Discussion│French vs. English (or a bookish spin on “nature vs. nurture”)

french vs englishYes, my floor is atrocious. I live in a flat and the company that run the building decided to get us this super ugly orange speckled linoleum… Unfortunately I had no other place to take this picture. Sorry.

You may or may not know this, but I am French. I live in France and all that jazz. And you might wonder:

But why do you have a blog in English? Why don’t you have a French blog (because French book blogs are a thing)? Do you only read in English? What about French authors? Why not read the French translations of books? So does this mean you don’t even support the book industry of your country?

Those are all valid questions. I don’t necessarily have elaborate answers for these, but they still are a bunch of questions that I ask myself.

Why English?

When I was about 10 years old, Friends was on cable TV in France, and if you caught it at the right time, you’d see it in English with French subtitles. This is basically how I learned to speak English (or at least get the basics). From that moment on I became very interested in the English language and at that age, I just thought that being able to speak and understand a foreign language was so cool.

Much later on, I started an English degree at University and had to read books in English (some people still read the French translations, but that’s another discussion). By that point I had hardly read in English at all, I was still just too afraid to not understand enough of the words and miss out on the plot (people from my year already dove into reading in English with Harry Potter, but I wasn’t confident enough to even try that). Anyway, university happened, and I realised that I could read in English without much trouble and then a whole new world opened to me.

Why read a translation when you can read the original text?

Having studied translation myself and tried my hand at it, I know that a translation is never 100% faithful to the original work, so since I have the ability to read English, if the book has been written in English in the first place, then I want to read it in the language it was written in. Just as I would never read an English translation of a French work. This makes no sense. Although, believe that I have been tempted, because some English editions of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables are gorgeous whereas the French editions are just plain ugly (and divided into 2 or 3 volumes, which annoys me a lot).

Do you still read in French?

Eh. Not so much. I’m not that interested in the contemporary authors that are very popular in France at the moment (Marc Levy, Guillaume Musso) and to be honest, I don’t even keep up with it and look for the new releases. I guess that’s bad of me. I should give more credit to the literature of my own country.
But another thing: books in France are so expensive! You should know first off that hardbacks don’t exist basically. When there is a new release, it is published as a tall paperback, but still a paperback, and it is usually priced 20-25€, which is really expensive in my opinion. Ebooks are not so much better since they usually retail at 15-20€ (I kid you not). So if I really want to read a French book, I have to wait for it to be published as a mass market paperback. (Yes, I know, libraries are an option too).

At this point, it’s not that I don’t like French literature, it’s just that I don’t look for it and don’t know what is going on in the French book world. The books I hear about are usually English or American (thanks BookTube), so that’s what I end up reading. Recently I heard about a French sci-fi “masterpiece”, and since I’m really into sci-fi lately, I had to get it. Still haven’t read it, but at least I have it.

But what about your blog?

Well… I don’t know that I have a perfect answer for this. After years of reading in English, listening to music in English, watching TV and movies in English… I guess sometimes English comes more naturally to me, like I think and dream in English at this point, it’s kinda crazy. Don’t get me wrong though, I do not speak/write in perfect English, there are still plenty of stuff that I’m sure I don’t know how to say, and I write in a very casual way, so nothing too fancy.

There is also this little thing in the back of my head that tells me that one of my goals would be to live in an English speaking country. Always has been. So having a blog in English, making me read and write in English, I suppose it is a way for me to flex my English muscles (so to speak). I would love to be perfectly bilingual and that you would not be able to tell that I have an accent when I speak (I’m still working on that, that’s the hardest part).

There’s also the fact that it seems to me that writing a blog in English will eventually reach more people.

I am aware of the existence of a pretty large community of French book bloggers and BookTubers, I just don’t partake in it. Which is bad, I guess. I watch a couple of French BookTubers, but I still haven’t found someone that make me excited about the books they’re reading…

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I don’t really know how or why I became obsessed with watching and reading everything in English (I even speak English with some of my French friends on social media, which is really weird when you think about it), but it just happened. I suppose you could say I just make things harder for me, because reading in French is actually easier, but as I said… I like being able to read the text as the author intended to write it, so I mainly read in English, and since I mainly read in English, I blog in English as well…

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What about you guys? Anyone in the same boat as me? Or not? Maybe you like reading books in your own language. Tell me everything.

One thought on “Discussion│French vs. English (or a bookish spin on “nature vs. nurture”)

  1. I find it weird too. Two French talking in English. But sometimes it’s just easier. I’m sure you didn’t say: “hey let’s talk in English from now on okay?” It just came naturally. It is the same for me.
    Some subjects too are easier to talk about in English. I haven’t studied English but I do that too :).
    When I was a kid and stumbled upon an English article I’d just close it. But when I learned a bit more. It is just like you said opened a new world.
    With books, being independent of the French publisher is also a plus.

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