On the way to bilingualism, my fellow English-learners and I have come to the conclusion that the essential flaw in our apprentissage is the obvious lack of exposure to English. The amount of time spent actually speaking the language in real conversation has been negligible. When personal enthusiasm and motivation slowly fade as well, one may wonder: how can French students learning English get real experience? Should they continuously eavesdrop to catch the melodious sound of a native speaker talking, and try to sneak into conversations? Or are there better solutions? My first suggestion was successful on many occasions, yet to enjoy regular opportunities, why not try to find a weekly meeting?
In France, as in many other countries, when not organised by young motivated students or societies, some “conversation groups” can be found outside of university grounds.
As Masters II students of English literature, civilisation, translation or linguistics, we have all been given the tools to master this language we adore. At university we usually are in contact with teaching-assistants – native speakers from different cultural backgrounds who offer conversation classes and groups. However, learning a language in a scholarly environment has its limits, when it is not spoken in a different context.
In Aix-en-Provence, for instance, conversation groups exist, such as Conversations Polyglottes. Soon the Franglish Society will start its own events as well. They mainly follow a similar modus operandi; a friendly and casual gathering in a bar or in a café to exchange a product of a very peculiar nature: people’s mother tongues. So not only does it allow to improve linguistic skills, it also bonds people together. On a less formal tone, Erasmus Nights or International Nights are often organised by pubs, mainly to favor encounters between foreign and French students. Some choose more comfortable surroundings preferring tea to beer and benefiting from a more tranquil exchange. Often a cosy café is chosen to meet on a regular basis rather than a boisterous and crowded bar. One can be surprised to see how difficult it is, no matter what the technological advances are, to properly learn a language without interaction – and these exchanges are the closest thing to real immersion into a country’s culture.
Information on such groups can be found online, on Facebook groups and websites listing the events of a town. For the less formal ones, ads can be found directly at university libraries and cafés like Book in Bar, on bulletin boards. If you are curious, open to new encounters and wish to learn a foreign language, know that in every city, conversation groups exist and will help you make friends from all over the world. My final advice is to speak, speak and speak some more… and of course don’t forget to travel!
You can find all the useful links below :