La Table Francaise attracts native speakers, new learners

For some Elon University students, spending four years in North Carolina is already an international adventure.

Senior Margaux Lepretre was born and raised in France. She’s admittedly homesick, but she’s found a way to stay close to her French roots at La Table Francaise, a weekly French language practice session held in Irazu.

“I started this sophomore year,” said Lepretre. “We do this to help out the students, but also to help me out because sometimes I’m homesick and it makes me feel good to speak French to people.”

Lepretre lived in France until coming to Elon in 2008.

“Elon has a really good study abroad program, which is really what I wanted,” she said. “I was born and raised in a big city and went to an international school. I needed to find that international element in a school. That was really important for me.”

Students enrolled in French language classes are encouraged to meet with Lepretre for a casual conversation over coffee. According to her, conversations cover everything from sports and movies to politics and current events.

The opportunity to practice a foreign language is important for students at any stage, according to Sophie Adamson, associate professor of French.

“We encourage it in all of our classes,”  Adamson said.  “Even if they can’t speak, just listening to the language being spoken can be helpful.”

French language students are not the only one to take advantage of La Table Francaise.

“We have professors from all different disciplines attend,” Adamson said. “It brings such a variety of people,. “There are quite a few students who don’t take French at Elon but want to keep up with it and meet more French-speaking people.”

According to Adamson, international students often stop by Irazu to speak their native language with other French enthusiasts. Adamson has worked with students from Belgium, the Congo, Canada, Switzerland, Morocco and Haiti.

By engaging French-speaking students, La Table Francaise has found a new way to bring parts of other cultures to Elon.

“I think that’s why it was created, to break down classroom boundaries and teach about French culture by meeting other people,” Lepretre said.

For Lepretre, time is running out to choose a destination for post-graduation plans. As a French native, she often looks to return home. As an Elon student, she considers moving to New York to work in strategic communications.

“My family now is my Elon family — all my friends are here,” she said. “If I go back home, I have to start over from zero. But some days, I really want to go home because I’m tired of the States.”

Whether she moves to Manhattan with friends from high school who plan to do the same, or heads back to France where her sister and parents live, Lepretre will leave Elon with the knowledge that she has helped students and faculty develop their language skills.

“When I see a student for the first time, I tell them I’m not judging them, I’m here for them to help them be confident,” she said. “It’s a friendly environment, and that’s what needs to be transmitted to the students for them to succeed.”

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