Chatting up Francophones at the Maison Francaise
Written by Bwog Staff
In which Grace Akinrinade exchanges tea bags with the area’s French elite.
Amongst a crowd of mostly fluent French speaking people, it’s easy to feel out of place–but this group makes putting people at ease a high priority.
“Voulez-vous une tasse du thé?” Madeline Compagnon, C ’10, asked, holding a tea bag in her hand and offering it to the guests.
Every Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Maison Française in Buell Hall, the outpost of red brick between Low and Philosophy, holds conversation hour, a chance for Francophones at all levels to trot out or polish up their language skills.
I came during midterms, and found a smaller group than average that nevertheless made for wide-ranging discussion. Pascal is comfortable engaging the group in conversation. “I love to talk,” he says later, laughing. “I’m the lecturer, she’s the hostess,” he adds as he gestures toward Madeline, who runs the weekly gathering.
In a small kitchen more welcoming than the average dorm lounge, students take this a two-hour opportunity to talk about what’s most important in their lives, in a language they love.
Pascal’s desire to draw everyone into the conversation puts all at ease, including the late comer Francis. Francis nervously dips his Lipton tea bag, but as Pascal probes into his life, he loosens up. Francis is an Italian native, but even Jean notes that “il a un bon accent“. It’s not uncommon to find Italian French speaking people, says Francis: “in Italy, everyone thinks that French is chic.”
Topics that night ranged from current events in Italy–“Silvio Berlusconi, il avait beaucoup d’argent,”–to the wonders of New York City–“C’est spectaculaire, Les Cloisters“–to “Le Grand Fromage” (government cheese) of Texas.
La Maison Française recently ran a movie as part of its Cinema Thursdays, as an entertaining way to learn more about French culture. Lecture events are held for the intellectually inclined, and a monthly book club keeps people up to date with the latest in French literature. Anyone can become a Maison Francaise member and attend their events: at the end of the day, the only thing hindering anyone from those under-the-radar conversation hours is the language itself.