Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The French Have a Word for It

According to the New York Times Book Review (the headlines of which stream at the bottom of this blog unless you use Firefox, in which case they are to the right blocking out valuable sidebar information) The French Have a (Precise and Elegant) Word for It.

In their review of the book The Story of French by Jean-Badoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow, reviewer William Grimes tells us that, "The unique relationship between French speakers and their language is one of the grand themes in “The Story of French,” a well-told, highly accessible history of the French language that leads to a spirited discussion of the prospects for French in an increasingly English-dominated world."

Further he says, "Arguments are as much a part of French as the acute accent and the nasal “n.” Since the 17th century, it has been treated by French speakers less as a language than as a work of art, something worthy of constant analysis and curatorial devotion. "

He ends with question, "Is French a surprisingly robust international presence, as the authors’ carefully harvested statistics seem to suggest, or an invalid that needs help crossing the street, terrified at being run down by Anglo-Saxon vehicles with an insane, cursing American at the wheel?"

He hopes that French will not be run over by the allegorical Anglo-Saxon vehicle. For those of us belonging to the generation traumatized and trained like the recalcitrant peanut-butter consuming savages that we Americans are, by (native born) French teachers, and feeling that we really should have taken Spanish, I hope French lives on and even makes a comeback for several reasons.
1. I won't have to learn a new foreign language to feel useful
2. Arabic is too hard and also involves learning a whole new writing system
3. Sacre Bleu! French really does have the "bon mot" for so many things that English does not
4. People will tire of visiting other countries and want to return to France without feeling unpatriotic.
5. I tried to learn Spanish, but they pronounce all the vowels as written and that is too confusing.
6. We will all greet each other with a musical and not-to-be-ignored "bonjour!" How refreshingly polite.

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