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The Bonjour Effect: The Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed Paperback – May 9, 2017
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Praise for The Bonjour Effect:
"The authors clearly had a ball researching the book, and their glee is infectious. The writing is as light as it is substantive, and if that sounds like a contradiction, I would refer you to a soufflé"– New York Times Book Review
"Whether you're an expat in France, or simply dream of living there one day, The Bonjour Effect is a helpful resource to cracking the arcane cultural code. Engaging and often funny, filled with examples drawn from the authors' experiences, this is a guide to the most essential of French arts: conversation." – Ann Mah, author of Mastering the Art of French Eating
“Whether “bonjour” is the beginning or the end of your French vocabulary, you’ll find something fascinating, surprising, or just plain fou on nearly every page. Before reading this invaluable codebook to French language and culture, I feared that I’d somehow insulted every French waiter, shopkeeper, and clerk between Paris and Nice. Now I know I did, but at least I know why!”― William Alexander, author of Flirting with French
“I love this book!” ― Michael Patrick Shiels, Michigan’s Big Show
“Very funny.” ― Rudy Maxa’s World with the Careys
“There’s a lot more than irregular verbs in conversing with the French.” ― Sonali Karnick, All In a Weekend, CBC Montreal
“Packed with fascinating insights.” ― 49th Shelf
“A lively and informative description of the country’s cultural habits and social codes. First-time travellers to France will find useful tips, and for most North Americans this is a good introduction to the long history and complex culture of the country.” ― Lysiane Gagnon, The Globe and Mail
Praise for The Story of French:
“A well-told, highly accessible history of the French language that leads to a spirited discussion of the prospects for French in an increasingly English-dominated world.” ―William Grimes, The New York Times
“Exceptionally told, a celebration of the lasting influence of la langue francaise.” ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Excellent...An engaging and well-conceived book. Highly recommended.” ―Library Journal
“Francophiles will be well-served by the care and detail with which the authors handle their subject, while English speakers will find an illuminating portrait of Gallic sensibility.” ―Publishers Weekly
Praise for Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong:
“Learning to love the French as they are.” ― The New York Times
“…finally there is a book which explains in non-romantic, lucid terms, better than anything else I have read, why the French are as they are…Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong should be handed out at Calais and Charles de Gaulle airport to anyone hoping to get a grip on France and make a holiday or life work here.” ― The Daily Telegraph
“Sixty Million Frenchmen does its job marvelously well. After reading it, you may still think the French are arrogant, aloof and high-handed, but you will know why.” ―The Wall Street Journal
“…simply marvellous. Sixty Million Frenchmen will interest those readers who want to understand what makes the French mind go tickety-tock. And it will definitely help smooth anyone’s introduction to this puzzling and beautiful country.” ―The Globe and Mail
“… a hard-eyed and mostly affectionate survey of what makes French society tick and why outsiders, and particularly North Americans, so often misread it.” ― The Toronto Star
“…a must read for Francophiles and surprise hit of the year…Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong [is a ] penetrating and witty enquiry by two Canadian journalists into the unique essence of being French.” ―Critic’s Choice, The Daily Mail
“A surprising book written with a touch of humour, that combs through all the ticks and obsessions of the French.” ― Le Monde.fr
“It’s the story of two Canadians, who, coming out of nowhere, help us see ourselves in a different light.” ―Le Figaro
“An invigorating read” ― Bernard Pivot
About the Author
JEAN-BENOIT NADEAU and JULIE BARLOW are the award-winning authors of The Story of French, The Story of Spanish, and the bestselling Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't be Wrong. They live in Canada.
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Top Customer Reviews
She glared at me coldly, before saying, in perfect English, "I do not speak English."
I blushed furiously and rushed to the room I shared with my friends. I did not speak French for the remainder of the trip.
The lesson was not that I should have worked harder on my conversational skills, or that the French are as rude as stereotypes would have us believe--though both of those statements contain a kernel of truth. The lesson is that, in total ignorance, I committed a horrible faux pas, I did not first greet Madame with a sincere, "Bonjour," and I did not give her the chance to reciprocate with her own , "Bonjour."
This funny and well-written book is not about the French language as much as it is about the culture of French language. There are certain topics you would never discuss in polite company, and there are certain key phrases that will open all kinds of doors.
"Bonjour" is a case in point: every social transaction, no matter how brief, should start with this word. If you know that, you can use your high school French to actually talk to people. If you don't know that, you will be treated like a pariah.
There is much more to the book: the educational system, navigating bureaucracy, making friends (as opposed to acquaintances), etc. It is a must-read for anyone planning to visit the country, and it should be required reading in every high school French curriculum.
It's fascinating, and I can't put the book down.
It makes me want to visit Paris again. And stay at the same hostel, where Madame is probably still knitting. I would march up to her desk and say, with utter confidence, and in fairly good French, "Bonjour."
And then when she replies with "Bonjour, " I would follow with, "Those are hideous colors for a scarf."
If you have visited France and spent any time in an art museum there, you will probably have overheard one or more French persons going on at great length about the paintings--a work's meaning, the artist's motivation, how the piece fits into the culture of the time, etc. Chances are that the speakers are not art historians or museum docents, but simply average Frenchmen, products of an education system that places great importance on expressing ideas orally at every opportunity.
For the outsider the great lesson learned from the first chapter of the book is that you never ever start an oral exchange with a Frenchman at any level without a heartfelt, sincere "Bonjour", followed by a few additional pleasantries. Inattention to that beginning can negate the whole attempt to communicate.
From personal experience I can attest to the importance of this standard beginning to communication. As tourists having breakfast in a simple 7th Arrondisement cafe , we witnessed a breakdown in the ritual between two archetypical Parisians; a delivery man wheeled cases of beer into the cafe, ignoring the proprietress/manager of the place and simply dropping off the booze in the back before turning around and leaving the way he came in. The proprietress' eyebrows flew up and she muttered (but loud enough for everyone to hear), "Sauvage!) as the delivery guy left.
While much of this book is devoted to language, it also covers French culture, economics and politics very credibly. While I wouldn't normally recommend it, one way to start this very worthy book might be to read its epilogue which lists succinctly what is needed to communicate meaningfully with the French.
If you give "The Bonjour Effect" a try and like it as much as I did, you might give Oliver Magny's "Stuff Parisians Like" a look as well. Magny's approach is a bit more light hearted and quite funny, but he explores the same cultural and language corners that "The Bonjour Effect" looks into.