Multiculturalism is thriving in North Brooklyn.
For proof, just look to Coucou Brooklyn, a French-language school and cultural center created by cousins Léa and Marianne Perret, on Marcy Avenue, which is about to celebrate its one year anniversary in the neighborhood.
Léa grew up in Tours and Toulouse and moved to New York about five years ago. She started giving private French lessons soon after, but it wasn’t until about a year and a half ago after her cousin, Marianne, joined her in the city, that the duo seriously considered opening a school and cultural center.
As they brainstormed Coucou, they agreed that it was most important to break away from the stuffy mould of the intimidating Alliance Français style lessons offered in the city that placed more emphasis on grammar than conversational French.
Léa and Marianne set out to create an informal setting to learn the language while encouraging an interest in French culture – and so they did – developing a coffee-shop like atmosphere, with lessons on the Parisian music scene and French table manners, while also preparing them for job interviews and opening their eyes to a host of French-language films.
For Marianne, one of the most interesting experiences of running the center has been the range of people who attend classes.
“It’s incredible and interesting to see the broadness of people who come in,” she said. “Whether its people with French partners who are visiting their in-laws for the first time, or people trying to learn French for their jobs particularly sommeliers, a number of people working in the art or fashion industries, and then there just the pure Francophiles who do it as a hobby.”
Marianne said students who study the language as a hobby often make the best students because they don’t necessarily have a strict goal in mind and are there just for the pleasure of it. Marianne said they’ve had students as young as 16 and others in their 70s, but most she said tended to be in their late twenties and mid-thirties.
Coucou provides vast variety of levels for students to enroll in classes – debutante for complete beginners, Apprenti for your above average French speaker, Confirme for those comfortable using all the major tenses, and a host of others.
Beginning this fall, the center will also begin offering a French Literature class entitled George Bataille: Sex, Crime and Literature, focusing on the work of his author, who was a contemporary of Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, and understanding the symbolism behind the graphic sexuality in his novels like Story of the Eye.
What sets Coucou apart from most other language classes is the fact that they offer trial sessions for prospective students – they can sit on a free lesson to see how classes work, to better understand their levels, and can also simply chat either with Marianne or Léa who assess their levels and place them in the appropriate group.
Registration for the new set of classes to begin in the fall is currently open.
Cocou Brooklyn, 38 Marcy Avenue, 347-529-6168, firstname.lastname@example.org, for detailed information on classes and to sign up visit http://coucoubrooklyn.com/site/learning/group-classes/.