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When in French

Love in a Second Language
Narrated by: Khristine Hvam
Length: 7 hrs and 44 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (57 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A language barrier is no match for love. Lauren Collins discovered this firsthand when, in her early 30s, she moved to London and fell for a Frenchman named Olivier - a surprising turn of events for someone who didn't have a passport until she was in college. But what does it mean to love someone in a second language? Collins wonders, as her relationship with Olivier continues to grow entirely in English. Are there things she doesn't understand about Olivier, having never spoken to him in his native tongue? Does "I love you" even mean the same thing as "je t'aime"? When the couple, newly married, relocates to Francophone Geneva, Collins - fearful of one day becoming "a Borat of a mother" who doesn't understand her own kids - decides to answer her questions for herself by learning French.

When in French is a laugh-out-loud funny and surprising memoir about the lengths we go to for love, as well as an exploration across culture and history into how we learn languages - and what they say about who we are. Collins grapples with the complexities of the French language, enduring excruciating role-playing games with her classmates at a Swiss language school and accidently telling her mother-in-law that she's given birth to a coffee machine. In learning French, Collins must wrestle with the very nature of French identity and society - which, it turns out, is a far cry from life back home in North Carolina. Plumbing the mysterious depths of humanity's many forms of language, Collins describes with great style and wicked humor the frustrations, embarrassments, surprises, and, finally, joys of learning - and living - in French.

©2016 Lauren Collins (P)2016 Penguin Audio

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Not What I Expected

I thought this would be a fun listen about a couple and their culture clash, on a personal level and not peripherally. Instead, it is a chiefly a rather dry showcase of the author's vocabulary and knowledge of linguistics. Tres dommage.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Blends the Linguistic and Personal to Great Effect

If you are interested in language, this is the book for you. Ms. Collins folds in her personal experience of learning French as an adult -- while sharing its humor, challenges, and occasional pain -- with some fascinating insights into language itself.

The English narration is energetic and expressive. The one drawback -- and it is not negligible if you understand French -- is the mediocre pronunciation of French terms, of which there are many throughout the book. In that case, it would be easier to read than to listen to if you want to understand exactly what is on the page.

For an audio book, this was a serious oversight, but it doesn't ultimately detract from the quality of the book itself.

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More than expected!

I have a French sister in law and nephew, so this seemed perfect for me as I try and recall all the French I learned in high school and college and have started listening to tapes so I can visit them in France. Besides the authors personal experience, there are lots of interesting facts about the history of French and language in general that I was not expecting but found fascinating! Feeling more inspired to keep trying. Je veux parler Francais!