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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: Un Café en Français is a weekly coffee meeting that takes place every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in Riyadh, with young Saudis, native French speakers and others attending.
The members of the group, all French speakers, get together to practice, discuss, and get to know each other over a cup of coffee. Speaking any other language is strictly off-limits; they even have a piggy bank to fine those who slip up.
They keep in touch via WhatsApp, to exchange and plan meetings and outdoor activities between their 150 members. The group is also present on LinkedIn, and aims to attract more French speakers to participate in the group, which includes professionals in healthcare, education, finance, insurance, international relations, the law and engineering.
“In Riyadh, it is sometimes difficult to meet French people in everyday life, even when working in a French company where the language of use is often English. This is therefore an opportunity to practice, not to forget the French you have learned, to ‘unravel’ it, even to improve it,” explains member Alejandro Diaz-Pache, who is one of the group’s administrators.
The group was created in December 2018, since then also opening branches in Dammam and Jeddah, and diversity and inclusion are at its core, with over 30 percent of the membership being female, and welcoming people from as far afield as Scotland, the US, Chad and Eritrea. It has a large range of ages, from people in their 20s to their 50s, and on average, whilst the coronavirus disease limits social interaction, 25 people are able to meet per week to add “a little finesse,” to their schedule.
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