French for Cats

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French for Cats: All the French Your Cat Will Ever Need (Hardback) By (author) Barbe Henri De La, By (author) BoswelIf you are thinking of house-sitting in France this summer and are worried that you won’t be able to communicate with your hosts’ cat, then this is just the book for you. When the cat says meow, is it trying to say, “Here comes a fur ball,” or “I did not break that vase”? All will be revealed in Henry Beard’s mini bilingual book of catspeak. With English phrases given first followed by French translations in italics and accompanied by illuminating illustrations, each page gives us a rare insight into the inner workings of a feline brain.

We are first introduced to The Major Cat Parts (of the body), and these are followed by The Basic Cat Wardrobe consisting of a bell, flea and tick collar, and name tag.

When we proceed to the section on Cat Names, puss starts to voice his opinions quite firmly: “I will answer to Serafina, Caesar,” etc., but “I will not answer to Fluffy, Kitty,” and so on. What I Do Not Do seems arise from a confusion between canine and feline behaviour: we are informed that cats do not ‘fetch’, catch Frisbees, or guard houses. What’s more “Je ne cours pas apres les voitures” (“I don’t chase cars.”)

After a picture of The Food Bowl, we are shown The Four Cat Food Groups: Dry Food, Canned Food, Natural Foods (The Mouse or The Big Ugly Bug), and of course Forbidden Foods (string, dried flowers, tinsel etc.) We then discover the French for “I want my food in my bowl now. I’m waiting.” The Unpleasant Medicinal Additives are delineated, and the message is “Do not put additives in my food unless you are sure that I am dying.”

The Litter box naturally follows on from here, and we must understand the feline requirement: “I need a little privacy.” Who wouldn’t, indeed? There may be misunderstandings of course over The Nap Place or The Cat Bath – Le Bain a Coups de Langue – and we mustn’t forget that “I prefer to give myself my own bath.” Then The Fur Ball has to be watched out for, as it sometimes comes without warning, unless we are familiar with the phrase “Je crois que je vais cracher une boule de poils.”

We probably understand the importance of The Territory, but do we know the French for “I like to climb large trees in my territory”? The Cat Carrier, Le Porte-Chat, is one of the most feared objects, as puss explains “I do not like to leave my territory for any reason.” especially for a visit to The Vet – “I do not want to be neutered” (“Je ne veux pas etre chatre.”)

A section on The Cat Toys, where we are told “I do not wish to play with my cat toys” is followed by The Things That Are Not, Strictly Speaking, Cat Toys, But Which Nevertheless Have Great Play Value – a vase, a lamp, or a crystal candy dish. “Alas, they are not very durable” is translated as “C’est la vie”.

The Hunt explains to us that “Sometimes I choose to play with my prey” but we might be asked “Ou voulez-vous que je mette ca?” (Where do you want me to put this?)

The Enemies of course include the dog, the mean child and the lawn mower, and we might hear “Je voudrais que la tondeuse du gazon ecrase le chat du voisin” (“I wish that the lawn mower would run over the neighbor’s cat”).

Finally we are told “When I meow, it means…” a whole host of things, from “I just put a mouse in the bureau drawer…” to “I feel an overpowering urge to run rapidly from room to room.”

It’s a tiny book with a hard cover and just a small amount of text on each of its ninety pages, rather like a children’s book. There are charming watercolour sketches on every page, almost half in colour, the rest in black and white, from a double page aerial view of the territory and neighbouring cats’ gardens to a tiny bell and a name tag.

Henry Beard is said to be ‘a firm believer in the pesky but potentially highly profitable secondary school foreign language requirement’. Well, this is an American book, but I have to admit that the expressions given here don’t relate particularly closely to our GCSE French syllabus. Nevertheless, they might provide a but of fun to a bored pupil, and the simplicity of the layout with so many illustrations might even appeal to a younger child and spark an interest in French. Other than that, it’s for cat sitters in France, or of course for any cat-lover emigrating to France who will find some useful phrases here to use in the pet shop or at the vet. It could be a good stocking-filler for any cat-owner who has an interest in French.

French for Cats – ‘All the French your cat will ever need’

Text by Henry de la Barbe (Henry Beard) and John Boswell, Illustrations by Gary Zamchick

Published by Villard Books

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Buy book online
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French for Cats: All the French Your Cat Will Ever Need
by Henry Beard, John Boswel

One Comment on "French for Cats"

  1. koshkha
    10/03/2010 at 13:22 Permalink

    This reminds me of the time our friend’s bilingual 2-year old tried to teach our cat French.

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Written by frangliz

I have a degree in Fine Art but never actually worked in that field. After almost two years in Paris, I moved to Cairo and spent many years there teaching English language and literature in schools. I came back to the UK in 1999 and now work with young children. I also tutor students of all ages in French, English or Maths. I enjoy writing reviews in my spare time; another hobby of mine is photography. I have two sons who are now grown up, both working in IT.

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