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Speak the Culture: France Paperback – January 18, 2008

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Speak the Culture: France + The French Way : Aspects of Behavior, Attitudes, and Customs of the French + Au Contraire: Figuring Out the French, 2nd edition
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Product Details

  • Series: Speak the Culture
  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Thorogood; Bilingual edition (January 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1854184938
  • ISBN-13: 978-1854184931
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #255,080 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"How refreshing and, to be honest, reassuring to come across a book of such high quality.... If you want to unravel French DNA, read this book. Thanks to good research and a modern, reader-friendly layout, it paints a true picture of French culture in such a way that you can read about a subject thoroughly or just pick little snippets of interesting information....This is a very impressive book indeed...a pleasure to read ....It should come with a 'Learning guaranteed' certificate."

"In intelligent tabloid style, it gallops through history (from Cro-Magnon to Sarkozy in 14 pages: brilliant), art, literature, music, food and more besides. Overlooking hardly anything of importance, it's a miracle of compression spiced with good trivia....Read the book carefully and you will have the skeleton of French culture."

"Even as Eurostar relocates to a gloriously refurbished St Pancras station and the journey time between London and Paris is shaved even closer, more and more people on both sides of the Channel are taking advantage of the extra opportunities this highly cherishable link offers us. And for those already in love with France (not to mention the ever-increasing legions of converts), Speak the Culture: France will be an invaluable aid and companion.

Actually, no publisher has attempted anything quite like this, and the publishers Thorogood are to be much applauded for their ingenuity and achievement. The subtitle is Be fluent in French Life and Culture, and that facility is just what this remarkable volume offers, cramming an amazing mass of information into its well-designed pages. Everything is here, from French art and literature, architecture, media, sport, fashion and (of course) food and drink. But while not being in the slightest dumbed down, the information here (while often dealing with such weighty subjects as Proust and French existential philosophers) is delivered in a concise and highly accessible style (and aided considerably by the clever graphics which have a nicely self-mocking subtext--when was that last seen in a book on a foreign country?).

So, you're sitting on Eurostar, and a fresh espresso is to hand. Don't reach for the glossy magazine the train company provides--crack open Speak the Culture: France and you'll be thoroughly tooled up for your visit to the City of Light."

"For anybody living in France, visiting the country on holiday or simply interested in French life, Speak the Culture: France is essential reading."

"A veritable cultural kaleidoscope of famous, influential and significant activities, events, place and people that add up to France."

About the Author

Andrew Whittaker has travelled widely and written extensively on France and the Mediterranean countries.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By I.M.A. on May 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book is a great reference on many aspects of the French civilisation in its current state as well as its history. Luckily it lacks that unavoidable "I Love France but Not the French" Anglo-Saxon attitude (or at least it is not that pronounced as elsewhere due the the format of the book) which is a very rare thing in itself for a book about France written in English.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gwendolyn K. Crawford on December 2, 2013
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This volume is a treasure trove of information that will help American visitors recognize some of the cultural pitfalls that await them in France.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Speak the Culture - France: Be Fluent in French Life and Culture is an absolute must-have book. This 295-page book is extremely good at helping us to get inside the French mind to best understand the culture and people speaking the language. Surely, all of this will make our second trip to Paris and then Lyon even more fun, better and interesting than before. Yet another must-have book to buy on Amazon if you really want to truly understand and enjoy traveling to France, exploring French culture, and learning the language. Best of all, it can be read chapter-by-chapter, or in order of personal interest. The perfect French culture reference book in English.
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9 of 15 people found the following review helpful By faith on August 17, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Looking at the cover of this book, I found myself thinking, "Oh...F. Couldn't the author sit still long enough to put some other letters in there....an R, A, N, C...E, maybe? Then people would know what the book is about."
And as I read through it, I found myself thinking, "Oh...couldn't the writer sit still long enough to write more than 5 sentences on each subject...? Then people would know what the book is about."

Well, not that I didn't generally know - it was about "F".

The basic lack of structure, analysis, organization, and in-depth coverage of topics made this book a very hard read. First, it is split into various chapters on the different aspects of life and culture in France. Those chapters - while following a basic theme - are riddled with side notes, footnotes, and, in the case of some pages, with only notes.

There wasn't enough information provided on any one topic to make me feel like I'd actually learned anything. And, faced with so many loosely connected facts at a time, I wasn't able to retain any of them. When something caught my attention I had to google it to actually understand it.

I'm sure some would think it an interesting read; maybe people already highly knowledgeable about France would find the odd fact here and there to talk about over hors d'oeuvres at a chic party overlooking the Seine...but for people looking to gain beginning insight into the country and the culture, a fairly comprehensive picture, I would suggest a different read.
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