake Oswego.

For more about the school, its programs and language immersion, go to its website at www.ilapdx.org or call 503 662-8452.