INSIGHT

Parlez-vous Francais? Find Your French in the Upper Valley

Blog Author - Flossy Courtemanche
Flossy Courtemanche

With our Canadian neighbors so close to our Upper Valley borders in Vermont and New Hampshire, it’s small wonder that evidence of the French language is readily perceptible in our communities.

A folding sign on a sidewalk that reads "Bienvue Entre c'est ouvert"

Streets and businesses bear French surnames, such as Lahaye and Boisvert, and the last names of many families in the area trace their roots back to French origins as well. If you attend school or work in the Upper Valley, sooner or later, you’ll meet up with a Benoit or a Morin, a Tremblay or a Pelletier. 

Stay in the Upper Valley long enough, and there’s also a good chance that you’ll take trips across the Canadian border into French-speaking areas such as Montreal and Quebec. Not more than four or five hours away by car, both cities are easily accessible from the Upper Valley, and both offer a more cosmopolitan, European environment compared to the rural atmosphere of the Upper Valley.

It’s easy and fun to venture north into the French-speaking territories of Canada. And what’s great about the Upper Valley is that you can brush up on your French before you go. From formal training to informal French-themed potluck dinners, there are multiple opportunities to learn French as a second language.

  • The Rassias Center at Dartmouth College bases its language instruction on a teaching model originally developed for Peace Corps volunteers. Classes tend to be short and intense. You can choose from weekend immersion classes, 10-day accelerated programs, weekly classes, and children’s programs. They meet at the Dartmouth College campus in Hanover, New Hampshire.
  • Community College of Vermont, in Norwich, and River Valley Community College in Claremont, New Hampshire, provide a more traditional approach to language instruction. Each school offers semester-long introductory classes (French I and French II) for college credit.
  • Madam G’s French Club. Gloria Finkelstein oversees informal French instruction Wednesdays at Howe Library, 13 East South Street, Hanover, New Hampshire. On the first, third, and fifth Wednesdays, the group meets from noon to 1 p.m. On the second and fourth Wednesdays, they meet from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Contact her at gloriafinkelstein@gmail.com.
  • French Circle in East Thetford. Kathy Astraukas has been hosting French conversation potluck dinners at her home since the 1990s. It’s an intimate setting of six to eight people with fairly high proficiency in French, but Astraukas welcomes all to the table. Contact her at 802-785-4311.
  • Enfield French Club. You’ll hear French coming from the Community Lutheran Church, 96 Main Street, Enfield, New Hampshire, on Saturday mornings at 10 a.m.
  • Sharon French Conversation Group. Parlez vous Francais in Sharon, Vermont, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. the second and fourth Friday of each month. For details, call 802-763-2875.
  • International Women’s Club of the Upper Valley. French speaking members meet for conversation at the Norwich Public Library, 368 South Main Street, Norwich, Vermont, at 1:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Monday of the month. Membership dues of $20 are required to join. Contact Renie MacArthur for details, reniemac@gmail.com.