Flirting With French – Adventures in Pursuit of a Language by William Alexander
If I held even the slightest doubt that somewhere in the world I may have a twin who thinks and feels exactly the way I do about all things France and French then William Alexander has lifted my doubts away. Yes dear readers, author William Alexander of Flirting With French, I am quite certain, is my French twin – a kindred spirit who thinks, behaves and even writes in a similar manner to me! Even though I’m a Sydney based female Francophile and William Alexander is a man residing in New York and of a completely different generation, I instantly developed a warm and heart felt bond with him after reading just the first chapter of his charming memoir which I had found calling to me from a bookshelf at Paris’ famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore. Much like the author, I too have had a strong passion and love affair with all things France and French that only seems to intensify with age. This unexplainable bond and connection to France, especially to Paris, has been a part of my existence forever and if I could be reborn again I would without a doubt want to be born in Paris and be totally and completely French and as a consequence be able to speak the French language as a native would. Just as William Alexander has “flirted with French” I too have been pursuing my dream of mastering this seductively beautiful language for two years now and have a love hate relationship with it. After a recent visit to France, my eagerness to practice and speak the language with natives resulted in my sobbing away behind trees and les journals, after Parisians especially, had difficulty in comprehending what I was attempting to communicate. I realised that I needed to take a different approach to learning French after acknowledging how many language gaps I had and William Alexander certainly provides the reader with some great tips on how to learn this complex language.
Anyway, back to the author and to the memoir – an honest, delightful, pleasurable and relatable recount of an endearing, ardent and brave soul who attempts anything in the pursuit of his passion and desire to be French. Despite the obstacles of his age, heart condition and his inability to retain information William Alexander takes on the enormous and mind boggling challenge of learning French with gusto and zeal. French learning Francophiles would certainly sympathise with the author’s struggles and laugh out loud in those familiar French language speaking attempts, loss of words in crucial moments of conversation and where one realises how very little can be literally translated and how different yet wonderful the French culture and mentality is to our own. The author goes above and beyond the conventional ways of learning French by studying its history and examining the science behind learning a language and exposes interesting reports of trials undertaken in linguistics into how language is acquired and how age plays a significant role and advantage in learning a language. The memoir will enlighten, educate as well as inspire the reader as they traverse through the chapters in the author’s chaussures as he provides the French language learner hope, reassurance and at times a realistic point of view while his flirting takes on interesting twists, tangents and turns with an unexpected ending that will make you chuckle. While learning a language certainly has its benefits not everyone has a calling for it and as William Alexander reveals through his own endeavours, the reward is not always to arrive but in the journey itself.