Hymne A L'amour
April 2, 2008 9:18 AM   Subscribe

How to woo a French-American woman?

So I'm smitten with a woman. For the record, she is awesomely amazing. She grew up in France but her dad's an American. She speaks french. She loves Jaques Brel, and possibly Edith Piaf. She seems to love all french things.

We've had a nice connection so far. But I was thinking it would be nice to have one thing to wow her with a little bit.

I play guitar passibly and sing well. I've been listening to some Edith Piaf and Jaques Brel, and would like to learn some music, something that she would know. I had high school french but was never good and pronounce it like I have marbles in my mouth.

Is this a bad idea, btw? I don't want to be creepy. I'd like to be sweet with a little bit of cool.

Any thoughts on a song I could learn? Would it be endearing for me to sing it with my horrible american accent or better to translate it? Or should I just forget about this?

Also while I'm at it, what's the best, cheapest way to learn some basic french, particularly to get some pronunciation help?
posted by sully75 to Human Relations (34 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly? Ask her about basic vocabulary. Nothing's cooler than asking someone to tell you how to do or say something that you're really into. As long as you don't make a pest of yourself, I bet she'll find it charming that you're making the effort.
posted by canine epigram at 9:22 AM on April 2, 2008

I vote for Bad Idea. Just take her to see a French movie, you'll have the subtitles and she'll be O.K.
posted by matteo at 9:26 AM on April 2, 2008

Isn't this what Michelle by The Beatles is for?
posted by ludwig_van at 9:39 AM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

This sounds like the kind of thing that would seem quirky and sweet in a movie, but has too much potential to go wrong in real life.

For basic French, you need Pimsleur. It's not cheap if you buy it, but hopefully you can find it at a library.
posted by Enroute at 9:39 AM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

How about this? Bi-lingual, some simple French in there, and the chorus seems right on message!
posted by fire&wings at 9:45 AM on April 2, 2008

As a French speaker, badly-pronounced American French is soooooooo annoying. It's the reverse of romantic. I second the French movie thing; you can probably have a nice conversation afterwards about whether there were cultural nuances that didn't translate over and suchlike.

Also, check out the band Pink Martini. American band, but multilingual with a retro lounge vibe - many of their English songs have a Francophone vibe, and if you're really into singing to her, you may find something there (check the song "Clementine" in particular). And if not, you may find you like the band anyway.
posted by bettafish at 9:48 AM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

When my native-neapolitan wife and I were first dating I once spontaneously started singing one of the songs on Pavarotti's Neapolitan Song album, probably "Vicin'ô mare,facimmo 'ammore" - I did it without thinking but she got a real kick out of it because it was not only Italian, but her dialect. Probably not really instrumental to our courtship but a nice memory. :-)

My favorite Jacques Brel song is "Je ne said pas". It turns out there is also a version by Sting on youtube.
posted by thomas144 at 9:48 AM on April 2, 2008

Flowers, chocolates... promises you don't intend to keep.
posted by Hugh2d2 at 9:49 AM on April 2, 2008 [6 favorites]

Also while I'm at it, what's the best, cheapest way to learn some basic french, particularly to get some pronunciation help?

Second Enroute's Pimsleur suggestion above. I prefer a text resource for learning grammar and structure of languages, and something interactive like Rosetta Stone (or a cheaper alternative) for vocabulary practice, but Pimsleur is the best when it comes to learning pronunciation.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:53 AM on April 2, 2008

Seeming anxious to impress doesn't impress. Brush up on French if you want, but be sure you're not communicating "LOOK, I CAN DO TRICKS! OH PLEEEEEEEEEEASE LIKE ME!"
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:04 AM on April 2, 2008

Trying to sing to her in French is possibly one of the worst ideas I've ever heard. Be yourself, be honest. A date at a French restaurant might be nice. If there's chemistry between you two, all nationalism will be washed away, hopefully. Oui.
posted by Lucy2Times at 10:09 AM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

As a French speaker, badly-pronounced American French is soooooooo annoying.

Some native French speakers have told me they find English accents (North American pronunciation included) attractive, much in the way some native English speakers find French accents attractive. Her reaction will depend on her personality more than her nationality.
posted by cardboard at 10:35 AM on April 2, 2008

This sounds like such a bad idea. Unless your life is a romantic comedy, maybe start with something simpler, like asking her out on a date.
posted by chunking express at 10:37 AM on April 2, 2008

Be careful, this is sort of like a recent post I read a few weeks back when someone was trying to woo an Asian woman and was trying to impress her with his knowledge of Asian culture. He kind of came off a bit as an Asiaphile. I think you might come across as a Francophile if your approach is to woo her in this manner.

If learning French is the only way to make an intimate personal connection to her because the language is a barrier, I say go for it. But if you two can communicate and also share a relationship without all the fleurs and lovely nonsense, perhaps that might bring you two closer together as two individuals.

But then again, I think men tend to fall in love easily within a kind of context. You are smitten because she is different and that's okay. Just be careful because perhaps some women may find that as a turn-off. Her being French may not be high on her list of the things which define her and she could react negatively towards you for that.
posted by cazoo at 10:38 AM on April 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

Some native French speakers have told me they find English accents (North American pronunciation included) attractive

I've heard the same thing, from American students studying in France.

I think you might come across as a Francophile if your approach is to woo her in this manner.

There's nothing wrong with being a Francophile you know. It's not like a pedophile.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:48 AM on April 2, 2008

French or not, I think I would be mortified if a guy tried to sing to me. Even if he was good at it. It's one of those things that people do in movies, but in real life it very much depends on the girl.

Actually, most of the stuff you're suggesting is stuff I would find cheesy or desperate or would be a turn off... so just be sure she would actually like it.
posted by Nattie at 10:51 AM on April 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: ok overall message incredibly bad idea. glad I asked.
posted by sully75 at 10:53 AM on April 2, 2008

You might ask her to dinner, now, for July 14th.
posted by artdrectr at 11:05 AM on April 2, 2008

About French pronunciation: if you already know the way things are meant to be said, but can't make yourself say them with the correct accent, what you need to do it stop being afraid to spit. I think my French pronunciation went to a different level when I got over the idea that there was something weird or funny or indelicate about a word requiring a spitty roll in my mouth. I'm thinking words like apprends and français. Spit it out, literally.

Whenever I hear an anglo trying to say those words with a flat R I gather they're self-conscious or embarrassed about it or something.
posted by loiseau at 11:08 AM on April 2, 2008

There's nothing wrong with being a Francophile you know. It's not like a pedophile.

Right, it's all good as long as its directed towards culture, art, history, etc. But when you direct it towards a human being, its just...creepy.
posted by cazoo at 11:14 AM on April 2, 2008

If she likes Brel, you should check out the Scott Walker English translations of some Brel songs. This depends on her sense of humor, but I'd find it absolutely hilarious if a guy performed a song like "Jackie" or "Next" for me. And by singing it in English you avoid the who issue of mangling your French.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:31 AM on April 2, 2008

Response by poster: For the record, we haven't been on a date but I spent Saturday night at her house with friends. I've already expressed my interest in her and as far as I can tell it's been returned. I spent about 6 hours dancing with her on Saturday. I'm hoping that we have an actual date sometime soon, but she lives an hour away and has a crazy job that keeps her busy 24-7.

And her being french is part of a larger, awesomer package. I have no particular thing for French people, but she's just cool. Very smart, really beatiful and womanly. A great dancer. She's a great conversationalist, really deep and had a really interesting childhood. She's been really affectionate in the limited situation of dancing (kept giving me hugs while dancing, squeezing my hand, didn't seem to mind dancing dance after dance with me). And really funny. And a lovely dresser. And great with kids.

That said I'm a quivering mass of worry because I've seen so many sure things go down. Quite possibly from over eagerness in the past, so I'm taking all of your concerns very seriously. I'm really working hard on keeping my crush here under control and not going totally spasdic.

But I'm definitely not a francophile. I didn't know there was such a thing.
posted by sully75 at 11:40 AM on April 2, 2008

Response by poster: I could list 15 other more specific things I like about her that have nothing to do with her being french, but trying to keep this as anon as possible.
posted by sully75 at 11:43 AM on April 2, 2008

I think it's incredibly sweet to make music for someone you're interested in. The whole learning French thing is probably over-kill, but play her a song if for no other reason than to share that part of your life. Try learning a song she likes that has a good English translation and woo away, I say!
posted by Craig at 11:44 AM on April 2, 2008

Can I suggest a funky mix tape of contemporary Brel and Piaf covers. Covers all the bases you want to cover, but skirts the ones that raise potential for seeming overeager or being embarrassed.
posted by cocoagirl at 11:57 AM on April 2, 2008

Who doesn't like a good mix-tape?
posted by chunking express at 12:23 PM on April 2, 2008

Response by poster: Wouldn't it be weird to send her a mixtape of music that she knows better than me? Just wondering. I haven't made anyone a mixtape in a long time.
posted by sully75 at 12:33 PM on April 2, 2008

I would say "woo" her the same way you would woo any woman, by being sweet, considerate, and thoughtful. Going out of your way to learn french just for her, could be construed as either thoughtful or creepy, depending on the woman.
posted by nikksioux at 12:53 PM on April 2, 2008

Yes to Bonnie and Clyde; no to Lemon Incest.
posted by klangklangston at 1:24 PM on April 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

Having tried exactly the same thing with Español and a Chilean girl, I can assure you that if you try to do a song without having proper lessons first, be prepared for laughter when you sing a song in a language you don't fully understand.

Having said that, it still worked for me, and the relationship lead to me learning Spanish very well. The best and cheapest way to learn another language is a shared pillow. It still takes a lot of hard work though.
posted by Admira at 3:26 PM on April 2, 2008

I'd be a bit creeped out.
posted by Stewriffic at 4:59 PM on April 2, 2008

Ugh. Use your own judgment here man. You've spent time with this person so you can better gauge how she'd react. But I'd urge you to ignore people saying it would be "creepy" to sing for this girl. If you sold her a ticket and wore a costume and set up lights and a PA and then asked her to fill out a form with her thoughts on your performance that might be creepy. If you were hanging out together having a good time and you happened to say "Hey I was thinking of you when I learned this song" and played a few bars of something nice she'd probably be flattered, assuming she likes you at all.

But giving her a mixtape of French songs would just be boring and lame.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:20 PM on April 2, 2008

I think doing something like singing her a song in french could be either endearing or creepy, depending on whether she already likes you or not. Maybe save it for once you're past the wooing stage. Saying something to her in french could go the same way. I vote for wooing her in your normal way, not doing anything special because she's french.
posted by Sar at 1:17 AM on April 3, 2008

I have a similar background: raised in France, father is French, mother is American.

Even from an objective perspective, the concept does seem a bit creepy (let alone the language barrier). I would instead lure her to your guitar and make it a nonchalant guitar session rather than a serenade. I don't think you would have to even sing. Just play something like Les Copain d'Abord by Brassens, I think she would be impressed. Just relax though, like Zed_Lopez said, you shouldn't be anxious to impress, just play it naturally and hope she reacts well.

To answer some of the other questions:

I like the English English accent in French, it's often used in French culture to denote sophistication. The American English accent is unbearable though, especially when coupled with the generally flippant behavior of American tourists.

If you're really interested in learning French, I thoroughly believe in reading Franco-Belgian comics such as Asterix, Tintin, Lucky Luke, Gaston, etc. You could also watch the faithfully adapted cartoons to get some help with pronunciation.
posted by kepano at 6:39 AM on April 3, 2008

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