Top positive review
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A good overview
on 6 January 2009
This is part of a series of 'Speak the Culture' books on various countries, and suffers somewhat from the absence of a critical editor who really knows France. Clearly there are many hands in the writing, from stilted translation from the French language/thinking through good standard English (most of the book) to offputting slang. The text is very unbalanced, a last chapter seeming to consist of a page or two on 'everything else we haven't given a whole chapter to', such as politics, green issues, sport, 'la vie associative'. And don't expect a single word on the scientific and technological culture and achievements of the French.
Beware of all usage of French: spellings (e.g. 'functionnaires' for 'fonctionnaires', 'conventioné' for conventionné'; genders (e.g. pain Normande' for 'pain normand'); plurals (e.g.they can't decide whether it's 'Pays Basque' or 'Pays Basques' - in fact it's 'Pays basque' - no 's', small 'b'); and even translations "[the French] hide their savings in a sock (le bas de laine literally means the bottom of the wool." No doesn't, the expressions is 'les' bas de laine, which means woollen stockings literally, (and savings figuratively).
These are just a few of the many errors. But for a popular level book it's good fun, and even informative. Despite all I've said, it does constitute a useful overview of life in France today.