I'm more than a Francophile. I want to be French. There's one small obstacle though:
I don't speak la langue française. In Flirting with French, I set out to conquer the language I love.
Readers will find out if it loves me back. I eat, breathe, and sleep French (even conjugating — badly — in my dreams).
I travel to France, where mistranslations send me bicycling off in all sorts of wrong directions, and I nearly drown
in an immersion class in Provence, where, faced with the riddle of masculine breasts, feminine beards, and a turkey cutlet of
uncertain gender, I start to wonder if I should've taken up golf instead of French.
While playing hooky from grammar lessons and memory techniques, I report on the riotous workings of the Académie française,
the 400-year-old institution charged with keeping the language pure; explore the science of human communication,
learning why it's harder for fifty-year-olds to learn a second language than it is for five-year-olds;
and, when all else fails, head to an IBM research lab, where I trade barbs with a futuristic hand-held translator.
From Rosetta Stone software, to French pen pals, to local meet-ups, to getting an fMRI of my brain on French,
I leave no stone unturned in my quest. Do I succeed in becoming fluent?
Readers will be as surprised as I was to discover that, in a bizarre twist, studying French may have had a far greater impact
on my life than actually learning to speak it ever would.