An Ephemeral French Enclave
Every two weeks, café welcomes Francophiles
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It’s important to Mary Bradford to establish connections to other cultures by learning their languages and history, a belief stemming from her repeated trips to France, a nation she has come to love. One Friday evening in June, that sentiment brought Bradford to the Black Dog Café at Lake Ella for a French conversation hour hosted by the Alliance Française de Tallahassee (AFT) every two weeks.
Say bonjour to Alliance Française de Tallahassee’s president Mary Bradford, who’s committed to infusing French culture into our community.
As president of AFT, Bradford was among the first to show up. Three tables were put together to make room for others at the tranquil café, a place that sparks thoughtful conversations — French ones in this case — among its patrons.
After people introduced themselves and overcame their initial apprehension, the conversation flowed in a diverse group of adults and students, some of whom had not met before. From the outset, a community spirit took hold, with rigid formalities yielding to informality of a sort that exists among friends and neighbors. Proficient speakers helped newcomers navigate a Romance language well-known — or notorious, depending on your point of view — for its linguistic complexities.
Conversations encompassed the mundane — “Comment allez-vous” or how are you doing? — and inquiries about particular words or phrases. Towards the hour’s conclusion, the amiable moods of the assembled people conveyed a newfound intimacy. The cautiousness in their voices, if not greatly reduced, had disappeared entirely.
“Salut, mes amis! À la prochaine,” many said as they headed home.
In English: “Bye, my friends! Until next time.”
As a social organization that fosters appreciation of France through its conversation hours, regular language lessons, French movie screenings and other events, the AFT is a tight-knit group devoted to opening a gateway to French culture for Tallahassee residents.
“France has been the crossroads of Europe going back to Charlemagne (in the 9th century). To me, it’s really the heart of European culture,” Bradford says. “And there’s so much history and so many things to explore, learn and appreciate about France.”
Spanning the Globe, Strengthening Minds and Creating Bonds
The AFT, however, is only part of a greater whole. Dating to its founding by a group of eminent Frenchmen such as famed author Jules Verne and scientist Louis Pasteur in 1883, the Alliance Française (AF) is an international organization dedicated to the dissemination of the French language. According to its own estimates, over six million people worldwide attend its cultural activities every year.
With 850 centers in 137 countries, the AF has an unmatched global reach. In the United States, there are 111 AF chapters in 45 states, with six of them in Florida: Orlando, Bonita Springs, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Sarasota and here in Tallahassee.