Le français est beau: French is beautiful. This subjective statement is almost an universally accepted truth in a world where revelation that something (the stylish bag you bought in Paris) or someone (that cute guy over there) is French is guaranteed to be met with an ‘ooh’ and a knowing smirk.
Oh, yes, indeed! How Frenchy, how chic, how cultured and sophisticated the French thing/person is! This is, of course, due to the enormous amount of cultural capital attached to words like ‘French’, ‘France’, ‘Paris’, or ‘Parisian’ as a result of the country’s longstanding influence on culture, art, and design in every form, from priceless paintings in the Louvre to how luxury cosmetic products are packaged and advertised.
Now, reader, before you accuse me of being an insufferably snobby, cultural imperialist Francophile, let me announce that I am fully aware of, and also deeply appreciate, the fact that there is beauty in every language and culture. I speak three languages (English, Chinese, Japanese), each of which is amazing in its own special way. The reason I’ve developed a crush on French is because I take English and Chinese for granted, and am no longer madly in love with Japanese, to which I devoted eight years of my life. While my marriage to the study of Japanese language, history, and culture defined who I was during my teens and early twenties, it’s time to fall in love again. French just happens to be the perfect partner when your latest obsession is with beauty, romance, and aesthetics.
Coming back to the point I made earlier, near-universal* appreciation does not only apply to the country’s fashion, art, cinema, and such: the same adoration and prestige is accorded to the French language. France’s cultural influence (both high and low) aside, there’s a reason why it’s deemed as one of the most romantic and therefore beautiful languages, alongside Italian and Spanish. That elusive reason is what I am eager to pinpoint.
Maybe it’s the comely string of sounds in a sentence, alternating between what’s nasal (e.g. trompette, toujours) and what’s not (e.g. toi, être), to form even the silliest of conversations, like the one here. Admit it: when it comes to French the dialogue doesn’t even have to be about love to sound heavenly to those who can’t speak the language.
Also, French is gorgeous no matter who is speaking it, as long as they sound authentic. That said, I would be lying if I pretended superficial beauty doesn’t amplify the effect. So, for your audiovisual pleasure, I present French spoken by my Internet boyfriend, Tom Hiddleston. ‘Ohh but he’s not even Frenc–shh. Let your ears orgasm.
The charm of the language also shines through dreamy French songs where the chantreuse’s soft, breathy, tender voice is accompanied by music that is equally gentle and delightful. Amélie-les-crayon’s “L’errant” is a great example of this, as is Carla Bruni’s seductively husky “Liberté”—or any of her songs, for that matter.
It could also be the aesthetically pleasing way the elegant-looking words, some with accent marks, appear on a page or bag or shop sign. English is beautiful too, but French is often more so; ‘starlight’ looks and sounds fine, but to the eyes and ears of a romantic ‘lumière des étoiles’ exerts a greater magnetic pull.
Or, perhaps it’s because we were socialised into being able to recognise its beauty from a young age, just as we were socialised into understanding what love is as children from cartoons and movies without even having experienced it ourselves yet.
Conveniently and to no Gossip Girl fan’s surprise, all that is associated with the beauty of French language and culture is demonstrated by the art gallery meet cute where Blair and Louis profess their love for Impressionism, in French, in front of a Manet, while a soft French song plays in the background. Both are filthy rich, sophisticated, and decked out in high fashion, as you’d expect from a romantic scene set in Paris.
Whatever the reasons are, and there are probably enough reasons and serious academic research required to warrant a PhD thesis on the matter, French will never cease to be anything less than an enchanting melody to the ears of yours truly. So I close my eyes and drift into a Parisian daydream, that fantastic product of my inexhaustible imagination.**
*Not everyone is in love with all things French, and that is okay. You do you, person who is immune to French charm.
**This is much cheaper than flight and accomodation in the City of Lights.