Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

From Cindy Crawford to Facebook friends, linguistics group converses in the language of love

Just before 2 p.m., they start dribbling in to the New Port Richey Public Library, intent on pursuing the art of conversation.

During the winter, the long table in the second-floor meeting room is typically full of members of "Bonjour mes amis," but come summer, the Canadians fly North, leaving a smaller gathering of French speakers to carry on.

There's Ginette Lleo, who was born in a town called Cavaillon, and Marguerite Pautard, who moved here with her husband from Bourges, France, some 30 years ago.

Jacqueline Jackson came to know the traveling, military lifestyle after falling in love with her first husband, an American G.I. she met in Orleans.

"I'm married to Andrew Jackson," she says with a wink. "And his name is on the $20 bill."

The French linguists' group includes other military wives like Suzanne Mitchell, who didn't know a whit of English when she came to the United States from Toulouse, and Genevieve R. Morin, who arrived in Brooklyn in 1957 at the age of 17. She's just back from Montreal bearing gifts: a package of roasted chestnuts and a small tin of Les Anis de Flavigny hard candies.

Elaine and Larry Dunning are American-born, avid bicyclists intent on honing their French language skills.

Being immersed with others seems to help, Elaine said.

While sharing a photo album from the couple's trip to Germany a few years ago, she said, "I need to be here, because when you go to France, you need to know how to speak French, especially in the rural areas we bike through."

Sometimes the group members even become teachers.

"The language has changed some over the years, so sometimes they ask me what word to use," Larry said. "Words like 'computer,' 'mouse' and 'microwave.' "

Michael Lewis, a University of South Florida student who works at the library as an information specialist, is also part of the French-speaking group. When he was growing up, he learned the language from his neighbors and best friends, who had come from Montreal, so he is fluent.

"We talk about whatever comes up," Lewis said, noting that sometimes members bring in photographs or other trinkets after vacationing in France or elsewhere to help spark a discussion.

In the course of a couple of hours, they chat about a variety of things — from the coverage they watched of the Tour de France on television and the beautiful scenery that some occasionally pine for, to the poppy-covered fields of Normandy, to the grandkids they keep up with on Facebook, to supermodel Cindy Crawford who, by the way, has been pitching beauty products made from Cavaillon melons that are harvested from Lleo's hometown in the south of France.

"Most times we talk about food," Pautard said with a wry smile. "You know the French."

.Fast facts

Free discussion group at the library

What: Bonjour mes amis, meaning "Hello, my friends," is a discussion group for people who speak French. For native speakers, it's a place to meet and chat with peers who speak the same language. For learners, it's an opportunity to practice in an authentic setting. The group has no instructor.

When: 2 p.m. each Friday.

Where: New Port Richey Public Library, 5939 Main St., New Port Richey. (727) 853-1279.

Cost: Free.

From Cindy Crawford to Facebook friends, linguistics group converses in the language of love 08/11/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 11, 2011 12:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Leaping shark floors angler in Australia


    In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway's protagonist battles for three days to pull in his prized catch. For Terry Selwood, it came a little more suddenly.

    A 9-foot shark lies on the deck of a fishing boat at Evans Head, Australia on Sunday. Fisherman Terry Selwood said he was left with a badly bruised and bleeding right arm where the shark struck him with a fin as it landed on him on the deck. [Lance Fountain via AP]
  2. Rays rally twice to beat Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Starting Erasmo Ramirez on Monday after he closed out Sunday's marathon win turned out, despite the Rays' best intentions and rigid insistence, to be a bad idea as he gave up four runs without getting through three innings.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers and comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  3. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber


    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  4. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant


    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and other similar events, saying they are inappropriate and could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]
  5. What major sporting event could Tampa Bay land next?

    Lightning Strikes

    We are on quite a roll as a community. First, we had a Super Bowl drop from the storm clouds into our lap. It just reaffirms the fact that Tampa Bay is great at lap. And Monday it became official: Next year's NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. The best in the world will be here to shoot and score. And …

    MVP Wayne Gretzky is congratulated at the 1999 NHL All-Star game, the last time the event was in Tampa Bay. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times file]