Stoke City striker Mama Sidibe helps out with French lessons at Tunstall academy
STOKE City striker Mama Sidibe was interviewed by schoolchildren in his native language to help them with their studies.
The 32-year-old Mali-born French speaker headed back to the classroom yesterday for a question-and-answer session at The Co-operative Academy Of Stoke-on-Trent, in Tunstall.
And the Potters favourite explained to youngsters the importance of learning another language after revealing the problems he faced on arriving in the UK more than 10 years ago.
"It was a nightmare not being able to speak English," he said; "I couldn't really go out or watch television, as I just didn't understand what was being said."
But following those early days with Swansea City in 2001, Mama has taught himself English through simply watching television and reading. He said: "Looking back, I probably should have had lessons as my English isn't as good as it could be."
Mama and his family moved from French-speaking Mali to France when the Stoke star was just two years old.
He said: "In France, we do learn English but for me it was not important – but when I came here, I found out how important it was. If I had known, I would have been more passionate about learning it."
During yesterday's session the father-of-two was asked a series of questions by a group of year nine and 10 pupils, which included what his favourite music is and information about his family. "It's very important for me to come here and meet the kids", he said.
"It is important for them to learn how to speak French. It also makes them interested in learning other languages.
"Most English people only speak English as it is spoken all over the world. But knowing another language is so important for when it does come to travelling around – as I found out."
Despite being in the Potteries since 2005, Mama admits he remains a little confused at certain aspects of the local dialect, namely the term "duck".
"I still don't know what it means," he said.
"When I am at home with my wife and children we speak French, as I know the kids will learn English just by going to school. My son already has a Stokie accent."
After sitting at the front of the classroom, Mama had a look at the work the children were doing.
Mama, who has made more than 160 appearances for the Potters, visited the school as part of the club's community initiative with the Co-operative.
The school's principal Andy Stanier said: "It's been a fantastic day and everything that I hoped it would be."
Jeanine Amel, acting head of foreign languages, who helped run the session, said: "It has been so exciting. We can use lots of interactive things to help their learning but to get Mama Sidibe in was great."