What do you admire about French as a language?
Julie: After writing The Story of French, what I admire most about French is the resilience of French-speakers. We visited 15 French-speaking countries during our research, as well as Louisiana, and we discovered that francophones everywhere are amazingly united in their determination to preserve and spread their language. The French today don’t sound too enthusiastic about their language on the international stage, but trust us, behind the scenes, they are still working hard to promote their language in the world.
Do you think the French language is in decline?
Julie: Absolutely not. The number of French-speakers on the planet has tripled in the last 50 years and is increasing, not decreasing. There is nothing to suggest that this will change any time soon. French remains a language of social promotion in almost every country where it’s spoken. French is still the world’s first foreign language choice after English, with 100 million students and two million teachers across the planet and it is an official language in 33 countries — compared to 45 for English. During our travels, we discovered that the networks forming between francophone countries — to promote business, science, intellectual and cultural exchange in French — are expanding, not shrinking.
Do you have any tips for getting to grips with French as an adult?
Julie: I learned French as an adult and have published in French for the last fifteen years, so it’s not impossible! I think the key is not to be intimidated. French has the reputation of being a difficult language but a lot of this comes from the attitude French speakers have toward their language, not from the language itself. French-speakers are perfectionists about their language, although, of course, no one actually speaks the language perfectly. In The Story of French, we explain where this attitude comes from and why it has remained strong throughout the centuries.
Do you have any more books in the pipeline?
Julie: We are in the process of writing The Story of Spanish, a language we are both passionate about.