At “La Table Française,” members of Binghamton University’s French-speaking community gather weekly to practice the language and enjoy a dinner together.
Founded in 1997, the French Table takes place every Tuesday from 5:30-7 p.m. in the College-in-the-Woods (CIW) dining hall. About 25 people come each week.
Dora Polachek, founder of the French Table, said she believes using a language consistently adds to its value.
“When you see that you are able to use it or you are able to communicate or listen… that gives you an incredible passion and appreciation of the language that you are interested in,” said Polachek, a professor in the romance languages and literatures department.
Margaret Delfino, a senior double-majoring in French and linguistics, said she enjoys speaking French in a less academic and more social environment.
“I am given the opportunity to speak French outside of the classroom in a convivial setting with other students, professors and even community members,” Delfino said. “It’s a good place to meet other people and improve your French-speaking skills.”
Many of the students that attend the French Table have a passion for the language and end up participating in study abroad programs, according to Polachek.
Students who have attended the French Table in the past continue to do so week after week. Chris Roma, a senior majoring in history, said he enjoys the informal setting the table provides.
“I have regularly attended the French Table since the fall semester 2011,” Roma said. “I feel I have gained a lot conversing in French with others in a relaxed environment.”
The French Table exists not only to help students with their conversation skills, but also to bring people together.
“I not only get the opportunities to know many people who speak French from the French Table, but also have made some friends who have the same interests as I do,” said Tian Han, a sophomore majoring in French. “I’m studying abroad next semester in France, so this semester I plan to attend the Table every week because I don’t want to miss a single fun story from it.”
At a campus with a large international student body, the French table is an opportunity to give American students an international experience, if only for a dinner.
“We live in a global world, we want to internationalize,” Polachek said. “The French Table serves as a model of that.”
CIW faculty master Tony Preus, a philosophy professor, participates in the French Table regularly and endorsed it for the opportunity it provides.
“It’s a great opportunity for French speakers to get together, and for those who are learning French to have an unstructured conversation,” Preus said.
One of the French Table’s notable guests is Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger. He said he appreciates the idea of community members gathering to converse in another language.
“I was impressed by the concept of a language table, and I praised professor Polachek for taking the time to organize the table,” Stenger said. “It was a great, serendipitous discovery!”