French Word-A-Day began in 1999 when a desert rat from Phoenix decided to share a piece of Provence from her office in the various cafés along the French Riviera. While trying to buy time at a euro ten per coffee, the writer came up with a plan to distribute her "café letters" from France. What began as an earnest attempt at freelance journalism, eventually worked itself into a more suitable self-made mêtier as resident "French Word Artisan." The handwritten café letters became blog posts, and the blog posts became books.
Although I majored in French, I still struggle daily with the language. Luckily I have two built-in tutors, my son Max and my daughter Jackie, who have taken it upon themselves to straighten out my language faux pas. Sometimes I get a bit miffed and remind them that I spoke French before they did, but they just stare back, heads shaking in disbelief.
1990. Aix-en-Provence. While on a language exchange program from Arizona State University, I was
dancing the night away wholly devoted to study when I met my future (French) husband. Not two years later, I packed three cardboard U-Haul boxes and said adieu to the Phoenix desert.
Based on the popular blog and newsletter with thousands of subscribers -- a heart-winning collection from an American woman raising two very French children with her French husband in Provence, carrying on a lifelong love affair with the language.
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 learning 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 in the tradition of books such as A Year in Provence and Almost French, 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.
Reviews of Words in a French Life:
“Take a great trip with a memorable travel book.” —Real Simple Magazine
“Espinasse recounts her adventures with honesty and humor, never afraid to have a good laugh at her own expense.” —Publishers Weekly
“Charming…the essays exude a warm familiarity and include situations familiar to families and travelers everywhere.” —Library Journal
"Living in Provence for over 10 years with her French husband and children, Espinasse imparts her wisdom via humorous short stories about daily life, an excellent vehicle for learning vocabulary." --France Today
"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... 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." —American Library Association
"A former Phoenix resident and a self-publishing success story, Espinasse parlays her popular blog (french-word-a -day.com) into a book-length reflection on life as an émigré." --Arizona Republic
"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." --Helena Wallace
"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! ...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!" (reader in Carcassonne, France)
"Terrific book! As an American wanting to pick up more French, I find "Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France" a simply delightful read. This is a great book to pick up and read the very well written and reflective antidotes. As a librarian, I will make sure this book is available at our library. Kristen touches my soul with each chapter as a parent, a lover of the French language, one married to an immigrant...and oh,on so many levels. I find myself associating with her writing "from the heart". She truly speaks the language, the tongue of many with finesse! Love this book. Tres bien! Encore, encore!!" --J. McArdle
Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi