French Heart

Photo: Lisa Morris

Is French really the language of love?

Because today is St. Valentine ’s Day, we thought the question was à propos. The Forum mondial de la langue française blog (The French Language World Forum) asked their readers to send in their favourite quotes, definitions and declarations of love.

Readers had no problem coming up with quotes that did justice to the four letter word. For example, Richard Seke from South Africa shared, “The verb “to love” is only good when it’s conjugated in the present. If it’s conjugated in the past, it makes you cry, and in the future, you can only dream.”

It’s not easy to combine love and language.  Jean Cocteau once said “Le verbe aimer est difficile à conjuguer : son passé n’est pas simple, son présent n’est qu’indicatif, et son futur est toujours conditionnel” (The verb “to love” is hard to conjugate: its past is not simple, its present is merely indicative, and its future is always conditional).

In the same vein, the pataphysician Henri Jeanson declared, “Aimer est un verbe irréfléchi (Love is a thoughtless verb).

Some of the readers shared personal quotes, like Eliana Mestas de Leclerc who wrote, “I love the words you say. I love you, my love…”

Djiboutien Abdo Halas wrote, “The person that loves you accepts you unconditionally and will follow you anywhere, regardless of where you go; they will trust your decisions.” Two minutes later he added, “I want to live by your side, die in your arms and be buried under you.”

The majority of the readers sought to define love. Emina Jemal from Dakar took a psychoanalytic approach when she wrote, “Love is giving what we do not have to someone who does not want it.” Rocher Chadrak Chembessi from Benin wrote, “Love is not only about loving, it’s also about understanding.”

The French Language World Forum’s Communications Officer, Marie Lavoie, borrowed the words of Proust to describe love: L’amour, c’est l’espace et le temps rendus sensibles au coeur” (Love is space and time that becomes susceptible to the heart).

Interestingly no one quoted Gainsbourg’s famous line, “Je t’aime, moi non plus” (I love you, me neither). But two surprising observations were made. When it came to quotes, few came outside the literary world, with the exception of Bruno Marchal who shared a quote from Louis Malle’s film: Ascenseur pour l’échafaud: “Je t’aime. Si je n’entendais pas ta voix, je serais perdu dans un pays de silence” (I love you. If I couldn’t hear your voice, I would be lost in a land of silence).

Secondly, there weren’t many who crossed the language barrier except for Cristina who quoted the Romanian writer Marin Preda, “Daca dragoste nu e, nimic nu e”(Without love there is nothing).

Wasn’t it Paul Géraldy who said: “Il faut se ressembler un peu pour se comprendre, mais il faut être un peu différent pour s’aimer” (We have to be alike to understand one another, but a bit different to love one another)? In any case, that is the whole idea behind the French Language World Forum.

Happy Valentine’s Day!