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Bonjour, Camille

"My moom comes from Italy and my broova talks like a Cockney," beams Camille Tagliferri, a 10-year-old from Normandy who could speak no English when she came to stay with the Holmes family in Yorkshire three months ago. Now, there's no stopping her. Her brother had been on an exchange in London a few years ago, which explains his alleged East End accent.

While she has her wobbly moments - tears at school, which she doesn't want her English "moom" Anne to know about - Camille radiates confidence and security. As well she should. This is the Holmes family's third exchange with ALLEF and the youngest child, seven-year-old Emma, is eagerly awaiting her turn.

What does Camille think of English schools? "Children in school talk more than in France. There's lots of noise. In France, you're not allowed to talk. Teachers smack children in France."

Anne Holmes's oldest daughter, 12-year-old Jennie, went on her exchange two years ago and is now taking private French lessons. "Learning it at school is boring," she says. She will take her French GCSE either this year or next.

If there is an obvious downside to these exchanges, then this is it. Children return home speaking near fluent French or English, putting them way ahead of their classmates. The only course for them is private lessons or, as in the case of a few of the children, dropping out for a while.

For more information about ALLEF, contact Carol Jubb, 38 Longfield RoadBristol BS7 9AG. Tel and fax: 0117 923 2363

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