Monday, February 1, 2010

Conversation—et café—sont mes amours!

Sometimes my friends joke that I’m trying to meet with French groups in all 50 states…but the truth is they aren’t far off from la raison.

And the reason is that the fountain of French language is in speaking it, hearing it, and in having fun with people you enjoy talking with.

Groups meet at coffee shops (mais oui!), but also bars or dance clubs. They meet for lunch, dinner, and special occasions. They meet for Scrabble nights or movie nights or wine tastings or potlucks. they direct and watch plays, they discuss books, they organize lectures. In French, les choses sont si plus amusants.

Most of the groups I’ve seen have a variety of speakers, from beginners to natives, and people who speak or want to speak French come from all walks of life. What’s more, since everyone goes to practice conversation, these varied and entertaining crowds share their interesting stories freely.

A fundamental flaw in earlier iterations of language instruction, I think, was that they contained too much bookwork and too little conversation. Most people want to learn a language in order to travel somewhere and speak to the natives, so though I love grammar and study it, I think conversational practice is primary—and super amazingly entertaining! Also, I know for me, hearing and using a word, such as hypothèque, (a loan) in conversation is a much better way to learn what it is and assimilate it into mon vocabulaire. Sometimes, to complete the connection, I ask someone to spell a word for me.

So, yes, I visit French groups wherever I happen to be. When I’m going somewhere, I hop on the Internet (man’s new best friend) and search for French conversation groups, Francophone events—anyplace where people who speak French will be congregating. Then I go to the events that are most interesting to me.

Now, I only wonder, with all these meetings over coffee, if there’s a French group to help me overcome my coffee addiction.

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