Author(s): Lauren Collins
'We spoke to each other in endearments. My darling, my love, mon amour, ma cherie, poussin, mouton, bebe ...People we knew, I think, made fun of us. What they didn't know was that we couldn't say each other's names.' After a lifetime spent living firmly in English, Lauren Collins finds herself adrift in French-speaking Geneva. Having fallen in love with Olivier, a Frenchman, Lauren wakes up one day to the realisation that she is living in a community where she cannot speak the language, and that she is married to a man whose name she doesn't dare speak in public, for fear of mispronunciation. A New Yorker journalist, skilled at making a living through her writing, Lauren is suddenly no longer able to communicate with the local shop owners, let alone her in-laws. As she embarks on learning French in her new surroundings, Lauren reflects on her lifelong love affair with language, and her own linguistic roots. A funny, thoughtful memoir, When in French looks at how our mother tongues shape our lives, from how we think, to how we fall in love, and what happens when two languages, and two very different cultures, collide.
Lauren Collins began working at the New Yorker in 2003 and became a staff writer in 2008. Since 2010, she has been based in Europe, covering stories from London, Paris, Copenhagen, and beyond.