South Charlotte

Here's a chance to learn French

Perhaps you've imagined strolling Paris, nibbling a croissant, éclair or chocolate while conversing in French.

Alliance Francaise of Charlotte, a nonprofit organization dedicated to French language and culture, offers language classes for adults of all skill levels.

Fall classes begin Sept. 6 at Myers Park Baptist Church.

Betty Parker became president of the approximately 200-member local organization in June. The chapter has a lengthy history, and it's affiliated with the worldwide Alliance Francaise, a cultural institution in France.

Parker says the classes are small and many of the teachers are native French speakers.

"When I was in high school, I took French, but the woman teaching me French was not French," Parker said. "So by having French teachers teaching the classes, you get, I think, better instruction on your pronunciation, and also, being native French speakers, they know all the idiomatic expressions."

When a guest visits Parker's home, it's easy to discern her love for all things French. There's the decorative pillow in the living room proclaiming she'd rather be in Paris. A dining-room wall holds a painting of a Paris street scene with the Eiffel Tower in the background. And Parker wears an eye-catching necklace with a fleur-de-lis design.

Parker, 68, and her husband, Paul, have four grown children.

Parker is not French but has some important reasons for maintaining a strong interest in France and visiting several times each year. Her daughter, son-in-law and three granddaughters live in a Paris suburb. Parker's daughter moved to France for work and married a Frenchman.

Now, when Parker sees her grandchildren - ages 2, 7 and 9 - it's her job to help them practice English.

Though there's a need for French language classes in Charlotte, AF of Charlotte does more than just offer language instruction. There are numerous activities and a newsletter, LaGazette, written in French and English.

The major fundraiser is the annual Beaujolais festival, planned for Nov. 18 this year. "That is a totally fun evening," Parker said.

The festival features wine-tasting stations, music, a live auction, raffle and French food. Additional events take place throughout the year, including during Christmas and Easter.

Parker says donations of books, movies and shelves to hold them still are needed for the French language library opening this fall in the group's rented office space at Myers Park Baptist.

Anyone enrolling in language class with AF of Charlotte who already knows some French should contact the organization for placement testing. There are tuition, textbook, membership and registration fees to take a class.