• french_guard

    There's more to language learning than vocabulary lists and grammar rules - culture is an essential element. Since language reflects culture and vice versa, fluency implies an understanding of both. If you don't know anything about wine, the Tour de France, or the French Revolution, your French is missing some context. Fill in the gaps with these books about the rich French culture.

    1. French or Foe?, by Polly PlattAn indispensable guide for anyone planning to live or work in France. With case studies and plenty of humor, Ms. Platt adroitly explains why other cultures have such a hard time dealing with the French. If you travel to France without reading this book, you may end up wishing you’d never gone.

    2. Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong, by Nadeau and Barlow  Two Canadian journalists examine every aspect of French culture and society, from language to land ownership. The light-hearted approach makes this informative book a joy to read.

    3. Fragile Glory: A Portrait of France & the French, by Richard Bernstein  The former Paris bureau chief of The New York Times, Richard Bernstein offers observations on France and the French that are as interesting as they are accurate. Bernstein documents everything and is familiar with every aspect of France: history, politics, cultural patterns.... This extensive and well-researched book provides an unbiased look at France's views on foreigners, class, power, and more.

    4. Cultural Misunderstandings: The Fr-Am Experience, by Raymonde Carroll This book looks at French culture a bit differently than the others listed here; it specifically compares and contrasts the cultures of France and the United States, and so is useful for citizens of either country. Some of the topics covered include communication styles, relationships (friendship, parent-child, couples), and blame. (Translated into English by Carol Volk)

    5. Savoir Flair!, by Polly Platt Like its predecessor, this book offers a great deal of insight into French culture, with an emphasis on enjoying France and everything it has to offer. From cafés to restaurants, from waiters to dogs, from being young to being a woman, Polly Platt, with the aid of numerous anecdotes, explains what life in France is really like.

    6. Contemporary French Cultural Studies, by Sian Reynolds, William Kidd This book consists of a series of articles about various aspects of French culture, including the influences of Africa and the US, antisemitism, movies, books, French education, and official cultural policy.

    7. French Cultural Studies: An Introduction, by Jill Forbes, M. Kelly  The essays in this book examine the changes in French culture from 1870 to 1995, with essays on art, literature science and technology, morals, feminism, war, class, and, of course, political change.

    8. Au Contraire! Figuring Out The French, by Gilles Asselin, Ruth Mastron  A book about French culture from a historical perspective. Learn about business and cultural differences between France and the US, including what to know before dating a French person, the importance of speaking French, and more.

    9. France on the Brink, by Jonathan Fenby  This controversial book avoids romantic images of baguettes and berets, and cuts to the quick with criticisms about the state of France today. Most of the book is devoted to a rant about France's unrealistic ideals, problems in society and, in particular, today's politics. While you may not agree with everything in this book, it offers an interesting perspective on contemporary France.

    10. French Ways and Their Meaning, by Edith Wharton  Originally published in 1919, this book includes Ms. Wharton's observations of the French, written in the form of letters for American and English soldie. 

Last Modified on May 20, 2010