With approximately 100 students between the ages of four and 12, Marc Mallet is ready to expand his Saturday-morning French immersion program, the Ecole du Samedi, and move the school from its current location in Cobb County closer to the city of Atlanta.
“We need a more central location, closer to the city where people can learn more about us and what we have to offer,” Mr. Mallet told GlobalAtlanta during a recent tour of the Saturday-morning program. He said that he was looking for donated or rentable classroom space near Interstate-285 to help make the Ecole du Samedi more accessible to Atlantans.
Inspired by the German School of Atlanta, which has offered Saturday-morning German language immersion in Marietta since 1983, Mr. Mallet, a Bordeaux, France-native and director of the middle school foreign language program at Atlanta’s Lovett School, began the Ecole du Samedi with co-founder Cynthia Mot in 2002.
In its first year, the school enrolled 55 students and offered classes at the Powers Ferry United Methodist Church in Marietta before moving to its current location at Oakwood High School in 2003. “We are grateful to have this space, but we need another location if we want to expand,” Mr. Mallet said.
Like the German school, the Ecole du Samedi emphasizes language acquisition for native and non-native speakers of French through immersion. In addition to traditional French grammar courses, students are taught Math and Social Studies entirely in French, and are required to read, write and respond in French.
Instruction for non-native speakers is slightly different from that of native speakers as it is more game-oriented, designed to help students retain and implement their new second language, Mr. Mallet said. Native French speakers at the Ecole du Samedi are taught in accordance with the education and curriculum requirements of the French government, and all of the students’ books are published in France.
The school’s ten French-speaking instructors come from Algeria, Belgium, England, France, Mali, Mauritania, Switzerland and Quebec, and lead classes from 9:30 a.m.-12 p.m. on Saturdays from Sept.- May. New students at all levels of proficiency are accepted throughout the school year, Mr. Mallet said.
Mr. Mallet, who also teaches courses at the Alliance Française d’Atlanta and is the former curriculum coordinator for a French-American bilingual school in Berkley, Calif., believes that mastering a second language helps students succeed academically. “Study after study has shown that bilingual students perform better in school,” he said.
He also added that the school helps Atlanta’s growing French population to preserve their language and culture, a mission that works in conjunction with Atlanta’s Alliance Française, which offers French language instruction and cultural contact for area adults.
The Alliance Française of Charlotte, N.C., has also been instrumental in helping to establish the Southeast’s second Ecole du Samedi, which Mr. Mallet helped to open in Charlotte in January.
In addition to classes throughout the school year, Atlanta’s Ecole du Samedi also offers a month-long French immersion summer camp at the International Community School in Decatur.
For more information, visit www.frenchschoolatlanta.org. Contact Mr. Mallet at (770) 421-0850 or (770) 634-6228.