We had an interesting morning at the Easy French Immersion School in Montpellier today. The grammar today was one of those subjects that is not particularly difficult but there is a lot to it. We were learning to better express consequences; we had laid the foundations for this in our B2 intensive French lessons and now we were going into more detail and getting a feel for the nuances as well. It felt like we were becoming more agile and although having more ways than one to say something can make it feel a bit more complicated it is nice to be able to say things in various ways so you sound less mechanic and more organic.
After the pause, we came back to our intensive French course for adults and went on to a very interesting discussion about a 20th century female philosopher; Simone de Beauvoir. I was particularly excited about this, I always love it when we study important academic figures and it’s an advantage to doing a French immersion course for adults. Often, I’m introduced to people I have never heard of before but this time was different. In a fit of over confidence, I had bought one of Beauvoir’s books before; ‘The Second Sex’ (Le Deuxième Sexe – 1949). I had wanted to read something by a French author before I came to do a French language stay in France as I thought, despite it being a translation, it would be enlightening. It certainly was, it enlightened me to the fact that Beauvoir’s writing is a bit too heavy for me, at least for now. It took me almost 2 weeks to get through the introduction and that was with using my dictionary maybe every other sentence. It was hard going and eventually I gave up. So, to have the chance to have a bit of her work and life explained to me was very exciting.
Who is Simone de Beauvoir? We found out at the Easy French Language School
- She was a Parisian philosopher and writer (1908-1986)
- She was considered a very influential feminist and very important in the women’s liberation movement of the 1970’s
- She was extremely close to Jean-Paul Sarte who is never too far away from academic discussions
- Her work was primarily focused on existentialism
- She posed that gender roles were constructed rather than natural (in very simple terms of course)
The video we were watching in our intensive French course gave a brief biography of her life and work and she sounds like a fascinating woman. Her relationship to Sarte was the topic of much conversation as they were both very prominent academics and they were romantically involved, on and off. She was very liberated in that sense and had several girlfriends and boyfriends over the years which was the source of much scandal. She even continued this during the war throughout which she had relationships with some of her ex-students and apparently from time to time Sarte joined in to make complicated trios. Needless to say, convention did not hold much weight for them. The world was very restrictive for women like her and irreverence to the status quo and how she stayed true to who she was is very inspiring. She also was heavily involved in opposing the Nazis and the collaborationist government.
Before this French lesson I had only really thought of her as an academic I couldn’t understand but after learning more about her work I’m much more motivated to give it another try. Finding out more about her as a person has also been fascinating as she sounds like an incredibly brave person and I’m sure we only scratched the surface on my intensive French immersion course. I hope she comes up again at the EasyFrench Language School in Montpellier and I’m curious to see who out of the fascinating characters form French history comes up next.