Franglish: Language Exchange in Paris


The language I speak most fluently. A mixing of francais and anglais into some bizarre hybrid beloved by anglophone expats (see previous post).

There’s a new game in town, though, and they call themselves Franglish.

While I’ve been wedded to the name franglais for awhile, I have to admit that “franglish” is actually a more equitable term (Francais + English = both languages represented in the word).

Franglish is also a new language exchange event taking place in bars across Paris each week. Brainchild of Nicolas Saurel and Steven Annonziata, two childhood friends from France who studied in the UK, Franglish offers the opportunity to practice both languages in a laid-back environment.

The idea, of course, is not to mix the two in the same sentence, as I often do. The set up is one-on-one conversation on even terrain: 7 minutes in French. 7 minutes in English. Switch partners and repeat.

Curious as to whether this was a straightforward language exchange or some form of bilingual speed dating, I made my way to L’Autre Cafe in the 11th where Franglish holds its Sunday events. I steeled myself for awkwardness as it seemed a distinct possibility: Talking to strangers? Shifting languages? Time limit? (Ack!)

Turns out, I had a whole lot of fun. The vibe was relaxed and the crowd casual. This type of event obviously draws open-minded folks who like to talk to people from different backgrounds. Everyone knows there will be varying levels, so pressure is nil.

For 10 euros, you get entrance into the event, a drink, and (at least) 2 hours of bilingual conversation (people seem to linger).

Then you start in on the conversational exchange. You’re assigned a table in the beginning, and depending on how they organize it, you either stay put after the 14 minutes or move to another table. (The first time it was the Francophones who switched each time. My second visit to a new venue in the 19th, I switched).

There’s no guessing game. The organizers tell you when to change languages and where to go next. This keeps the main focus of the evening on simply conversing (I had 5 conversation partners each time).

You know me: I love getting insights into different people and learning new things. I talked to an entrepreneur, a race car mechanic, a director of a lingerie company, and an embroidery artist who has worked for Jean-Paul Gaultier, just to name a few.

As always, it’s easier to talk to some people more than others, but as a writer, every chat is a boon. A lanky Parisian revealed some sketchy information about himself, but I just thought: Whoa! I can’t believe he he just told me that! and secretly took notes.

And with shy Olivier, I had to take charge of the conversation. But as soon as I learned he handled customer complaints at the post office, it was pretty easy to find something to talk about. (Poor Olivier! How could he know that La Poste is my nemesis? Good news, though: they’re totally revamping and are even offering complaint lines in English now – the reason he’s trying to improve!)

But what you really want to know: Is it speed dating or not?

Well, not really (notice the noncommittal answer).

Speed-dating’s not the organizers’ intention. (I asked). As Steven told me, it’s like any event – sometimes people click. But they don’t set about gearing the event that way.

Indeed. Talking to a middle-aged woman about her family and favorite books was nice, but not a love match, for example.

And this, of course, is what makes the event work. No pressure. Just relaxed possibility. After the first event, I went to dinner with 5 other participants – a spontaneous continuation of the evening. It was an easy way to meet new people – low-key socializing with some added language practice to boot.

The only downside also points to a positive. The bars where Franglish holds their events can get quite loud, sometimes making it hard to hear your partner. But we persevere. Really the noise level means the event’s a success: the buzz of animated conversation and laughter in a fun combination of tongues.

For more information about Franglish, visit their website. Events currently take place Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday evenings. Sign-up is required to participate.


32 Responses to “Franglish: Language Exchange in Paris”

  1. 1 Kristin Bair O'Keeffe April 5, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Ooh, love the bit about the lanky Parisian & his secrets. Franglish sounds like a great way to find a story…


  2. 3 Janet Skeslien Charles April 5, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Many thanks for another excellent post! La Poste is my nemesis as well.


  3. 5 Barbara April 5, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Good to know about this! Duly bookmarked! (Any chance I can talk to this La Poste guy? Did you get his number? I have some things to say…)


    • 6 paris (im)perfect April 5, 2011 at 3:15 pm

      Hey Barbara. My gosh, I actually *did* get his phone number. Direct number to complain! I’m going to be nice and not go spreading it around, though. He was a nice guy – not sure he needs all of anglophone Paris calling him up 🙂


  4. 7 Lindsey April 5, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Funny, was actually having a drink at L’Autre Café on Sunday while this was going on upstairs! Had I been alone I would’ve ventured up there, looked like great fun!


  5. 9 LearnFrench April 5, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Great new post on Franglish, and the cafe get together! I love the phrase “Just relaxed possibility..” What a great way to put that! Spoken by a true networker, and open-minded person..
    All the best,


  6. 11 Franck April 5, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    And one drink offered only!!!!????
    All those conversations, all those words sometimes came from a far far away fold of your brain!!!
    My English teacher says yes! but my liver says non!
    (Is it a song?)
    Could I strangle the la poste guy? Just for fun. No big deal between two French men.
    Nice idea anyway. (the exchange, not homicide, quoique)


  7. 13 Olivier April 5, 2011 at 6:45 pm


    Ce fut sympa de discuter à l’Autre Café avec l’auteur de ce blog, et c’est sympa de le lire maintenant.




  8. 15 Elissa Shaw April 5, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    How awesome! The husband and I will have to join in on this.


  9. 17 Danielle April 6, 2011 at 12:11 am

    Sion, sounds like an excellent way to spend an evening. I will definitely check it out in June whilst I’m there. 🙂


  10. 19 Linds April 6, 2011 at 10:45 am

    A friend just sent me an email about this program. I’m going to have to find some courage and head to the next one. I’ll need that one drink though to ease my conversation nerves! Great post!


  11. 21 Oneika April 7, 2011 at 2:08 am

    Oh wow, it seems fun and a great way to meet people! I will definitely be adding this on my list of things to try on what will very frequent trips to Paris in the near future!


  12. 23 Andi April 9, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Oh God I would be killer at this! Just last night I had a dream I ran into Christian Clavier on the street and I was speaking franglais/franglish with him…..I am a pro already!


  13. 25 Robert April 10, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Hey, that’s great!! Now is that for young people only? I’m in my early fifties with a zest for life. Would I be frowned upon?


  14. 27 Stephanie April 11, 2011 at 11:39 am

    That sounds like so much fun! I def want to give it a try and will try to make it during one of my upcoming visits to Paris. Perhaps I’ll see you there!


  15. 29 Toni April 17, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    Sounds like a very good execution of a great idea. Something similar exists in Berlin. However, the mixture of people is not as interesting, so conversation is forced and dull. But I keep on searching 🙂 I really love to read you blog! Many greetings from Berlin, Toni


  1. 1 The Paris Blog: Paris, France Expat Tips & Resources »Blog Archive » Do You Speak Franglish? Trackback on April 6, 2011 at 3:39 am
  2. 2 French resolutions, or: I’m so indie-pendent! « that katiedid Trackback on June 12, 2012 at 6:02 am

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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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