French language

Francophone youths from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam meet to reshape the world

Through the "Refaire le monde en français" project, we aim to demonstrate that French is a useful language, capable of supporting innovative and green initiatives.

As part of the International Resonances of the Francophonie Festival 2024, the French cultural network abroad is initiating a regional project in the Asia-Pacific region, entitled "Refaire le monde en français." We speak about it with Élodie Wynar, Anne-Laure Vincent, and Zoé Leduc, Cooperation Attachés for the French Language (ACPF) in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. 

Updated on 22/05/2024

5 min

Élodie Wynar, Anne-Laure Vincent et Zoé Leduc
© DR

Can you go back to the origins of this project? 

Between Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, there is a common educational ecosystem: that of bilingual classes that have existed since the 1990s, where enhanced teaching of and in French is offered. These three countries share the dynamism of their Francophonie and are all full members of the OIF. Cambodia is even one of the founding members. It seemed relevant to us to join forces, given these similarities.

The idea was to propose a project to teachers and students of bilingual classes on a regional scale. We knew we could rely on the CREFAP – Regional Francophone Center of Asia-Pacific of the OIF – which is responsible for the training of teachers and enhancing the attractiveness of French to students, and on the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF), which notably has centers for Francophone employability in our three countries. These two organizations responded positively as soon as we presented our vision!

In the background, there was the possibility of reestablishing a dynamic of regional mobility for students, which had diminished since the 2000s. We saw the opportunity that a resumption of exchanges could represent, particularly for strengthening bilingual education. The idea was to invigorate these initiatives to make them more attractive.

Finally, taking environmental considerations into account remains a significant challenge and issue in our three countries, so it was natural for us to propose a project that allows students to discover initiatives promoting eco-responsibility. 


The goal is to initiate a reflection on environmental preservation and eco-friendly practices. We aim to raise awareness among Francophone youth about these issues because there are significant ecological challenges in our countries.

What does the project involve and who does it target? 

The project consists in offering about thirty high school students, accompanied by two or three teachers from each country, a cycle of three mobilities in Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. This will allow them to discover green initiatives driven by NGOs, companies, or research centers.

The goal is to initiate a reflection on environmental preservation and eco-friendly practices. We aim to raise awareness among Francophone youth about these issues because there are significant ecological challenges in our countries. There are many initiatives from NGOs and French research centers like IRD or CIRAD that are being implemented, but the students may not be aware of them. The primary objective is therefore to communicate about existing, innovative solutions and resonate with our audiences.

We chose to primarily target equivalent junior classes: the students are autonomous enough to fully benefit from the mobilities, and they can still, next year, redeploy the good practices acquired through this project within the network of bilingual classes.

Each four-day session will offer a variety of initiatives, conveying a broad vision of what eco-responsibility can be. Among the proposed activities are visits to green companies and participation in a "Climate Fresco" workshop. In Vietnam, the NGO Trash Heroes will organize a waste collection, a fabric recycling workshop, and the discovery of green routes traveled on bicycles made of bamboo in the Mekong Delta. In the outskirts of Vientiane, students will make plates and food boxes from banana leaves, a traditional technique and a real alternative to plastic. They will also meet with the Mekong River Commission, an intergovernmental organization for dialogue and regional cooperation in the lower Mekong basin, responsible for managing water resources for the region's sustainable development.

If we want French to still being learned and to spark the interest of young people, we need to show that it is a useful language, a language of the future, opening up personal and professional opportunities.

With France hosting the XIX Francophonie Summit in the fall, 2024 is shaping up to be a significant year for promoting the French language and Francophone cultures. Accompanied by an exclusive Francophone Festival, the meeting of heads of state and government sharing the French language is also an invitation to "repair, reinvent, and re-enchant the world." 

What can be said about the status of French in the countries involved in the project? 

Our three countries share the commonality of educational systems that continue to offer enhanced French language instruction. However, if we want French to continue being learned and to spark the interest of young people, we need to show that it is a useful language, a language of the future, opening up personal and professional opportunities. 

For this exchange cycle, French will be the language of communication. It is the shared language of the three bilingual systems, which offer instruction in French for Non-Linguistic Disciplines (DNL) such as biology, physics, chemistry, and mathematics. The students will have at least a B1 level, allowing them to interact and understand the Francophone experts who will be involved. With their first languages being Lao, Khmer, or Vietnamese, French will serve as a bridge between all of them. 

Through the "Refaire le monde en français" project, we aim to demonstrate that French is a useful language capable of supporting innovative and green initiatives. To achieve this, we will work in collaboration with the AUF's Francophone employability centers, which assist students in their professional integration. The French language is, above all, an added value for employability. 

Le français est ici un outil concret de transformation du monde.

How does your project invite participants to repair, reinvent, and re-enchant the world? 

In Southeast Asia, as in many other parts of the world, what needs re-enchanting first and foremost is the environment. By putting the French language at the service of this cause, we aim to repair the students' environment—or at least, more modestly, their perception of it—damaged by plastic pollution. The goal is also to reinvent their view of French, to spark their interest by allowing them to see the language and the world in a new light. Here, French is a concrete tool for transforming the world. The aspect of re-enchantment lies in discovering ambitious initiatives, both large and small. Young people often do not have the opportunity to travel. We hope that this cycle of mobilities will also re-enchant their world by allowing them to see that another world exists. To understand the major issues of climate change, students will also be led to calculate their carbon footprint and thus measure its impact. 


What are the main environmental challenges faced by young Francophones and Francophiles in a regional context? 

Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia share the Mekong River, which is heavily polluted. More generally, our three countries face a significant problem with plastic waste. Environmental awareness is slow to take hold. It is still very common to see people throwing plastic bottles on the street or in nature. There is much to be done, which is why it seemed interesting to center the mobilities around this issue. How to reduce waste and recycle it are among the questions that will be addressed from May to July during the workshops. Our intention is for students to grasp the magnitude of this regional issue.


What concrete initiatives do you plan to implement following this cycle of meetings? 

The underlying idea is for students to share the knowledge they acquire within the framework of bilingual classes. This will be possible thanks to the deployment of the United School platform, a free and secure online social network accessible to teachers and students worldwide, allowing geographically distant classes to connect. This platform is currently being piloted in Lao-French bilingual classes. 

After their three stays, the students who become "green ambassadors" will be tasked with developing an action plan to implement in their respective schools, accompanied by their teachers. The teachers will create a "pedagogical toolkit" that will include all the activities. We hope these actions will inspire other students to become interested in environmental issues. 

The Institut français

To bring the Festival of Francophonie "Refaire le monde" to life on an international scale, which will take place from March to October 2024 alongside the Villers-Cotterêts Summit, the Institut français, in coordination with the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and the General Secretariat of the Francophonie Summit, launched a call for projects aimed at French cultural network institutions abroad. 

It is within this framework that the regional project in the Asia-Pacific entitled "Refaire le monde en français" is set. 

L'institut français, LAB