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Flirting with French: How a Language Charmed Me, Seduced Me, and Nearly Broke My Heart (English Edition)
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Flirting with French: How a Language Charmed Me, Seduced Me, and Nearly Broke My Heart (English Edition) [Format Kindle]

William Alexander

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Descriptions du produit

Présentation de l'éditeur

“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 own--with all the unexpected obstacles, surprising breakthroughs and moments of sublime pleasure traveling brings.” —Julie Barlow, author of Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong  

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1089 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 283 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 1616200200
  • Editeur : Algonquin Books (16 septembre 2014)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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  • Word Wise: Non activé
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°74.756 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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En savoir plus sur l'auteur

William Alexander is the author of is "Flirting With French," about his often riotous attempt to fulfill a life-dream of learning French. His previous books include the best-selling memoir, "The $64 Tomato," and "52 Loaves: A Half-Baked Adventure," his funny but moving account of a year spent striving to bake the perfect loaf of bread, including a visit to a 1300-hundred-year-old monastery in Normandy, where, weirdly enough, he helps French monks restore their lost art of baking French bread.

The New York Times Style Magazine says about Alexander, "His timing and his delivery are flawless." He has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC, and was a 2006 Quill Book Awards finalist. Alexander has been a frequent contributor the New York Times op-ed pages, where he has opined on such issues as the Christmas tree threatening his living room, Martha Stewart, and the difficulties of being organic.

When not gardening, baking, or writing, Bill keeps his day job as director of technology at a psychiatric research institution, where, after 28 years, he persists in the belief that he is a researcher, not a researchee.

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19 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 He Flirts With French. French Resists. 30 août 2014
Par takingadayoff - Publié sur
Writer William Alexander loves France. He loves just about everything French, including the language. Not that he speaks French, but he has immersed himself in French television, French books, French radio. The obvious next step is to build on the French he learned in high school, some forty years ago, and become fluent. Piece of gâteau.

Alexander knows it will be a challenge, because learning a language is notoriously difficult for most adults. In fact, as part of his preparation, he learns as much as he can about second language learning. He attends a conference of linguistics, he interviews specialists, he has his brain scanned.

He determines the best methods for language learning and dives in. He describes his experiences with Rosetta Stone, on-line tutoring, small-group evening classes, and eventually a two-week immersion course in Provence. But in a stark reminder that even when you have an important project to attend to, real life intrudes, and his heart begins to act up and he has to undergo several tricky operations.

I've read several books recently about adults in middle age learning or re-learning to play musical instruments. Whether they succeed in their goals seems to depend as much on how they define success as how much they practice. Let's face it, when we're in our fifties or sixties, we're probably not going to become virtuosos. Alexander tells a story about how, at the peak of his frustration, he declares he should have spent all the time he had spent studying French learning to play golf, so that at least he could be a decent golfer. Then he reads that Larry David (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm) recently bemoaned the time he had spent over the years practicing golf, even though he never got any better. "Think what I could have done with all that time. Learned French." How do you say "irony" in French?

(Thanks to NetGalley for a digital review copy.)

Also recommended - The Philosopher's Demise: Learning French by Richard A. Watson.
21 internautes sur 23 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A funny and relatable book for Francophiles and second-language French speakers 15 septembre 2014
Par I Know What You Should Read - Publié sur
When I departed for Nancy, France, for the first semester of my junior year abroad, I was confident. French had always come very easily to me (in my French classes in the States). I couldn't speak fluently, but I thought I was pretty good.

As it turns out, I was wrong. Very wrong. On the first day with my host family, my amazing host mother picked me up to drive me to my new home. During the drive, she chatted and chatted and chatted . . . while I just sat there, dumbstruck. She asked questions that I struggled to understand and to which I certainly wasn't able to respond. Finally, she looked at me and said, "Christi, tu comprends pas français?" (Christi, don't you understand French?). I immediately realized that, despite my years and years of French classes, no, I decidedly did not.

Here's the thing: French classes in the United States are largely useless. Yes, you learn basic vocabulary and verb conjugations. But you don't learn how people actually talk. Nor have you been prepared to understand French when spoken at a very high rate of speed (with every word gliding smoothly into the next, until they all become an indistinguishable mess).

I love French. But learning French was HARD. There are a bunch of weird things that come naturally to people who learn French as a first language--things like whether nouns are masculine or feminine or whether an H is aspirated-that frequently trip up non-native speakers. And there are tons of ways in which real, spoken French is different from the French you learn in school in the US. These are the kinds of struggles and frustrations that William Alexander highlights in a very funny, relatable way in his soon-to-be-released book, Flirting with French: How a Language Charmed Me, Seduced Me, and Nearly Broke My Heart.

Alexander is a fifty-eight-year-old Francophile, who decided that, despite his age (and the fact that "not only does the ability to acquire a second language become greatly diminished after adolescence, but the degradation continues linearly" and studies show that "the dimmest child will become far more proficient in his first language than the smartest adult in his second"), he would spend a year attempting to learn French. In an effort to reach his French-speaking goal, he tried language programs like Rosetta Stone and Fluenz, went to French speaking Meetups, traveled to France multiple times, enlisted the aid of French-speaking conversation partners on, listened to French radio and watched French TV programs and movies, read French books (with English translations on the facing page), took French classes in the US, and finally spent two weeks at a language-immersion school in France. Throughout the whole process, he documented his failures and successes in this book.

Flirting with French has a highly specific audience. If you're not a French speaker, have never wanted to be a French speaker, and don't care at all about French or France, then this is decidedly not a book for you. (In fact, if I were in that boat, I would probably give it a 2/5.)

On the flip side, if you are a second-language French speaker or have ever studied French, then this book is very readable (I breezed through it in a couple hours), extremely relatable, engaging, and fun. It will, without question, remind you of your own experience studying/learning French.

There are interesting bits about language learning in the US (and very familiar anecdotes, like this one: "I have a friend--a very sharp guy--who studied French from the fourth grade through his sophomore year in college. Eleven years of French. And he goes to Paris and finds out he can't speak or even understand French. And this is not an uncommon story."). There are fun lists of French idioms and their English counterparts. There are interesting and random observations about the similarities and differences between French and English ("In America we eat beef, never cows. In France both the meat and the steer are called boeuf."). There are many stories about the frustrations of learning French, especially common hang-ups, like gender: "There is no logic to the assignment of gender in French. . . . I have been laboring for the longest time under the common misconception that there was a rhyme and reason to gender assignment, that the object itself held the key to its gender, that the girly things were feminine and manly things masculine." But, he points out, a woman's breast is masculine (un sein), whereas a man's beard is feminine (une barbe).

This book brought back a lot of memories for me, made me want to brush up on my French (it's been a loooooong time since I lived in a French-speaking country, and French is a lot easier to forget than it is to learn!), and made me want to plan a jaunt to Paris.

Who should read it? For those of you who can count backwards from vingt to un with ease, know how to pronounce les héros, and can explain the difference between oui and si, then this is a good book for you. It's a good reminder of why it's such a great accomplishment to learn the language.
12 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 In-depth review: Learning a lot of French, but it is "learning French"? 4 septembre 2014
Par John L Murphy - Publié sur
Learning French, even for a middle-aged Francophile, proves elusive. Its infamous pronunciation, its maddeningly gendered nouns, its elisions, its lack of syllabic emphases: William Alexander laments them all. Going on 58, after writing successful books on mad ambitions to achieve the perfect garden and bake the perfect loaf, he seems as well-suited as any driven autodidact for task three.

Most adults will never fully master a second language. Alexander's ambitions meet the obstacle most of our brains encounter when we try to learn a new language post-puberty. As he explains, once the neural networks have sparked childhood fluency, our valuable hard-wiring gets diverted so the brain can apply it to non-linguistic necessities as we mature. Our innate capacity which enables us to quickly attain our native language in infancy then fades; consider how even teens struggle with foreign conjugations and prepositions.

Alexander sums up linguistic theory and neurological research, but he finds that these cannot account for the other 8/9 of our body. Acting out French sentences, he shows, overcomes his brain's hesitations. Reading a play by Sartre or reciting into a microphone via Rosetta Stone stymie him. French evokes from Alexander emotions, impulses, and gestures, beyond vocabulary lists and conversational lessons. He wanders along this book's way to relate his correspondence with a pen-pal, his stints at total-immersion French environments, the history of French, the sly promises of machines such as Google Translate, and the daunting barriers to fluency.

Alexander plugs away. He claims to work, but from the obsessive attempt he documents, pursuing French becomes what seems to me a full-time job. Inspired to overcome his mental block, with visual imagery he memorizes a thousand words in a children's bilingual dictionary; he strains this same memory, on the other hand, to recall common verbs while chatting with classmates. The yin-yang of advancing and regressing in language learning will comfort any student who has faced, for example, the clash of decimal and vigesimal (base-twenty) counting systems. He finds fresh examples, too.

"Soixante-neuf is the last 'easy' number in French. Should you want to turn your lovemaking up a notch to seventy, you'll find there is no "seventy" in French. This is undoubtedly due to French frugality." One adds ten to sixty, and up to "sixty-ten-nine", before one hits eighty, as "four-twenties".

Metaphors beyond the most famous of French numbers also enliven his narrative. Alexander's lively chapter on colorful idioms entertains. To tie the marriage knot is rendered as putting a noose around your neck. Having a wet dream equals "to make a map of France". One suspects male-authored phrases so far, but anyone can find a stroke of good fortune. However, few of either sex, whatever luck comes their sudden way, may long for more than a linguistically evoked "ass full of noodles". Outside of a few (non-?) French in recovery, who would not acclaim the praise given a delectable glass of red wine? "C'est le petit Jésus en culotte de velours!" "It's the Baby Jesus in velvet shorts!"

Wine may well be prescribed for Francophiles eager to escape the rigors of battling French itself. Alexander's cardiologist asks about any new stress in his patient's life. "Well, I am studying French." Alexander avers near this book's conclusion that he has been learning a lot of French, but not "learning French". The latter goal may recede; his native-born teacher suggests after five to seven years, living in France, of course, he may get pretty good at it. Over thirteen months and nine-hundred hours, he drives himself on towards fluency. Complicated by his arrhythmic heart and a series of surgeries, the results of his sustained immersion will surprise him, at the end of this genial narrative. During to date only half the time Alexander spent, I've been cursing daily during my online French lessons, fifteen minutes or so each. That's all the patience I can summon. But Flirting with French gave me faint hope; as another middle-aged learner, who began during my first visit to Québec last autumn, I recognize in Alexander's story my own frustrations, magnified or diminished.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Funny and a fun read. 9 octobre 2014
Par Caroline Lim - Publié sur
Format:Format Kindle
From the author of [The $64 Tomato] which I absolutely loved, this one captures his struggle trying to learn to speak French like a native. His attempts at learning via language tools such as Rosetta Stone and through a French tutor are hilarious, as are his tongue-tied efforts speaking with the locals during holidays in France. And if that wasn't bad enough, he believes his stress levels were on the rise because of his language challenges and that it resulted in heart flutters requiring him to spend time in the hospital.

What I liked about this book was his research into the developing of French as the language that's used today. So there's some interesting history mixed in as well.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 I loved this book so much I think I have waxed ... 1 octobre 2014
Par S. Roach - Publié sur
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
I loved this book so much I think I have waxed lyrical about it to about 50 of my friends, absolutely insisting they read it. Having spent 2 years now in Geneva, and learning (trying to) this mad, infuriating, beautiful, complicated, seemingly unattainable language, I can relate so closely to every single observation made by William Alexander. And yes, I really can feel that my brain cells have all had the shock of their lives. Being a 45 year old learner, it has been difficult trying to retain some of the endless grammar rules, but what a pleasure it has been as I have started to string sentences together. We are now moving back to an English speaking country, but no matter what I will continue with my French, because as William says, learning a language truly is the fountain of youth. Thank you for a humourous and entertaining approach to a subject that could be dry and dull. Keep them coming.
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