William Alexander is more than a Francophile. He wants to be French. To sip absinthe at the window of a dark café, a long scarf wrapped around his neck, a copy of Le Monde at hand. Among the things that have stood in his way of becoming French, though, is the fact that he can’t actually speak the language. So Alexander sets out to conquer the language he loves. Readers will find out if it loves him back.
Alexander eats, sleeps, and dreams French. (He even conjugates in his dreams.) And while he’s playing hooky from grammar lessons and memory techniques, he travels to France, delves into the colorful history of the French language and the science of linguistics, and even goes to Google to find out what’s taking them so long to perfect translation software. Finally, he contemplates how it can be that in French, breasts are masculine and beards are feminine, and tries to make sense of idioms like c’est la fin des haricots (it’s the end of the beans)—which means, appropriately enough, “it’s hopeless.” But ca ne fait rien! (No matter!) What Bill Alexander learns while not learning French is its own reward.