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Amour. Those who daydream about France envision lovers strolling along the Seine holding hands, or perhaps stealing a kiss over an espresso at a café, but in Paris, love exists in all shapes and forms. It’s amour that seeps out of the city’s old walls, and that hangs in the smell of baking bread every morning. Here, even the smallest things can be beautiful and deemed worthy of it.
So, it should come as no surprise that French is well known as the language of love… and people want to speak it. Thousands in every city in America strive to attain that French je ne sais quoi, that Parisian attitude, and above all, that perfect French dialect. However, the cost of knowing it, like the cost of knowing love, can be high. With 14 different verb tenses, le Français isn’t for the faint of heart.
I know this better than anyone else. Unlike most of our American friends, my sisters and I were very fortunate to have grown up in a bilingual home. My British father and French mother made great efforts to keep the flame of our Francophonie alive. It’s only thanks to them that while it may have dimmed, it never burnt out. It was only in my twenties that I realized what was missing from the French half of my upbringing- conversation. It wasn’t that I was lacking it, but rather that it was only coming from one source. The only person I’ve ever consistently spoken French with is my mother, and often it was less French and more Franglais. That’s to say, a delightfully charming blend of English and French. I decided I needed to go to Paris, really immerse myself in the language and talk with loads of people. That was when my true French journey began.
After a failed attempt at a New York City university, I was convinced to drag myself across the Atlantic to La France, more specifically La Sorbonne. I was convinced my French was unacceptable, that I would be ridiculed and mercilessly taunted the moment I opened my mouth. To add insult to injury, I was bored- I’d gone to Paris completely alone! It was then that I happened across a conversational group in Le Marais on a website called OVS- On Va Sortir. Here, I found myself in a no pressure environment, and comfortable to speak my French however garbled it may have been. Upon my return to New York, I was excited at the prospect of finding another language group- people with similar interests who I could keep my french alive with. Nothing. It simply did not exist. So, Parisian no holds barred attitude en main, I decided then to start it myself.
As CEO & Founder of my company, Parlez Vous Franglais? I host language exchange events for French and English speakers across two states. Essentially, it’s speed chatting- I want my guests to have 12 minute conversations with multiple people, but I want them to have half of it in English, and half of it in French. Sound silly? It’s actually really not. Guests find that it’s a welcome relief to have an English pause when the French gets a little too overwhelming. It’s an absolutely stress free environment (the wine included makes sure of that), but it’s an immersive one. Parlez Vous Franglais? really forces you to have a one-to-one conversation. No matter what, you are guaranteed to meet like-minded people and speak French with them. Now, it’s with great excitement, and support that we are soon to launch in New York City. It was my original intention to bring this experience to Manhattan and join people with a love of Français together for great conversation and great wine, but better late than never. It’s my sincerest wish to someday host a Parlez Vous Franglais? in every major city in the USA, and perhaps even abroad. I want to bring La Francophonie to you!
La verité is that learning a language takes work and determination, but it doesn’t have to be with your nose in a book and it most certainly doesn’t have to be boring! It’s all well and good to sit in a classroom all day writing down conjugations, but anyone with any real experience will tell you that there’s nothing quite like jumping in feet first to really immerse yourself in a language. I started Parlez Vous Franglais with this notion in mind- that it’s only in complete surrender to the French experience that you can truly conquer the language. I don’t want you to just get your feet wet, I want you to grab your maillot de bain and go swimming.