From the first moment you meet them, you sense they have a genuine passion for what they do. What drives them is a feeling that only those who are away from home can identify with. The French Anicée Guglielmi and Alexandra Javier are the faces behind the "Parlez-vous Français? Oui!" language café that Eos Cares initiated in the beginning of October. One month after the debut, they talk about their initiative, the importance of sharing between cultures and the power of language to bring people together.
So what’s the story behind the “Parlez-vous français? Oui!” språkcafé?
Anicée: I came to Lund 1,5 year ago. After finishing SFI in June, I wanted to find a job or an activity. Together with Alexandra, we started thinking about a place where French people or internationals can come and practice some French and learn about our culture. At some point, during an International Citizen Hub event, we met Eos Cares’ project leader, Axel Wallin, and talked to him about our idea of starting a French language café. He was very positive, suggesting that we have it together with the “Prata Svenska” on Wednesdays at Eoshallen and here we are!
Alexandra: This is my 5th year in Sweden. I came when my husband got a job at ESS. I work as a French teacher here privately and I often meet people that say “Oh, I feel alone”. It’s the first feeling one has when they first come to a new place. It’s not your country, not your language, it’s not easy. I understand this feeling since I had it myself in a way. You need to have a community through which to reach other people and communicate. That was the idea in the first place. Apart from the French who come to speak their language, we also have -among other countries- people from Italy, Poland, Germany and Sweden that come here to learn. We share and compare our cultures. You get better in many ways and you are happy, because you have people around.
What feedback you get from the people participating?
Anicée: They like it and they keep coming! They like that they can speak French with native speakers and learn the grammar or specific expressions correctly.
Alexandra: It’s really interesting, I think! The fact that they come back proves it! We use some books, in case any beginners come, but it’s not actually teaching. We have conversations about movies, books, culture in general, life… This is what we wanted. To create a place with a nice atmosphere where people can meet, communicate and help each other. Something like AVF Accueil in France, an association that welcomes and supports newcomers and their integration into society.
What is the element that makes learning a language such a strong tool for inclusion and integration?
Anicée: It is a good question… When I came to Lund, I had the Kick-Start program at the International Citizen Hub, which was really good for my English and my network. But then I started my Swedish classes and that was a really beautiful moment for me, something totally different. In the beginning one might say “Oh God, I have to study again, lots of work” but it was just amazing being there every day and meeting so many different people and cultures. Everyone was so nice and looking forward to connecting with you. Now that I think of it, this was my best experience so far in Sweden.
Alexandra: You know, as French and I'm sure this stands for many Latin people as well, we have this urge to talk and communicate. Lund come be a really quiet city and people quite introvert. So it’s not easy.
Anicée: I think this is because newcomers don’t know how to approach the local people and find their way into society, especially in the beginning. This is why it’s good that Swedish people come to the “Parlez vous français? Oui!” language sections. They have the background and knowledge about this country and give us simple tips on everyday life.
Alexandra: They explain a lot about how things work and how people think and we understand Sweden better this way.
Do you have the ambition for the French café to grow?
Anicée: If people come here and feel welcomed and they see that they can meet people and become friends, I think this will grow.
Alexandra: They create a connection here. They often exchange numbers so that they meet outside the språkcafé and that is wonderful. And the ambience is great. If you need help or to just have a nice time, come here and we can have a coffee and talk.
What was your relation to Eos Cares before you started the language café?
Anicée: I often participated to “Prata Svenska” but I first came to one of the Bollkul activities last summer with my son. Many leave the city during the summer and you might feel alone, so it was a good way to meet people and have fun. I felt really comfortable and welcomed.
Alexandra: It’s the same with basketball! My kids play basketball in Eos and I think the club is so open, it’s perfect! I like this place, because you get this feeling here, people smile and are kind, you make social connections.