Flirting with French by William Alexandra

tu-or-vous-in-french

William Alexandra  is a man with a mission – he wants to learn French, to understand what is is to be French, in fact to be French. American born Mr Alexander doesn’t just want to speak it like a student after a couple of years study; he wants to parler proper French, like a native. The result is a brilliantly funny and eloquent book: Flirting with French…

William says “Some Americans want to visit France. Some want to live in France. I want to be French…”  but it is well-known fact that older learners struggle to learn a new language so 50 something William decides to look into how best to learn and what he can do to help himself. Not content to be told the facts, he delves into the science of linguistics. If you think that sounds a bit dry and dull – you couldn’t be more wrong. This is a brilliant book that anyone who has ever tried to speak French or learn any new language will identify with. It is funny and quirky, William’s observations made me laugh out loud several times on a train to Paris from La Rochelle startling my fellow passengers.

Right at the start William reveals he has a “un petit problem” which he gleefully point out means BIG problem. In French – and there’s the rub, or the issue… the language is peppered with colloquialisms and phrases that just don’t translate into English – literally. Consider: if I tell you Mr Alexandra has a dicky ticker, you may know that in English that means he has a heart problem. Try translating that into French and I shudder to think what the literal translation sounds like to a Frenchman! Colloquial expressions that are in everyday use “screw with your mind” says William and then he proves it in a hilarious way that changes how you’ll think about learning French.

I loved how William articulates his confusion and bewilderment at some French language idiosyncrasies. He gives an example of a phrase a Frenchman might use to describe something he likes, “the tops or the best”. “C’est Le petit Jesus en Colette de velours” or “it’s the baby Jesus in velvet shorts” says your French friend. WHAT? I actually didn’t believe it but so amazed was I that I asked a Frenchman if this was a real expression. “Yes of course, why not?” was the answer. Well what do you say to that because when you think about it, we in the UK might say that something is “the bees knees”, now how does that translate into “its the best” for a Frenchman or anyone who doesn’t know UK colloquialisms. It’s this understanding of the every day expressions that really throws a spanner in the works for everyone and anyone who tries to learn French or a new language. 

William writes as if he’s having a conversation with the reader and even when he’s talking technical, like how verbs work, grammar and the history of French language – he makes it huge fun and absolutely fascinating.

He doesn’t do anything by halves, having his brain scanned before he embarks on his determined course to learn French and then again after he’s finished, many months later, to see if there is a tangible effect. He gets a penpal, tries learning with a CD, online, watches TV with French subtitles, immerses himself on a residential course in France. When a heart problem causes havoc with his plans, he almost gives up – but he is nothing if not determined and with the support of his wife – he soldiers on. He meets with Google language experts, scientists and teachers in his quest. He studies, considers, examines and attempts every way he can think of to learn French and to be French.

His conclusion is that it IS harder for older learners to grasp a new language but it can be done… and that brain scan – did it yield any results? Oh yes and it might surprise you!

This is an entertaining, thoughtful and witty book for anyone and everyone who wants to learn French or had every tried to learn French or any other languge and wonders why it is so hard

But, “courage” as the French say,  take heart, keep a sense of humour and go for it anyway because as William discovers, the results may surprise you too.

Interview with William Alexander – and yes he is just as funny to talk to in real life!

Courtesy of William Alexander, the full tutorial on the question of is it tu or vous in French?

tu-vous-william-alexander-tutorial

Related Articles

Best French Immersion courses in France

If you want to learn French, to speak it like a local and understand it fully, the best way to learn is undoubtedly by immersion. It’s also great fun and when you’re able to fully immerse yourself in the culture and essence of France – it really does help you to learn better and easier. […]

Continue Reading

Drawing Lessons by Patricia Sands

Patricia Sands, the author of the Love in Provence series returns to the South of France with a poignant portrait of a woman who must learn how to create a new life for herself… Sixty-two-year-old Arianna arrives in the South of France for a two-week artists’ workshop full of anticipation but burdened by guilt. Back […]

Continue Reading

How to pronounce r in French it’s easy when you know how!

In French, even a simple word sounds so classy and chic that many non French speakers fall in love with the language. It also has some beautiful ways of getting a message across. For example, in French we do not say “I miss you” instead we say “Tu me manques” which means “you are missing […]

Continue Reading

Head to Morzine France to learn French and ski!

A week in Morzine – it’s not all about the snow The Portes du Soleil area is one of the largest ski areas in the world. It includes 13 resorts (both Swiss and French) and roughly 650 km of marked ski and snowboard runs. There are 14 valleys and nearly all of the runs are […]

Continue Reading

Review of VAGABONDS in France by Michael A Barry

So, what would YOU do if you lost your house? Panic, desperately search for another one and then take anything you can get? Well, when this happened to Americans Michael and Lisa, they decided to take the glass half full approach. When their rental home was no longer available, they put their furniture into storage […]

Continue Reading

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.

Top