When thinking of France, many images come to mind. It can be its gastronomy or its monuments, its lavender fields or its great history.
However, we tend to cover all of these factors in a subtle halo of romance. It may not be the classic, standard way of romance, but we do
tend to associate France with love.
Why does this happen? What makes us jump from the image of France to the image of love? And to say, French is the language of love!
Is it a stereotype? Like many notions that evolve over time, the concept of love in France does have a stereotypical component, but is based on real characteristics.
What are these characteristics?
Lets think for a moment about what France has brought to the world in cultural matters throughout history. Novels, plays, operas, poetry. French has been one of the languages in which great stories have been written over the last three centuries, and curiously, a large part of them are linked to love. Victor Hugo, Charles Baudelaire, Honoré de Balzac, Molière, George Sand, Marceline Desbordes Valmore. All great in their fields, and that in some way contributed to lay the foundations of stories, works and poetry related to love.
Of course, the fact that they wrote about love does not mean that they would always be happy stories, most of them are stories of betrayals and heartbreaks. C’est la vie, hein?
Even in modern times, we can't get enough romantic films set in Paris, "Midnight in Paris", "Amélie", and "Before Sunset", to name a few.
All these great novels, works and poetry soon spread throughout Europe, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. And although you will believe that they were translated to be presented in each respective country, the French language remained intact, and soon in the European upper bourgeoisie it became customary to learn French to be able to enjoy all French works (In Anna Karenina, for example, You can see how the Russian gentry learn French from their youth) This helped cement the reputation of French throughout Europe and somehow "force" people to learn the language in order to access these great works.
While French can be a difficult language for some thanks to its pronunciation, the French accent prevails in the rankings as the most romantic of all accents, even above Italian and Spanish. This is partly thanks to its calm tone and quite recognizable pronunciations, such as when pronouncing those "rrr" and "zzz". However, the feelings belong to those who know how to transmit them, and figures like Nicolas Sarkozy, could have damaged a little the subtle perception of the French language by having a tone and pronunciation that is quite criticized by the French people. Interestingly, the French consider the most attractive accent to be English.
France is the most visited country in the world, every year millions of people go to the country of the hexagon to learn about a culture that they have seen hundreds of times through references. This is not by chance, as France knows its tourism role very well and has managed to exploit popular knowledge to provide tourists with a unique experience. Love is part of this trend and we can see how, for example, Paris offers a lot of cafes that convey a subtle vibe of romance, and who can forget the Pont des Arts over the Senna and all those promises of love (more or less reciprocated and successful) that rest on those locks?
Now that we have pointed out some of the main factors that contribute to the romantic reputation of French as a language, let's look at some of its main phrases.
“Il n’y a qu’un bonheur dans la vie, c’est d’aimer et d’être aimé.” – “There is only one happiness in life, and that is to love and to be loved.” George Sand.
If anyone knew about love it was George Sand (Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin) . Amantine's story is really wonderful and a great example of
feminism in the 19th century, we invite you to discover more about her at culturethèque.
“Aimer, ce n'est pas se regarder l'un l'autre, c'est regarder ensemble dans la même direction.” – “To love is not to look at each other, it is to look together in the same direction.” Antoine De Saint-Exupéry.
Although Saint-Exupéry is known for Le Petit Prince, he has a beautiful collection of poems.
“Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point” – “The heart has its reasons that reason does not know” Blaise Pascal.
Yes, Blaise Pascal, the French Mathematician and Physicist, who laid the foundations for the theory of probabilities. I have always thought
that there is time for everything, both for numbers and to write love sonnets.
“Celui qui ne donne rien n'a rien. Le plus grand malheur est de ne pas être mal aimé, mais pas d'aimer.” – “He who gives nothing has nothing. The greatest misfortune is not to be unloved, but not to love.” Albert Camus.
One of my favorite writers and one of my favorite quotes about love. I feel that it defines quite well that eternal existentialist who
advocated for the good in spite of everything.
“L'amour consiste à être bête ensemble.” – “Love is about being silly together.” Paul Valéry
This famous 19th century French poet captures quite well the total honesty that must exist between lovers.
“Il suffit d'un regard, d'un aveu, d'une chanson , pour comprendre l'amour. Il suffit de ces riens pour faire des beaux jours.” – “It only takes a look, a confession, a song, to understand love. All it takes is this nonsense to make good days” Charles Trenet.
Did you really think that we would make a list of phrases about love without putting at least one of Charles Trenet?
“L'amour est un feu qui s'éteint s'il ne s'augmente.” – “Love is a fire that goes out if it is not increased.” Stendhal.
Here’s to a romantic relationship that is a continuous Stendhal syndrome!
“L'amour a un caractère si particulier qu'on ne peut le cacher où il est, ni le feindre où il n'est pas.” – “Love has such a special character that you cannot hide it where it is, nor pretend it where it is not.” Madeleine de Souvré marquise de Sablé.
Try not to smile when you see that person you love, I challenge you.
"Tout l'univers obéit à l'Amour - Aimez, aimez, tout le reste n'est rien.” – “The whole universe obeys Love - Love, love, everything else is nothing.” Jean de La Fontaine.
All we need is love, right?
“En amour, être français, c'est la moitié du chemin.” – “In love, being French is half the way.” Paul Morand.
Do you see what we say about the relationship between France and love?
We hope you like this small but meaningful list and that it makes you think of that dear person, or beyond, of those friends and family that you love so much. France's relationship with that romantic feeling of love goes beyond a simple stereotype, and while today's French culture thrives on that advantage, it is important to keep in mind that the French language and the culture it has helped to cement is far more than that. Á bientôt!
Written by Alejandro Ramírez G.
Alliance Française Silicon Valley
Los Gatos, CA 95032