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.