“A delightful and courageous tale and a romping good read. Voila!” —Mark Greenside, author of I’ll Never Be French (No Matter What I Do) William Alexander is more than a Francophile. He wants to be French. There’s one small obstacle though: he doesn’t speak la langue française. In Flirting with French, Alexander sets out to conquer the language he loves. But will it love him back? Alexander eats, breathes, and sleeps French (even conjugating in his dreams). He travels to France, where mistranslations send him bicycling off in all sorts of wrong directions, and he nearly drowns in an immersion class in Provence, where, faced with the riddle of masculine breasts, feminine beards, and a turkey cutlet of uncertain gender, he starts to wonder whether he should’ve taken up golf instead of French. While playing hooky from grammar lessons and memory techniques, Alexander reports on the riotous workings of the Académie française, the four-hundred-year-old institution charged with keeping the language pure; explores the science of human communication, learning why it’s harder for fifty-year-olds to learn a second language than it is for five-year-olds; and, frustrated with his progress, explores an IBM research lab, where he trades barbs with a futuristic hand-held translator. Does he succeed in becoming fluent? Readers will be as surprised as Alexander is to discover that, in a fascinating twist, studying French may have had a far greater impact on his life than actually learning to speak it ever would. “A blend of passion and neuroscience, this literary love affair offers surprise insights into the human brain and the benefits of learning a second language. Reading William Alexander’s book is akin to having an MRI of the soul.” —Laura Shaine Cunningham, author of Sleeping Arrangements “Alexander proves that learning a new language is an adventure of its ownwith all the unexpected obstacles, surprising breakthroughs and moments of sublime pleasure traveling brings.” —Julie Barlow, author of Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong
|Publisher:||Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
William Alexander, the author of two critically acclaimed books, lives in New York's Hudson Valley. By day the IT director at a research institute, he made his professional writing debut at the age of fifty-three with a national bestseller about gardening, The $64 Tomato. His second book, 52 Loaves, chronicled his quest to bake the perfect loaf of bread, a journey that took him to such far-flung places as a communal oven in Morocco and an abbey in France, as well as into his own backyard to grow, thresh, and winnow wheat. The Boston Globe called Alexander "wildly entertaining," the New York Times raved that "his timing and his delivery are flawless," and the Minneapolis Star Tribune observed that "the world would be a less interesting place without the William Alexanders who walk among us." A 2006 Quill Book Awards finalist, Alexander won a Bert Greene Award from the IACP for his article on bread, published in Saveur magazine. A passion bordering on obsession unifies all his writing. He has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition and at the National Book Festival in Washington DC and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times op-ed pages, where he has opined on such issues as the Christmas tree threatening to ignite his living room and the difficulties of being organic. Now, in Flirting with French, he turns his considerable writing talents to his perhaps less considerable skills: becoming fluent in the beautiful but maddeningly illogical French language.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Learning French is not easy. I can attest to that personally, having studied the language for a few years. Yet it is seductive and can easily entice one to embrace it despite struggling to come to grips with the genders of nouns, pronouncing the French "r" and the demonic swamp of personal pronouns. Mr. Alexander tells a tale of hope, love and despair that is fun, lighthearted and engaging. If you're a student of "la langue française" or a francophile in general this book will speak to you.
Learning French apparently is a lot like life. The journey is more fun than reaching the end. Could you learn a new language in your late fifties? Why would you want to even start down that road? Most of us had trouble passing French when we were in high school during our learning years. Why would you think that you could do it forty or fifty years later? William Alexander, or Guy, as he would like to be known in his assumed French nickname, is in love with France and everything French. He would eat, sleep, and dream French if he could just learn to converse fluently in the language. He watches the French channel on cable. He tries to read books by French authors in both English and French. He remodeled his kitchen to a point that Julia Child would admire, but he just can’t seem to achieve his dream of speaking French like a true Frenchman. Will immersing himself in countless community college French classes, online language lessons, and constantly trying to push those Rosetta Stone lessons up his fifty year old old hill help him succeed or give him a heart attack? A whimsical down home style lends this book the familiarity it needs to endear us to both the writer and his Sisyphean mission. Book provided for review by LibraryThing and Algonquin Books.
This is my favorite kind of book these days. It is told by a 57 year old writer who is determined to try anything and everything to learn French. As a 70 year old studying French on my own, I could totally identify. I recognize the many methods he tried but, unlike me, he finally went to France to take immersion classes. I enjoyed every page, empathized with his struggles, and cheered on his progress. Mr. Alexander draws you into his world and might even lead you to decide to study a foreign language.
I discovered this gem in a thrift store one cool afternoon, and couldn't believe what I'd found. A book about learning French? Even better: a non-fiction, humorous book about learning French? After reading the full title and blurb, I was sold. (And not once throughout the read did I ever change my mind.) FLIRTING WITH FRENCH is fun, educational, entertaining, and even heartfelt, at times, as Mr. Alexander tells us the story (in present tense) of his foray into pursing a dream of being fluent enough to survive (more than a few minutes) in France. Many a time, I laughed out loud at his idioms, his metaphors, his French history, his comparisons, and even his down-to-earth explanations of how, try as he might, this whole learning curve ended up being much harder than he'd originally thought. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I am going to pick up THE $64 TOMATO soon, because... I'll be honest... I'm already kind of missing the guy. FLIRTING WITH FRENCH gets four stars!!!