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Just read: The Story of French

May 24th, 2008 by May

Some books are entertaining and some are educational. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that’s been equally both: The Story of French by Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow.

I was turned on to their first book Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong by my dear French friend Fred. I highly enjoyed that book and had great expectations of this one. I was not disappointed by this little gem. While I did read a copy from the library, I’m going to be getting one for my personal library.

It is a must read for anyone who is interested in French language, or francophones, or even history and politics. The book is written in a personal essay style and while it does a good job of presenting information, the authors do not shy away from their own personal opinion. As with any reading, one is best to always try to read with the aspiration of coming up with one’s own conclusions.

I particularly enjoyed learning about the development of the French language, including research and discoveries from a number of linguists, who’s work I would otherwise never have any exposure to.

I loved learning about all the different groups and organizations (political or NGO) at work in the world that I’ve never heard of or have exposure to. It was not only an education about the Story of French but also of the world we all live in. I’m so ignorant of so many of these groups. While I knew that Canada was part of the Commonwealth, I had never heard of La Francophonie, nor about the fact that we’re also part of La Francophonie. Why the heck is that not taught in school?

On a more Canadian and National level, it also showcased some of the work that’s done in Quebec and other French speaking areas in Canada which brought about some national pride. Honestly, a rare occurrence for me.

The writers do have a tendency to repeat their ideas, but it’s a problem I often find with nonfiction books in general when read in one long stretch instead of more spaced out in time. There are grammatical errors in the book that I wish the editors would have caught, but seriously, who doesn’t write with errors. Sadly, my experience was made all the worst by some moron who decided to write in corrections into the library book themselves! Argh.

Perhaps, if one finishes the book with only one take away idea, it would be that perhaps one should not be so caught up in les fautes. I know I’ve been caught with the fear of speaking imperfect French, and have at times avoided it. But if that was the attitude with English, I would never have learnt. Sometimes, it’s more important to throw the fear of making les fautes aside and jump in.

And oh yeah, the book is also published in French if you’re French is up to par: La Grande Aventure de la langue fran├žaise

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  • 1 Francesca May 25, 2008 at 10:01 am

    Thank you so much for writing this review. I am very interested in language and lately French has been on my to do list for a good brush up (I’ve forgotten most of my high school French). Your post may be just what I needed to start doing something about picking up French again.