Nashua kicks off its month-long celebration of French-speaking culture

Staff photo by Hannah LaClaire Nashua mayor Jim Donchess thanks Dominique Boutaud, who has been coordinating Francophonie events in the city for several years.

NASHUA – Bonjour, parlez-vous Francais? For nearly 220 million people worldwide, in more than 30 countries, the answer is a resounding, “oui.”

March is International Francophonie Month, an entire 31-day celebration of the French language and all its variants spoken in France, Canada, Haiti and beyond.

Francophonie month kicked off in Nashua on Monday, with a flag raising ceremony and City Hall reception – including Mayor Jim Donchess and several key players in the French-speaking New England community.

Laurence Gagnon, communications and francophone affairs attachee at Quebec government office shared how 15 years ago, the French language and surrounding culture was celebrated on just one day, March 20. Then, she said, it grew to a two-week event. Now, the entire month is dedicated to honoring the culture.

John Tousignant, executive director of the Franco-American Centre (center) makes some opening remarks before the Francophonie flag is raised by Dominique Boutaud (back). They are joined by Nashua mayor Jim Donchess and Adele Bouffard Baker, honorary consul of France from New Hampshire.

What started as a “top down” endeavor quickly became “bottom up” with people in the francophonie community sharing ideas with their governments on how to add to celebrations.

“It’s the perfect example of how a community comes together,” Gagnon said.

Dominique Boutaud has been organizing Nashua’s francophonie events since 2012, and said it is the only city in the state that has such a large celebration.

She said on Monday that she was deeply touched by the positive response from the community.

“La vie est belle,” she said, meaning life is beautiful.

Amandine Lebas, Deputy consul of France, agreed, adding that the month of events shows “how vibrant the French community is in New Hampshire and New England.”

This is perhaps not surprising when one factors in that nearly 25 percent of people in New Hampshire have francophonie heritage.

“In Nashua we have very deep French and French-Canadian roots,” Donchess said.

Nashua is also home to people from dozens more French-speaking countries, especially after becoming a welcoming city in 2016, he said, making sure the city honors all other immigrant groups too.

For information on some of the International Francophonie Month events going on at the Nashua Public Library, such as film screenings, French conversation groups, talks, performances and more, visit

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or