Come Parler and Party with Parler Parlor!
I remember it as if it were yesterday, although 9 years has passed. It exactly this time of year in 1998. I had an appointment with the Director of Berlitz Champs Elysées, the famous language school, to discuss producing a Web site for them. At the time, I was working with a Web developer developing new accounts.
She was a lovely woman, blonde, tall, perfectly dressed and coiffed…very French, but spoke a perfect English and had a more American way about her. What I mean by that is that she was open, friendly and without reserve. It was strikingly different to what one might expect, although as a woman in such an important position, she would have had to overcome great odds in what was still very much a man’s world in France.
Her name is Marie-Elisabeth Crochard. She had lived in the U.S. 14 years while working for Berlitz in Rochester, New York, had children born in the States and had returned to her home in France to find a culture shock re-entering French life. She clearly had a foot in each country, much like I was realizing about my own.
At the end of our one-hour session, which led really nowhere in terms of developing a Web site, I mentioned briefly that I had an idea to improve my French by starting a French-English conversation group and was looking for a facility that had several private rooms where small groups could meet at one time. I’ll never forget her words: “You just found it.”
One month later, we launched “Parler Parlor” in the lower level of the Berlitz offices on avenue Franklin D. Roosevelt with an evening event and cocktail party. That night, amid the merriment, we registered 25 new members and the conversation group took off with a bang!
Over the years, we’ve held sessions 3 or 4 times a week, testing the days and times. Locations have changed a few times — other language schools have hosted us once Marie-Elisabeth retired from Berlitz. People of all ages and all professions have joined us, coming from over 50 different countries and nationalities. Thousands of friendships have ensued and even a couple of marriages thanks to the group.
Naturally, there have been a few nutty moments…like when Tom H. got locked four hours at a language school on the Champs Elysées while he was busy on the phone and we were busy locking up. There have been dozens of special parties and events throughout the years…celebrating La Rentrée, Halloween, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, the lazy days of summer, new year King Cake parties, a variety of others and of course, our anniversaries.
This year we celebrate again, of course!…and we invite all of you to join us! This coming March 17th (and yes, it’s Saint Patrick’s Day), we will be celebrating our 9th anniversary and 10th year in Paris offering a way of practicing speaking both French and English. It’s a simple formula, but it really works. What you can’t learn in class, you can learn by speaking and listening, in an informal environment, with friends, who are all in the same boat as you.
When you speak in a non-threatening environment about real subjects and situations, discussing language, restaurants, current events, exhibitions, lifestyle, culture and you name it — learning how to feel at ease with your level, whatever that is — believe me you will learn, improve and feel accomplished!
The way it works is simply this:
A coordinator (Marie-Elisabeth or me) directs you into a group of approximately 6 people, balancing it Anglophone-Francophone as well as we can depending on who arrives that session. Usually there are several groups — but we never know who will come nor how many, and there is no predicting it, either! Once the groups are formed, each group is on their own to decide to start off in either French or English. For 45 minutes, they speak in one language, then switch to the other for the last 45 minutes.
The group can discuss any topics they want. We set certain guidelines for success:
1. Be on time. It is disruptive to the groups in session to be added or rearranged to accommodate you.
2. The group should consist of 5 to 7 participants, as well balanced Anglophone/Francophone as possible.
3. When you speak, try to speak slowly and clearly to be easily understood.
4. Only one person should speak at a time. Please avoid speaking to someone in the group while someone else already “has the floor.”
5. Invite everyone to participate and do not monopolize the conversation, especially in your native language. Everyone should have the chance to speak and practice speaking as much as they want in their second language.
6. Start in any language you wish by consensus of the group. Change from one language to the other at half-time (45 minutes) or when it seems appropriate. Sometimes when a group is unbalanced by Anglophones vs. Francophones, you may want wish to compensate by spending more time in the language most group members want to practice speaking.
You don’t need to wait until March 17th to join the conversation group. It’s so easy, it’s ridiculous. All you have to do is show up 5 minutes ahead and the first time you come is absolutely free…so all you have to lose is an hour and a half of your time.
The sessions are 3 times a week and you can come as often or as little as you like:
1. Tuesdays 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Upstairs at La Pierre du Marais
96, rue des Archives at the corner of rue de Bretagne, 75003
3rd arrondissement, Paris
Métro Temple, République or Arts et Métier
2. Wednesdays 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
3. Saturdays 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
13 passage Dauphine (entrance between rue Dauphine and rue Mazarine), 6th arrondissement
Métro Odéon, Saint-Michel, Pont Neuf
Don’t be scared or intimidated by your level of French or English. You have to start SOMEWHERE and remember, everyone is there for the same reason. You’re not alone!
And if you’d like to join us for our celebration of 9 happy years in Paris, please do!
We will be meeting for the 9TH ANNIVERSARY DINNER PARTY on Saturday, March 17, 2007 at 8 P.M. upstairs at La Pierre du Marais, on the corner of rue des Archives and rue de Bretagne, in the 3rd arrondissement just where the Marie of the 3rd sits. For just 25€, we will all share in a Kir, Confit de Canard, Gratin Dauphinois, Salad,
Moelleux au Chocolat, Wine and Coffee!
Plus, that’s a great time to sign up…because we’re offering 12 sessions for the price of a 10-session card (75€) and 24 sessions for a 20-session card (125€) that night!!!
For more information, visit the Web site at http://www.parlerparlor.com.
To reserve your place NOW, email [email protected]
See you there!
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
P.S. Don’t wait until March 17th. Join us now…and please invite ALL your French friends…as a good balance between Anglophones and Francophones makes the group perfect! For more information, visit the Web site at http://www.parlerparlor.com and to reserve your place at the celebration, email [email protected]
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