Mar. 31, 2021 12:00 pm

Philadelphia now has a hub for French-speaking immigrants

The work of four people from four different parts of the world — one Haitian, one Senegalese, one Algerian and one French — Le Centre Francophone de Philadelphie will enable French-speakers to help each other and uplift the community.


(Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia)

This guest column was written by Ben Goebel, a member of IBelong, and a French immigrant who has lived in Philadelphia since 2015.
Today, on the last day of the month of La Francophonie, we are launching Le Centre Francophone de Philadelphie.

The French speaking community of Philadelphia has been growing steadily. It can go unnoticed mostly because the new immigrants do not speak (or list) French as their first language. But many of the new immigrants, speak two to three languages fluently. They speak French just like I do, even though the reception they might receive here is very different from the one I receive.

French is one of the most widely spoken languages in Philadelphia and we believe there is a lot more we can do to uplift the community. The city and the country are often focused on the Spanish language. With the number of Spanish-speaking people and the efforts of community leaders through the years, this makes sense. But there are plenty of speakers of other languages here too.

French is one of the oldest languages of newcomers to this continent. And French is not the monopoly of the French people. This group is dedicated to helping all French speakers.

One of the things about the US has always impressed me is the way different groups come together to empower themselves and create opportunities for themselves and support each other.

A great example is the Hispanic community, with its Association of Hispanic Professionals, Hispanic Bar Association, National Association of Hispanic Nurses, etc. These groups help people who have something in common without ignoring their diversity. Organizations helping Venezuelans, Colombians, or Puerto Ricans exist alongside them.

In the same way, the goal of our Centre Francophone is to bring people with a similar language together without denying the different cultures they bring and come from. 

This Center is just a start. It is the work of four people from four different parts of the world: one Haitian, one Senegalese, one Algerian and one French. This is  volunteer work which starts with an idea and hopes for it to grow by taking advice from other French speakers and other community leaders on how we can improve.

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Lack of access to information and lack of social networks are often a major barrier for immigrants and this is what we are hoping to solve.

Our mission is to provide a space where French speakers can help each other and become a hub for the French-speaking community. We do not want to replace community organizations doing a great work on the ground. We can be a resource for new immigrants to find what they need when they get here. Lack of access to information and lack of social networks are often a major barrier for immigrants and this is what we are hoping to solve.

We also want to educate Americans on the diversity of the French-speaking population. By coming together, we can also have a bigger voice to make our needs and concerns heard and taken seriously. 

So please, if you know anyone who is a French speaker and is looking for a community, for a hand, or just to help other French-speakers, send them our way. Our website (entirely in French as of today) is here, or contact us.


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