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Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France [Paperback]

Kristin Espinasse

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Book Description

May 1 2007
Imagine a former French major getting vocabulary tips from her young children! That was the experience of Kristin Espinasse, an American who fell in love with a Frenchman and moved to his country to marry him and start a family. When her children began speaking the language, she found herself falling in love with it all over again. To relate the stories of her sometimes bumpy, often comic, and always poignant assimilation, she created a blog called "French Word a Day," drawing more admirers than she ever could have imagined.

With an approach that is as charming as it is practical, Espinasse shares her story through the everyday French words and phrases that never seem to make it to American classrooms. "Comptoir" ("counter") is a piece about the intricacies of grocery shopping in France, and "Linge" ("laundry") swoons over the wonderful scent the laundry has after being hung out in the French countryside while "Toquade" ("crush") tells of Espinasse's young son, who begins piling gel onto his hair before school each morning when he becomes smitten with a girl in class.

Steeped in French culture but experienced through American eyes, Words in a French Life will delight armchair travelers, Francophiles, and mothers everywhere.

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Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France + Blossoming in Provence
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; 1 edition (May 1 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743287290
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743287296
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 14.9 x 18.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #300,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Vignettes and vocabulary create the base for this lighthearted memoir by Espinasse, whose blog "French Word-A-Day" spawned three self-published books. Born and raised in Phoenix, Ariz., Espinasse followed her heart to France, where she married and started a family. Thirteen years later, she still endures being labeled l'Américaine and experiences the indignities of grammar correction (by her own children, no less). Each short chapter (some are just one page) is inspired by a French word, shares a brief anecdote about French life (incorporating French words into the text), and ends with a list of all of the vocabulary words used in the anecdote, their English translation and a list of expressions using the word. In between explaining words like complicité("closeness, complicity") and égard ("consideration"), Espinasse recounts her adventures, from fitting in with the French moms to undergoing culture shock on return visits to the States, with honesty and humor, never afraid to have a good laugh at her own expense. With its innovative and entertaining way of teaching the finer points of French, Espinasse's memoir will be popular with travelers and expats alike. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Blogger Espinasse has taken a step backward in the evolution of media by converting selected contents of her Web log into a book. Her popular blog covers a different French word each day for an English-speaking audience. Espinasse's "definitions" come from her everyday experiences, particularly those provoked by her children's frequent delight at their mother's mistakes, misuses, and mispronunciation of words. When her son asks her to pass the ficelle, she searches the table for a string, not comprehending at first that the same word applies to an exceptionally narrow loaf of bread. Her daughter's loss of a baby tooth reminds Espinasse that French children earn a visit from the little mouse, not the tooth fairy. By birth an Arizonan, Espinasse has full command of English, so her explanations are lucid and helpful. Beginning students of conversational French will profit from many of these brief entries, and supplemental tables of expressions go far to demystify French idioms for anyone wishing to speak and write more fluent French. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  55 reviews
56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute pleasure for all readers May 22 2006
By Helena Wallace - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This isn't the France of travel magazines and guidebooks. It is France seen with the discerning eye of a writer, the loving heart of a mother and the self-effacing wit of an easy-going American in the land of women who iron their children's pajamas. The book's format - weaving French lessons into vignettes of her life in South France - is quite unique and I loved learning the kind of colloquial French I didn't get in classes. But what makes the book so special is Espinasse's humanity. Anyone can describe lavender, cobblestones and the pecadilloes of the French, but here is a woman who notices the little ironies and blessings in everyday life common to us all and has the talent to render them with humor, grace and charm. Even after I finished, I kept picking it up to reread. It's that good.
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Words of French Wisdom Feb. 28 2006
By Lauragais - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A perfect book for lovers of France and the French language, for armchair travelers and wishful thinkers - and for newcomers who wish to understand more of the mysterious French ways! How come I write about this book? This is easily explained: for some years I've been one of the lucky e-mail subscribers to Kristin Espinasse's French-Word-A-Day writings (on which the book is based), providing wonderfully witty, humorous and helpful, poetic and profound insights into her life in France. We share her children's growing up in France, we are informed about her husband's work in his vineyards, we get to know her relationship with neighbors and friends, we read about those precious moments when her adopted country generously opens up new horizons for thought and outlook on life in general and especially in France. Always her observations are presented with great respect for the people she meets, never putting them down, yet keeping just enough distance to see and listen to them with a writer's mind. If you want to get into a French mood, if you plan to travel to France, virtual or otherwise, or if you just want to be entertained in an amusing, intelligent and uplifting way, this book is truly a must-have. It not only includes those lovingly detailed stories but provides helpful examples on proper use of words and phrases. Oh, and yes, you do brush up your French in a most entertaining and easy fashion: learning a language can indeed be fun! Put it on your list of Books to Buy - you can't go wrong!
47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Special Person and a Very Special Book June 20 2006
By Jeanette Locker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As someone who has read just about every book written by individuals who have chosen to live in France, I rate this book at the top of the list. I first became aware of Kristin's blog when I was attempting to improve my French. In reality, I continue to read Kristin's pieces because she is witty, a great writer, and most of all not pretentious. She is so sincere, and you feel a special closeness to her because she speaks from the heart. She has become "mon amie" from France who always makes me smile.
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dreaming in French with Kristy! April 14 2006
By Corey Amaro - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Kristy writes with charming simplicity! Her words capture our imagination taking us behind the blue shutters of Provence. There her hand opens wide the view of the life we dream to see inside...cupboards full of homemade goodness, baskets stacked high of humor, dresser drawers overflowing with lavender-scented laundry! Kristy shows us her family, their lives in France, with her collection of tender hearted love and words that you want gobble up page by page!

A wonderful, delightful, enchanting book to help you learn French while eating a baguette and saying, "Bien Bien Encore!"
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hey! They're just like us .... June 1 2007
By Ellie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The value of this charming and instructive book by a natural writer and observer of the (French) social scene is that it makes picking up new vocabulary easy because you remember the lovely stories in which they were packaged.

This is part soap opera, part cultural exchange, part charming honesty, part ingenuousness, and, overall, a very natural and entertaining way to enhance one's French vocabulary at the same time one gains an understanding of the culture that comes along with that language.

It is delightful to be a fly on the wall during the culture shock of a French major from the American Southwest finding love and community in La France.

I have been a reader of her blog for a while and benefited from that, but it is a different, and better, experience to read some of her best columns in book form, which, by the way, suggests in its design the south of France, a Mediterranean touch stylewise. It's a handsome dustcover.

This unique book will have you learning French while chuckling at her account of getting 'hung up' on entering the church for her wedding. Such refreshing candor! You'll love this book.

Addenda:

Kristin's web columns are so good I wondered how I could access as many as possible of her previous work. Voila! As a Google mail holder, I found could go to one of their services called Google Reader which allows one to add RSS (really simple syndication) feeds to that page and access them in a convenient fashion (summary or listing). When I added the URL for her webpage, Google went out, got the RSS and placed it on a list to the left of the page. I found the LIST format most useful for scrolling backwards in time more than a year to see all her French Words on which I could click to get the original page with all her vocabulary suggestions and her delightful stories.

Her genius is that she places new French vocablulary gently amongst a story, otherwise in English, that is so interesting that one wants to read it to the end, and then look over the associated words and phrases.

In effect, one learns new French words from the context in which they are placed in the English language story. Enormously clever and effective. It resembles the way we learn vocabulary in our own language: from context.

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