When in French by Lauren Collins
Love in a Second Language

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 5 Critic Reviews

By the end, however, I was somewhat confused as to the larger thrust of “When in French.” Foreign languages do not seem to pose that terrible a threat to Collins’s relationship, and thus the stakes of the enterprise feel low.
-NY Times

Synopsis

A language barrier is no match for love. Lauren Collins discovered this firsthand when, in her early thirties, 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.
 

About Lauren Collins

See more books from this Author
Lauren Collins began working at the New Yorker in 2003 and became a staff writer in 2008. Her subjects have included Michelle Obama, Donatella Versace, the graffiti artist Banksy, and the chef April Bloomfield. Since 2010, she has been based in Europe, covering stories from London, Paris, Copenhagen, and beyond. Her story on the Daily Mail was recently short-listed for the Feature Story of the Year by the Foreign Press Association in London.
Author Residence: Paris, France
Author Hometown: Wilmington, North Carolina
 
Published September 13, 2016 by Penguin Press. 250 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Education & Reference, Humor & Entertainment, Travel. Non-fiction
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for When in French
All: 5 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen on Sep 18 2016

By the end, however, I was somewhat confused as to the larger thrust of “When in French.” Foreign languages do not seem to pose that terrible a threat to Collins’s relationship, and thus the stakes of the enterprise feel low.

Read Full Review of When in French: Love in a Sec... | See more reviews from NY Times

Dear Author

Above average
Reviewed by Jayne on Aug 22 2017

At long last the moment arrives when we learn the effort and lessons have not been for naught with translations from one language to another. I learned lots too and have a fun time reading about it.

Read Full Review of When in French: Love in a Sec... | See more reviews from Dear Author

NPR

Above average
Reviewed by Heller McAlpin on Sep 15 2016

Readers looking for the romantic spark of classic cross-cultural love stories featuring an effusive American and a restrained Frenchman will find flashes of it here.

Read Full Review of When in French: Love in a Sec... | See more reviews from NPR

Star Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by Maureen Mccarthy on Sep 23 2016

Chapters are broken down by tense, from the past perfect to the future, and the story lags a bit in the past. But it takes off when Collins throws herself into language classes and funny Franglish conversations with her in-laws.

Read Full Review of When in French: Love in a Sec... | See more reviews from Star Tribune

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Jenny Colgan on Nov 25 2016

This charming book is not just about the language gulf, but the gulf between all human beings, and how we all try to learn to walk in another person’s shoes...

Read Full Review of When in French: Love in a Sec... | See more reviews from Guardian

Rate this book!

Add Review
×