Language learners call French pensioners to practice chatting

A service connecting young people seeking to practice their French with isolated elderly residents in France is being strengthened, two years after its launch during the Covid pandemic.

ShareAmi started in May 2020 after Covid confined people to their homes. This has left many retirees feeling isolated, while at the same time a number of French lessons have been cancelled.

Read more: Alarm as the number of isolated and lonely over-60s in France doubles

From 30 participants to more than a thousand

It proved extremely popular and today ShareAmi, developed by the Oldyssey association, has around 800 language partners who regularly express themselves.

In addition, approximately 120 volunteers work to set up partnerships and facilitate exchanges.

Anne-Lou Villeminot, head of development at ShareAmi, said they didn’t expect the project to be so popular.

“We planned to start slowly, maybe with around 30 partners, but ended up having thousands of people sign up.”

Not for beginners

You can register as a French learner (reserved for people aged 18 to 35), as a volunteer or as a senior (55 and over) at The idea is to have regular conversations for at least three months, but Ms Villeminot said around 70-80% of partners stay in touch longer.

The service is aimed at advanced learners looking for extra conversational practice, rather than beginners.

Over 7,000 learners have registered so far, but there are currently not enough seniors to meet demand, so expect months-long delays before a partner is found.

Conversations can take place via online video calling platforms or over the phone. The elderly person may be assisted by personnel from third-party organizations, such as the Red Cross.

Narrow links

Ms Villeminot said there were great examples of partners forming close bonds, with some now speaking for two years.

“We have a French learner from Colombia who came to France to meet his partner, and another case where a senior was hospitalized and received a card and flowers from his partner.

“Our goal is that there is not one person helping while the other is being helped. It’s up to the two people to help each other. »

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