Book Report: Flirting With French

William Alexander’s memoir Flirting with French is a wry look at his efforts to become fluent in French at the age of fifty-seven. It starts with the discouraging discovery that he missed the window, the critical period, for speaking the language like a native by half a century. Nevertheless, an attendee of the Second Language Research Forum encourages Alexander to press on, as his maturity allows him a sense of self, to make mistakes without taking them as blows to his intellectual identity. Moreover, he has a syntactical scaffold he can leverage; I think The Story of French remarks English is the most French of the Germanic Languages.

Alexander excellently interlaces his anecdotes with research and trends among myriad topics relating to the French Language. He flits between French history and the history of the French language. He surveys research on the neurological processes involved in language acquisition and the biology of the brain, both in its development and the effects that second languages have on them. He investigates computer-aided language learning through software like Rosetta Stone and language learning social networks, as well as machine translation methods. He dabbles in linguistics, mnemonics, and home economics as well.

I enjoyed Flirting with French; it inspires me to try again at picking up the language.