HAMMOND — At 72, Allen Dufour said he’s never too old to learn something new.
Newly retired from Southeastern Louisiana University, Dufour took up French lessons just a few months ago.
“You’re never to old to learn something new,” Dufour said. “I think it’s important for seniors to learn a new language.”
“It’s mental stimulation,” Dufour said. “It keeps yourself and your mind healthy.”
Dufour, who comes from French roots — his family members from Avoyelles Parish all spoke French when he was growing up — and about a half-dozen seniors meet each week at the Hammond Recreation Center’s Michael J. Kenney Center to learn French.
As Dufour and the other students grabbed their books, “Le Petit Prince,” their instructor Annabert Ory read a few pages before giving the students a chance to read the lines out loud in front of their classmates.
“What is the verb fut,” Ory asked the students.
As they each began to flip through the pages of a French-English dictionary, Ory said, “to flee. It’s from the verb fuir.”
As Ory reviewed grammar and the meanings of certain words, she also helped those in class understand the meaning of the book, one written during World War II, a children’s book that is also for adults because of its satiric nature.
Her goal for the class, she said, is to help her students talk, translate and understand French grammar.
Ory, a former French professor at Southeastern Louisiana University for more than 20 years and a native of Germany who also speaks Italian, German and Latin fluently, started the class about two years ago.
Since then, students have come and gone, but a core group, people like Lois Jampole, have remained loyal to learning the language.
Jampole, who said she had never spoken a word of French before the class began, “always loved the French language.”
“I think it’s the most beautiful language, and when this opportunity came up to enroll, I did,” she said.
Since then, Jampole said she’s learned how to speak French, and has caught on “fairly quickly.”
“It’s very low key,” Jampole said of the class. “It’s a wonderful experience.”
“It’s a very relaxed atmosphere because we want to enjoy it,” Ory said.
For Dufour, the language brings back memories of his family, and is helping him fulfill a lifelong dream.
“I’ve always wanted to regain the competency of French that I once had,” Dufour said.
French classes are at 10 a.m. every Wednesday at the Michael J. Kenney Center, 601 W. Coleman Ave., Hammond.
Anyone interested in learning French is welcome, Ory said. The class includes everyone from beginners to experienced French speakers.
“I absolutely would recommend this class to other people,” Dufour said.
“She gives you the encouragement to study on your own,” Dufour said of Ory.
“I think you could come in at any time and pick up some French,” he said.
For more information, call (985) 277-5906.