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Student group to promote French-speaking culture

Association Francophone de Boston University Vice President Chérie Gu said her organization plans to unify a spectrum of Bostonian French speakers, from those in first-semester French to native speakers, to learn the language and the culture of French-speaking countries.

“When we learn French in a classroom, we don’t have a lot of time to talk to people in the class because we’re too busy paying attention to the subject matter,” Gu, a College of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said. “We wanted to form a club or some kind of presence outside of class where we could practice French and learn about the culture.”

Gu said at present, AFBU has more than 50 members on its email list, and more than 100 students have liked the AFBU Facebook page.

A francophone is a person associated with any and all French-speaking countries, including Senegal, Algeria and even Canada, she said.

“It’s really important to know [being a francophone] is not just French [culture] and French people,” Gu said. “I’ve met people from China, Singapore and Puerto Rico all interested in French and speaking it.”

Gu said the AFBU will host round-table discussions about relations between French-speaking countries, outings to crêperies in Boston and movie nights.

She said not all members are fluent in French, but the only events that will require fluency are discussions.

“One of the events coming up is the round-table discussion, in mostly French, about French intervention in Mali,” Gu said. “We’re asking specialists in international relations and French professors to come speak.”

Saïful Saleem, AFBU president and CAS junior, said in an email the goals for the spring 2013 semester are to add members and increase the frequency of group activities.

“By next semester, we hope to be able to create a link with other universities in the area and work together to host events that will benefit the francophone community of Boston,” Saleem said. “We have already entered into discussions with similar student groups and professors from neighboring universities, and hopefully something will come into fruition by the next semester, if not before.”

Saleem said the club’s membership base is diverse and students from every populated continent have joined the group.

While the group has a varied membership, all who participate share an appreciation for the French language, he said.

“We have people who are native speakers of French and people who are still beginners trying to learn the language,” Saleem said. “Like the Francophone world, AFBU is very culturally diverse.”

Miranda Swinnen, AFBU secretary, said she joined Gu and Saleem to create the group.

“Upon coming to BU, I was really excited about joining a French cultural group or a francophone-type association,” Swinnen, a CAS freshman, said. “I didn’t see any of these types of groups at Splash, so I was eager to start something like this.”

Swinnen said AFBU leaders have been considering organizing festivals or another activity held at BU that would involve other universities.

“It’s a great way to connect people who have this common interest, and we hope to include other universities if they have francophone groups we can connect with,” Swinnen said.

Swinnen said she was surprised by the group’s turnout and she is excited to meet others with a common interest in what is such a large part of her life.

“I would have to say the enthusiasm draws me to AFBU,” Swinnen said. “I have so much passion for the French language and francophone culture, and it makes me so happy to see other people are so eager to learn and speak French as a community.”

 

Margaret Waterman contributed to the reporting of this article.

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