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Local voices bring Versailles to life

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They may have perfect French accents, but the children’s audio guides to the upcoming Versailles blockbuster are distinctly local.

As art lovers and Francophiles from across the country await the opening of the upcoming National Gallery of Australia blockbuster, Versailles: Treasures from the Palace, a group of young Canberra students are particularly invested in the countdown to the December 9 opening.

Four Telopea Park School fifth graders will play a special role for the tens of thousands of students expected to tour the summer show as it is their voices that you will hear on the children’s official audio guides to the exhibition.

Because the school is uniquely bilingual, its students were chosen to narrate both the English and French guides.

Eleven-year-olds James Hawes, Isabelle Laing, Amédée Dewynter and Loane Cretegny spent the better half of a day locked in the school’s custom-made radio studio doing take after take of explanations of the artworks and their cultural and historical significance.

The NGA’s Learning Programs Manager Mirah Lambert said the students “did a fantastic job of bringing the works to life through a script that is a conversation between a boy and a girl looking at 15 works of art from the exhibition that will especially appeal to children. They had great expression in their voices, which were clear and lively in both languages”.

She noted they showed “amazing stamina” during the long recording sessions.

Telopea has been involved in educational radio broadcasting since the 1980s and in 2014 it started its own web radio project.

Radio WRZAP (Web Radio Zone Asie Pacifique) broadcasts 24 hours a day using content provided from a network of 30 French schools across Asia and Pacific, from Beijing to Port Vila.

Julien Dugas who is Telopea’s Conseiller Pédagogique said the radio project provided students with an incredible learning opportunity, as well as providing French content for anyone with a computer wanting to listen to educational and current affairs.

The four students chosen for the Versailles project said they had been in the studio prior to the project so that lessened their nerves somewhat.

“And luckily we got to have a few takes and it wasn’t live,” said Isabelle.

Amédée and Loane provided the French translations with Amédée having moved from France to Canberra last year and Loane born in Switzerland and attending Telopea since kindergarten.

Meanwhile, James and Isabelle are both proficient French speakers who provided the English guides with impeccable pronunciation of all the artwork titles, terms and phrases.

Another French teacher at the school, Olivia Singier also spent countless hours, writing the translations, helping prepare educational resources for the exhibition and refining the scripts to ensure the children were able to deliver them smoothly.

“It really was quite challenging, with many complex sentences and unfamiliar words in both the English and French versions,” Julien said.

“They worked so hard and did a really excellent job.”

The students provided several takes after long hours in the studio, and then Julien worked with the sound engineer Duncan Lowe to listen to each one and decide which was the most perfect French.

The kids themselves are bursting with excitement to see the exhibition for themselves once it opens – having immersed themselves in the artworks and their stories.

They love that most of the artworks also contain animals and that they have not been displayed outside of Versailles before now.

Amédée, who arrived at Telopea without any English at all late last year said “I cannot wait, I think it is going to be awesome.”

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