Barlow, Julie 1968-

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Barlow, Julie 1968-


Born 1968; married Jean-Benoît Nadeau (a journalist). Education: McGill University, B.A.; Concordia University, M.A.


Home—Montreal, Quebec, Canada. E-mail—[email protected].


Journalist, 1995—.


Honorable mentions, National Magazine Awards, 2003-04; Grands Prix du Magazine du Québec, finalist, 2004.


(With husband, Jean-Benoît Nadeau) Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong: Why We Love France, but Not the French, Sourcebooks (Naperville, IL), 2003.

(With Austin Macdonald) Montréal and Québec City for Dummies, Wiley Publishing, 2004.

(With Jean-Benoît Nadeau) The Story of French, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals, including L'Actualité, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, and Courier International.


The Canadian husband-and-wife writing team of Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoît Nadeau wrote two books about France, one about the country itself, and the other about the French language. After a two-year sojourn in France, the couple wrote an ethnographic study, Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong: Why We Love France, but Not the French. Writing in the Montreal Mirror, Chris Barry declared the book "a ‘journey into the French heart, mind, and soul,’ and actually, a surprisingly readable and insightful piece of work." The central question addressed by the work is why a country that maintains an extensive array of socialist-style governmental services, a huge national debt, and numerous restrictions on private enterprise, nonetheless boasts the highest productivity figures in the industrialized world and maintains a position as one of the largest exporters and economic powerhouses in the world today. "By delving into France's cultural and political history," Booklist contributor Beth Leistensnider explained, "the authors show how it all works."

Part of the answer to the productivity puzzle is that the French, contrary to popular belief, have embraced globalization and change. Over the past few decades France has become a country of immigrants, embracing the largest Muslim population in Europe. It is also, Nadeau points out in his interview with Barry, a nation quite different from English-speaking countries in its sense of humor, its understanding of manners, and especially its relationship to its language. "The art of the French is rhetoric," Nadeau told Barry. "They are trained from a very young age to listen and to express themselves well. If you have no opinion, then you need to have wit. In France, eloquence is one of the great means of social advancement. You can go very far if you are eloquent—even if you are poor."

In The Story of French, Barlow and Nadeau tackle the historical and geographical impact of one of the world's most widely spoken tongues. They "give a history of the development of French (and the generally unacknowledged influence of English on French)," Nick Gillespie stated in Reason Online, "the French Academy which polices the language but which cannot enforce its rules, the role of imperialism in spreading the tongue and much more."

Although French nationals complain about the declining status of the French language, many in fact accept English-based words into their everyday speech. Barlow and Nadeau argue that French still plays an important role in the modern world. "French has established itself as the ‘other’ global language. This is partly because of France's colonial past; and partly because of worldwide admiration for French literature, cuisine, fashion and art-de-vivre," explained John Lichfield in the Independent. "A points system established by the linguistic historian George Weber, based on the number of speakers and commercial, social and literary prestige, places French second to English as the world's most influential language."

Barlow and Nadeau explore not only the historical impact of French but also the intense relationship French language critics have with their language. The idea of a centralized authority to impose rules of grammar is very strange to English speakers, but to Franco-phones it is an accepted way of life. "A mistake in French is not merely a slip; it is a transgression," William Grimes stated in the New York Times. "The person who commits what the French call a ‘faute,’ the authors write, ‘is seen as being not only unworthy of the language, but even a traitor to it.’ Only France could have a best seller called ‘Knights of the Subjunctive.’" The Story of French, concluded David Pitt in Booklist, "is chockablock with these sorts of intriguing facts about the language and its evolution."



Booklist, June 1, 2003, Beth Leistensnider, review of Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong: Why We Love France, but Not the French, p. 1717; October 15, 2006, David Pitt, review of The Story of French, p. 12.

Independent (London, England), January 12, 2007, John Lichfield, "Plus ça Change."

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2006, review of The Story of French, p. 941.

Library Journal, June 15, 2003, Olga B. Wise, review of Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong, p. 91; December 1, 2006, Bob Ivey, review of The Story of French, p. 125.

New Statesman, November 29, 2004, Celia Brayfield, review of Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong, p. 42.

New York Times, November 29, 2006, William Grimes, "The French Have a (Precise and Elegant) Word for It."

Publishers Weekly, September 18, 2006, review of The Story of French, p. 47.


French Journal (Web log), (February 12, 2007), "Jean-Benoît Nadeau and The Story of French: An (Exclusive!) Interview."

Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow Web page, (April 11, 2007).

Montreal Mirror, (April 11, 2007), Chris Barry, "Gaul-ing Behaviour: The Sometimes Irritating, Often Perplexing French Make for an Interesting Study by Two Montreal Journalist-Authors."

Reason Online, (April 11, 2007), Nick Gillespie, "The Language of Empire: How French Conquered—and Then Lost—the World."