Parles-tu Français? Of Course!

Marianne Sutton spoke French with her French mother and English with her American father.

Marianne Sutton spoke French with her French mother and English with her American father. (Photos by A. Rooney)

Cold Spring cafe launches French happy hour

Does your high school French need a refresher? Did you grow up in France or in a French-speaking country? Or are you simply a Francophile? 

French speakers of all varieties and abilities are cordially invited to French Thursdays at Paulette’s, a boutique and cafe at 114 Main St. in Cold Spring.

acqueline Azria, Paulette’s proprietor, communicates with hand gestures

Jacqueline Azria, Paulette’s proprietor, communicates with hand gestures.

Jacqueline Azria, its French proprietor, debuted the happy hour, which takes place from 4 to 6 p.m., on April 6. It will continue weekly through October.

The two hours are designed for anyone “who wants to refresh, learn and be around the language,” she said, or who might “enjoy a little Paris time zone.”

At the initial session, there was a larger crowd than expected, especially on a rainy day before a holiday weekend. Visitors sampled assiettes de saucisson and cornichon (charcuterie and pickled cucumbers), while sipping French wines, beer and coffee, which are a staple at Paulette’s, which is named for Azria’s mother. 

Those in attendance included a mix of French-born and French-fluent. For instance, Marianne Sutton, co-proprietor of the West Point Foundry Bed and Breakfast, grew up speaking “the mother tongue” with her French mother. Cati, a native speaker from Cornwall, journeyed across the Hudson for a chance to parler et écouter. And Marguerite (Maggie) was prepping for a trip to Paris.

A wide range of fluency could be heard. Although most conversations began in French and were encouraged along by Azria, there was no language-shaming toward those whose subjunctive had long since gone astray, or whose Spanish somehow emerged, confusing both the speaker and the spoken to.

Deux femmes converse at French Thursday at Paulette’s.

Deux femmes converse at French Thursday at Paulette’s.

Azria said she learned English at age 10 “at the lycée, where they asked you to choose a language. I was obsessed with the U.S. and so chose English. But, when I moved to the U.S. years later, I realized that school English is not spoken English.” 

French Thursdays “came about because people have been asking me, so many times, ‘Can we come and hang out and speak French?’ ” Azria said. “Since I have a wine bar, I thought, ‘Let me do a happy hour.’ 

“People get so self-conscious speaking French, so let’s make it a fun, relaxed thing,” she added. “French is perceived as pretentious, so people have a little anxiety about speaking French to a French person. Here, we want you to relax and make mistakes! You learn a few things and it’s an enjoyable thing to do.”

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