Just days before his 32nd birthday, the French international and Red defender surprised pupils at Manchester Health Academy with a treat of their own as he took part in a Q&A session and gave advice about the importance of learning languages.
“I wanted to share my experience with the children because they are the future,” Patrice explained. “I told them how important it is to learn a new language and that I learnt English so that I could express myself when I joined Manchester United. If you want to adapt to a new country you have to learn the language.”
The multi-lingual star was born in French-speaking Senegal, West Africa before his family moved to France when he was a year old. He impressed the class of 11-16 year-olds by telling them he speaks five languages: “I speak French, English, Spanish, Italian, Senegal and I am trying to learn Korean but it is very difficult!”
Following the lesson Patrice presented the class with signed certificates and was pleased to receive a birthday card from the pupils.
The visit was organised by the Manchester United Foundation, of which Manchester Health Academy is a partner school. Gaynor Gorman, Vice-Principal of MHA commented on the impact of the visit on the young people involved: “All we try to do is widen the possibilities for all our students and I think if you have a language it really helps you in the future. It’s very important and that is the reason why we wanted Patrice to come today, to help pupils to understand that if they have the skill of one or two other languages it can open so many doors.”
14 year-old pupil Sham has been learning French for a year and can now add it to the four other languages she can already speak: “I speak Arabic, English, French and a bit of Spanish and Chinese. Today was a good experience to listen to someone speaking French.” She added, “I’m not into football but Patrice is an idol to so many people so to find out that he speaks more than one language would make people think ‘Wow, I want to be like him’ and they will be inspired to learn more.”
Sham’s classmate Aden Bashir added, “Before I chose French I thought ‘Why would I need to learn French when I live in England and I already know English’, but Patrice has helped me to understand that to be able to express yourself, instead of relying on a translator, is important.”
Patrice concluded, “It’s an honour to be here today and I’m very proud that I can help the kids and inspire them to learn a new language at an early age because as you get older it becomes much harder.”