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Tickle · the · Pear


Franco-phoney

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It's ironic that I've spent less than a week total in France and yet I'm a second-hand Francophone. M and I speak in French, we watch TV5 and listen to RFI, and we spend most of our time with people who are either really Francophone (Burkinabé, Moroccan, French, Belgian, Swiss, etc.) or reasonably Francophone (Americans and Brits who speak French). Watching the street marches and violence around the new employment law, I find it ironic that France is like the Philippines in that democracy being manifested in the streets.

And more: we have to deal with a leftover French bureaucracy, the media (both Burkinabé and not), doctors trained in the French medical system, M's sister and her family in Montpellier, events at the French Cultural Center, events at the American Cultural Center that are presented in French.

Not to mention that whenever I take the Air France flight to LAX (which connects to Papeete) everyone thinks I'm Tahitian.


So I salute the following famous English-speakers who've managed to function in French in various degrees of fluency (in no particular order):
Molly Ringwald (who lived in Paris and married a French guy)
Jodie Foster (who went to the French school in LA and I think also lived in Paris)
Tony Blair (who worked at a bar in France)
Hugh Grant (who gave a charming little speech at the 2006 Césars)
Jane Fonda (who was on a French talk show recently)
Kristen Scott Thomas (also on the same talk show but a different day - I think she's married to a Frenchman)
Adam Gopnik (one of my favorite New Yorker writers whom I saw on a French talk show broadcast from NYC)
Jane Birkin (is she even English anymore?)

My favorite books in English about France and French (the people and the language):
French Lessons - an American professor's memoir of her lifelong fascination with the French language
Paris to the Moon - Adam Gopnik's chronicle of family life in Paris
Almost French - an Australian's account of her life in Paris married to a Frenchman, which also brought back great memories of my year in Canberra at the ANU.

I end with the brief conversation I had in French with the handsome young receptionist at the Alliance Française in San Francisco:
"Moi? Je suis de New Jersey."
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