by A. Letkemann
You take French classes, faithfully do your homework, and try to use your new language skills as much as possible, yet you feel that you’re not progressing to fluency as fast as you would like. Perhaps joining one of the many conversations groups around town could be just the ticket to accelerating your progress while enabling you to meet new people and became acquainted with new Parisian places to boot. Below is a partial list of available groups around Paris for your consideration.
Bienvenue en France
For over 30 years, Bienvenue en France, with the support of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has been welcoming spouses of foreign diplomats from every country to help make their stay in France as successful and pleasant as possible. The association helps them to get to know France and its people by encouraging meetings with French families and by presenting the rich diversity of France. In 2009, the fee was 50€ per year for a two hour class, once a week. Note: These groups are only available to individuals possessing a diplomatic card.
Cercle International de l’ARC
Established in 1957 to give foreigners access to French conversation partners, the Cercle International de l’ARC is a volunteer association that seeks to provide an open door to French culture and language. Their slogan is “une porte d’amitié ouverte aux ètrangers.” Additionally, the group organizes evening presentations, weekend walking tours, and short day-trips from Paris. Once the 10€ annual fee is paid, students are welcome to join any of five or six conversation tables where French native speakers act as moderators. Mostly retired Parisians, the moderators will correct if requested, explain expressions, and encourage conversation. Students of all ages, nationalities, and language levels are welcome. The Cercle is open Monday through Friday from 2:00 to 7:00 p.m. Students are free to stay from 20 minutes to 3 hours. There are no fixed appointments.
Founded in 1996, this center offers French conversation in a lovely center in the 9th arrondissement. Guided and free-form conversation options are offered in two-hour sessions that can be attended one to three times a week. A one-month subscription is required and ranges in price from 80€ for a month of one weekly guided conversation sessions to 30€ for a month of once weekly free-form conversation sessions. There is a 30€ registration fee and the center offers one free trial conversation session.
LetThemTalk Café Conversation
This option is not for beginners. This group meets at different, central Paris restaurants each Sunday from 3:00 to 5:00 pm. Conversations are held in French only. Participation costs 15€ if paid on-site, 12.50 in advance or you can buy a carnet of five tickets good for three months cost 50€. Reservations are required.
This is one of the oldest, most established conversation groups in Paris, celebrating 12 years of bringing together bilingual speakers. Founders Adrian Leeds and Elisabeth Crochard offer three 45-minute conversation sessions per week in the 1st and 6th arrondissements with convenient evening and weekend hours. The first session is free and one can take sessions a la carte at 10€ each or sign up for 10 or 20 session subscriptions at a per session discount.
Teatime = Talktime
Michael and Véronique host a conversation group in their own home in the 5th arrondissement each Saturday evening from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. with snacks, tea, soft drinks and free-form conversation. The first half of the evening is conversation in any language (usually English), then Michael signals when everyone has to start speaking only French. 10€ donation requested. Call to reserve a spot and get directions.
Contact by phone at 01 43 25 86 55 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TEMPO Tea Time
This French/English conversation group meets every Tuesday night from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Practice your French and English with native speakers in a relaxed atmosphere. Spend half the night speaking English and half speaking French. Discussion topics and games help liven up a night of conversation! Hosted by TEMPOtime American Accent and l’Oisive Thé, this group meet at the Sputnik Sports Bar (14, rue de la Butte aux Cailles, Paris 75013) now, but the location changes periodically.
WICE French-English Conversation Groups
WICE conversation groups are free and open to members only, but with an annual membership fee of 50€, this may just be the best deal in town for improving your language skills. WICE has conducted conversation groups for more than 10 years. Two 90-minute sessions are held each week in small groups of five to six people who converse for 45 minutes in each language. Groups meet in the 15th arrondissement on Tuesdays and Fridays from 4:30 to 6:00 pm each day.