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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Les Jeudis de la Francophonie brings together an international community

During the springtime, every Thursday night at Delta of Venus is bound to have at least one French-speaking individual present. Delta of Venus has become an ideal location for many foreigners to gather and socialize, especially the Davis French Club.

Among this sea of diversity is the French Club called “Les Jeudis de la Francophonie.”

“‘Les Jeudis de la Francophonie’ means ‘French speaking,’” said Fred Vincent, an active member of the club and associate staff researcher. “It is a very informal club because people show up at different times; we eat, drink and have a good time just talking.”

The club is made up of all different types of age groups such as undergraduate students, graduate students, Ph.D candidates, community members, working people and others. The different nationalities of the people who speak French also help enrich the social gathering.

“The coolest thing was that over the years, we’ve had Belgian, Swiss, Senegalese, Asian, North African and more Europeans who all spoke French,” said Richard Day, co-founder of Les Jeudis de la Francophonie.

Today, the majority of participants speak fluent French. Occasionally, a few people who would like to improve their French speaking skills also attend.

The atmosphere of the French Club is similar to a family unit, said Pauline Maillard, a frequent attendant of the club and a post-doctorate student at the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience.

“When you leave France, you [have] ‘lost’ family and friends,” Maillard said. “Here, you rebuild your social environment.”

For Maillard, it was comforting to be among familiar faces and to receive help on how to navigate through Davis or through American life — such as how to obtain a phone, a driver’s license and other necessities.

Sometimes there can be as many as 20 people and as little as four people, Day said.

“It is very informal and really depends on who you are chatting with,” Day said. “I think the majority of the native speakers are willing to speak slower and converse with people who are learning.”

At the beginning of the club about 20 years ago, the club’s purpose was to give French people an opportunity to come together and relate their experiences and adaptations to Davis, Day said.

The number of people who show up varies, Vincent said. During the summer and winter, very few people show up due to summer travels or bad weather. The club generally sees a large number of people during the fall and spring when everyone is back from their adventures, and when the weather is full of sunshine.

The club has its roots back in the early 1990s when Day, who is half French, was active in the international circle and worked in the French department, began the club and deemed it “Le Cercle Francophone.”

The French Club first met at Café Roma, located on Third Street. Upon the closure of Café Roma in 2007, the club was moved to Delta of Venus and has remained there. Since then, there have been many people in and out of the club.

“I love Delta of Venus,” Maillard said. “Its patio, food, the people working there, the music; I feel like being in the backyard of a friend’s house.”

“What I like best is the connection that I make and meeting new people,” Vincent said.

Everyone is welcome to the club, which meets every Thursday at Delta of Venus at 9 p.m.

MEE YANG can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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