What is your connection to the French language and/or francophone culture?Years ago as a B.U. undergrad, I spent a semester abroad in Grenoble, France, at the foot of the French Alps, learning French at the nearby university. Prior to leaving, we completed a pre-travel questionnaire to indicate housing preferences; I asked to live with a host family who owned a dog. My thinking was that if I was unsuccessful in learning French or felt lonely, at least I’d have someone to hang out with! Thankfully, my language skills developed, so my host family’s golden retriever Cesar was not my only friend.
I loved my five months living in France, and connected with its joie de vivre spirit - appreciating life's simple pleasures, finding beauty in everyday life, with high regard for the arts. It was a cultural awakening. At the end of the term, I vowed to continue with my new language skills and carry on at least some of the lifestyle habits I’d adopted while living in France. (I’m looking at you, crêpes au citron!)
Alas, thirty-something years passed, and regrettably, I lost much of what I’d learned. With the pandemic, I began to practice French at home using Duolingo. I was again reminded of the beauty of the French language. The simplest phrase: “Je ne sais pas”. That lovely “zh” sound at the start, how it zooms into the “n” sound, glides to the open song of “sais”, finishing in the gentle sigh of “pas”. Compared to English: “I don’t know.” Three short words, not particularly mellifluous, not particularly memorable. I love English, but for sound alone, French, c’est magnifique! French has that je ne sais quoi that makes all those speaking it sound more sophisticated, and all those hearing it feel more cultivated. It is impossible not to stand a bit straighter while speaking in French.
"My daily French practice led to watching French shows (Call My Agent, Lupin), listening to French music (Jacqueline François ), and culminated in a trip to Paris this past July. Joining the French Library of Boston became the obvious next step. "
How long have you been a member here and why did you decide to become a member of the French Library?I’ve been a member of the Library since the fabulous Open House night in mid-September. I attended in hopes to take my informal language study out of the house and into the world, and practice conversing in French with others. The event was a great opportunity to meet fellow francophiles and officially become a member.
I enjoyed the festive band as well as un verre de vin on a school night. (I am a teacher, and it takes a lot to get me out on a school night!) At the book sale area, I discovered a children’s dictionary called Le Robert Junior, Illustré, showing pictures of objects along with their names in French. I have similar English resources for my students, and now here I am, referring to the same resource as an adult re-learning French. I will not reveal how frequently I need to use it.
What do you like about being a member at the Center? Do you have any favorite classes or events that you have participated in?I enjoy many things about being a new member, but at the top of the list are the new people I’ve met. Tout le monde est très gentil! Staff and members have been wonderful to get to know. Meeting new people can be a challenge when you live a busy life. What a nice benefit to be in a place where you know that you already share a common interest with others, and have a built-in basis for conversation.
I also enjoy perusing the Event Calendar, sent monthly: Author talks, conversation nights, lectures, wine tastings - a great variety of happenings from which to choose. Adding events to my calendar brings another built-in bonus: the anticipation of the event itself. It is a scientific fact that having something enjoyable to anticipate can be as satisfying as the happening itself. (Think tax day, but the opposite!)
I also love the opportunity to appreciate the beautiful neighborhood where the Library resides. As a Boston-area native, I adore the character and charm of the Back Bay. I intentionally park several blocks away to enjoy a lovely stroll down Marlborough Street, the epitome of old, classic Boston. (Fans of the Spenser detective series by Robert B. Parker will know that the books’ main character also lived on Marlborough Street. I think of it every time!) The graceful brownstone building of the Library is simply spectacular, and matches magnificently with its purpose: the celebration of the beauty of France and French culture. Is there any neighborhood more elegant in Boston? Is there any culture more elegant than French?
If you could travel to any Francophone country, what would it be and why?If I could travel to any francophone country, I’d return to France, as I did this summer. My dream, in fact, is to visit Paris yearly. I love to wander the neighborhoods - particularly the 6ème arrondissement - enjoying the lovely architecture, exquisite parks and museums, and incredible food. This year, I tried a financier for the first time, from boulangerie Eric Kayser, and nearly wept with joy. Mon dieu! How were these amazing petite almond cakes missing from my life? Upon my return home, I set out to learn how to bake financiers, and I am happy to report that my attempts have been largely successful. (See photo.)
Another trip highlight was a visit to Giverny to see the gardens and home of Claude Monet. If you are a lover of Monet, nature or flowers, allez-y! It is breathtaking. Now, when taking in the Water Lilies hanging in Gallery 252 of the Boston MFA, I am transported. I can hear the birds, recall the morning light breaking through the trees and reflecting on the water, and sense the peacefulness Monet must have enjoyed while painting from his flat-bottom boat en plein air.
I would also love to see the blooming lavender fields of Provence, and to experience the spectacular coastline of the French Riviera, wearing a scarf like Grace Kelly in To Catch A Thief, bien sûr. (A trip to Hermès on rue du Faubourg in Paris wouldn’t be trop mal, either!)
I’m grateful for the opportunity the Library provides to celebrate the joie de vivre of France and re-learn French among fellow francophiles. À bientôt!
Interested in becoming a member? Join us here.
Check out our other member profiles here.
Bruna first joined the Center as a member, looking for an opportunity to practice French and to be around French culture. She is now thrilled to be the Membership Manager and to provide members with the amazing experience she was previously able to enjoy herself. She is a native Portuguese speaker who, by the age of eight, knew she wanted to be multilingual someday. Working at the French Library now seems like a dream come true.