Modern language tables encourage learning over lunch, lattes
Within the Modern Languages department, the French Club, known as UL Francofous, and the Spanish Club, or El Club de Español de UL Lafayette, meet once a week outside of classrooms in efforts to help students’ ability to speak the language.
UL Francofous’ French Table meets on Tuesdays at Cc’s on North College Road from 5-7 p.m.
“It’s open to the public, but it’s specifically for the youth from here who are having problems going to the other French students,” said junior Kayla Telhiard, a French major. Telhiard said she has been the president of the club ever since she came to UL Lafayette a year and a half ago.
There are other French tables in the area, but Telhiard said students find it difficult to understand those speaking Cajun and Creole French.
“Plus, when you’re around people you don’t really know, you get nervous, so they find it easier to speak to students they have classes with,” said Telhiard.
There are a mix of ages who attend UL Lafayette’s French Table, including undergraduate and graduate students, as well as older members of the community who have heard about the meetings.
Chase Cormier, a senior majoring in creative writing English and French, talked about Christian Goudeau, an Opelousas resident who would sometimes attend the meetings.
“I think most of the people from UL couldn’t understand him, but he would talk to us about current events going on in Europe,” he said. Cormier said this gave him and Telhiard the opportunity to ask Goudeau to explain the words and phrases they couldn’t understand.
Cormier has been attending this French table since August, and finds it helpful because it’s different than being in class.
“You’re talking about your day and the language itself in a smaller atmosphere — that’s more comfortable,” said Cormier.
He said although students are going through the French curriculum, they start to see the same people, so they’re having time at the table to speak to them without the teacher prompting them to talk.
“It’s a community of people you’re spending time with, and that’s what I think makes newcomers feel more welcome,” Cormier said.
The French table also provides an opportunity to be immersed in the language outside of a French-speaking home, such as in the case of senior French major Laurent Fabrice De Prins.
Fabrice De Prins, whose father hails from Belgium, said he enjoys gaining experience from speaking in French with people his age.
“Getting the opportunity to speak French to people my age is an experience because we’re talking about social or current events happening around town in French with a different vocabulary than I’m used to,” he said. He said he thinks that he has a lot of Belgian culture that he is able to contribute to discussions.
El Club de Español de UL Lafayette’s Spanish club meets on Fridays at Artmosphere on Johnston Street from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Also open to the public, the table also seats a variety of ages.
“We have young freshmen students all the way to professors,” said Maria Aguirre, club president. A senior organizational communication major herself, Aguirre said the table is also open to students regardless of major.
“If you’re not a Spanish major, you can come to keep your Spanish skills going, to improve them or to learn a little more if you’re interested in the language and the culture,” Aguirre said.
Leslie Bary, Ph.D., a Spanish professor at UL Lafayette, said tables convey a warm feeling that she described as “Hispanic.”
“This means that it’s more welcoming, and it’s less cold, less competitive and more personal than an Anglo-type atmosphere,” she opined. “This is a pleasant way to end the work week.”
Bary said she enjoys attending the meetings because it gives her a chance to interact better with her students than she would during her office hours or class times.
“It’s where I can find out what topics the students really want to study, the level of difficulty they think the classes are and even some advising takes place,” Bary said.