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Du Francais au Cafe

October 16, 2017

One of the very first students I met here at Carthage was senior DaQuawn Bruce.

Cameron Swallow and a group of Carthage French students pose for a photo outside of the Common Grounds sandwich shop in downtown Kenosha.Cameron Swallow and a group of Carthage French students pose for a photo outside of the Common Grounds sandwich shop in downtown Kenosha.In fact, he was the very first student to initiate contact with me himself, instead of being presented by a faculty or staff member. We met at the CAB Carnival on the first weekend of the new semester, and we discovered that day that we had both spent time in French-speaking countries — France for me, Senegal for him.

The next time we met, I greeted him in French, and he responded in kind, and we had a long conversation without ever switching back into English.

When I asked DaQuawn to show me something in Kenosha, something I should know about my new home, he immediately suggested speaking French in a coffee shop. Being the social creature that he is, he also invited his classmates and professor from a conversational French class to join us!

Six students, one professor, and I gathered at Harborside Common Grounds by the edge of the harbor on a gorgeous October day. We all spoke French in the minivan on the way; we all spoke French in the line before ordering; we all spoke French over our coffee and our sandwiches once we were seated.

I had two heart-warming observations during the visit. The first was that the students were having fun with language. They were open and joyful and bold in their efforts to communicate, making and correcting and forgiving mistakes as they went. Willingness to speak aloud and navigate around words you don’t know is a huge and essential advantage in learning a language, and I was thrilled to see this evidence of the strength of Carthage’s modern language program.

The second observation was that the employees and the other customers at the café were so easygoing and tolerant of our group. I didn’t see any eyes rolling or catch any annoyed glances; people seemed to be charmed by the sight of the students working on language outside the classroom. Two women even gave us their seats at an adjoining table when our group proved to be too large for a single table.

It was a beautiful day in a beautiful old building right on the water, speaking French with enthusiastic young students, welcomed by friendly townspeople. How did I get lucky enough to live here?

See for yourself

Harborside Common Grounds
5159 Sixth Ave.
Kenosha, Wisconsin
262-652-5111
Common Grounds Facebook page