Louisville francophones connect and explore with French-language podcast
When Jim Natsis and Patrick Litanga met at an Iroquois Library French-speaking event in 2015, they didn’t know the friendship they sparked would lead to their podcast, “Récits Francophones au Coeur de l'Amérique”.
The title translates to “Francophone Stories from the Heart of America.”
It began when the French-speaking circle group was trying to find a way to continue through the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many others, they found a solution by using Zoom.
“It was a very good success,” Litanga said.
Those Zoom conversations led Natsis to pitch the idea of a podcast to Litanga.
“I didn't have to say much. I go, ‘Patrick, let's go meet for a coffee… I gotta talk to you. It's a good thing.’ I didn't have to convince him of anything,” Natsis said.
Litanga said he got on board because it gave him a chance to continue to explore the depth of the French language and its use around the world.
“I love the idea because I was not so aware of the multiplicities of French communities in the U.S.,” Litanga, who is from the Democratic Republic of Congo, explained. “You have immigrants, you have the people in Louisiana, you've got folks who are moving between Canada and the US, and you've got all those things.”
Since releasing their first episode in August 2021, Litanga and Natsis have interviewed French-speakers from across North and South America. Their guests include people in fields of education, sports and even the bourbon industry.
One of Litanga’s favorites is the episode when he and Natsis spoke with two women working in Kentucky’s bourbon industry. One was French and married an American, and the other was an American married to a French person.
Litanga said he enjoyed building connections based on similar life experiences.
“To me, it was really, really cool, because I'm also a Congolese married to an American,” Litanga said. “So you got this cultural thing that comes in all those kinds of things. That was really fantastic.”
He said the podcast is like an expanded version of that original French-speaking circle at the library: a place for francophones to share, learn and connect with one another.
The latest episode is a tribute to the lead singer of the Canadian-band Les Cowboys Fringants, Karl Tremblay, who died last month.
“I was devastated because I discovered music up there 40 years ago and they were so authentic,” Natsis said. “I told Patrick, I go, ‘Man, I just want to do an homage to Karl and share with the Quebec people.’”
Touching on topics that connect to national and international audiences is part of the draw of the podcast.
“We are just an example of this society that is diverse because you can imagine a podcast in Nepali, you can imagine a podcast in Somali, you can imagine the podcast from Louisville in Arabic, in so many other languages,” Litanga said.
The French language connected Natsis and Litanga. It has helped Litanga find community in the United States. And with their podcast, they hope the language can continue to bring people together.