Sonderbooks     Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

More Info from

Rate this Book

Sonderbooks 71
Next Book

        Previous Book
Next Book
Young Adult Fiction
Children's Nonfiction
Children's Fiction
Picture Books

2003 Stand-outs
2002 Stand-outs
2001 Stand-outs

Five-Star Books
Four-Star Books
    Previous Book
    Next Book

Old Favorites
Back Issues
List of Reviews by Title
List of Reviews by Author

Links For Book Lovers

About Me
Contact Me
Post on Bulletin Board

I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations


****The Philosopher's Demise

Learning to Speak French

by Richard Watson

Reviewed February 3, 2004.
A Nonpareil Book (David R. Godine), Boston, 1995.  121 pages.
Available on in paperback for $11.17.
Available at Sembach Library (818.54 WAT).

Last December, sent me an e-mail about this book that sounded so intriguing, I decided that if I didn’t get the book for Christmas, I would buy it myself after Christmas.  The very next day, the book showed up in a big box of new books at the library!  I checked it out as soon as we got it processed.

Richard Watson is a top American scholar of Cartesian philosophy.  He is good at reading French, and has even translated books from French.  Speaking French, however, is another matter.  When he learned he would have to give a paper in French, he determined that, at last, he would learn to speak it.

The task was not an easy one.  Apparently reading and speaking French are two very different things.  (I have complete sympathy with him based on my experiences with German.)  First, he took private lessons with a native French speaker.  Then the real cross-cultural experiences began when he took French classes in Paris.

Imagine, if you will, an American university professor taking classes in a place where it is acceptable to call students an idiot or an imbecile.  Where it is considered incomprehensible to want to see your scores on an exam that you failed.  The French definitely handle classes differently than Americans do.

Richard Watson provides many humorous and insightful comments on French people and French culture and language, which in turn sheds light on Americans and our beliefs and customs.  He has turned a humiliating, difficult experience into a triumph of insight into human nature.

I love cross-cultural books, especially books about the cultures of Europe, which we don’t immediately realize are so different from our own.  An entertaining and enlightening book.

Copyright © 2004 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

-top of page-