I’m French. We have baguette, french kiss, and a certain sense of style… But, even if some typical french words like “Retrouvailles” are delightful to hear, I must admit that I was quickly put in front of a Cornelian choice when the time came for me to grow my creative consulting business for writers: should I choose English over French? It was not far from a croissant VS doughnut dilemma. Well, I shamelessly prefer croissant over a doughnut… But decided to choose English over my first language. Here’s why.
Trying to be gender-inclusive while writing in french is like walking on burning embers
Did you know that every single object has a genre in French? Animals too. If it were the same in English, you’d have to say “she” for a chair, a table, a giraffe or a fork, and “he” for a cushion, a hippopotamus, a knife, or an armchair.
Moreover, a few centuries ago, the French Academy decided that, even if there were three hundred millions women in a room and only one man, you’d have to use the plural of “he” (“Ils”, not “Elles”) to talk about the whole group, because (hold tight) “le masculin l’emporte sur le féminin” which means: “Male wins over female”. Yes, you read it right.
Some mentalities are changing though, trying to bring new rules aiming to be more inclusive (or bring back old rules, from before the French Academy’s sexist decisions were taken), but so few of them compared to a crushing conservative majority.
English is so much more inclusive than French: as a fervent defender of equity and inclusivity, starting using English for my business was a no-brainer.
“Tu” & “vous”: weirdly intimate VS overly formal
In France, we say “Tu” when we talk to friends and family, and “Vous” with people we don’t personally know, to show them respect and keep some seemly distance. There’s no casual “in-between”. Which is quite delicate when you want to be warm, welcoming, and engaging with people without sounding too familiar. Nobody’s either “familiar” or “respectful”, we all are so much more than these two options.
In comparison, English is casual without sounding either familiar or formal. I realized quite quickly that it was much easier for me to be authentic while writing articles and copywriting in English. I then decided to stick with it: it took me three times less effort to write and, above all, felt so much more aligned with who I am. What a game-changer.
Short and effective is better than long and weak.
Don’t get me wrong here: I’m still talking about language. Let’s be honest: sometimes it takes three French words to explain one English word. I realized how efficient English was when I started to translate some of my written works (a novel and a screenplay): it was almost ten percent fewer pages every time. Try to put a page you wrote into an online translator, you’ll instantly see what I mean.
And it was even more obvious when I started to write copy: some very short and powerful English formulations took forever and a bunch of words when I tried to translate them into French, which made them instantly lose their strength and convincing potential. They felt overly written: I couldn’t write as I spoke anymore. In comparison, English felt like second nature, simpler, true to my core message.
With English, the world is ours.
During my life, I’ve traveled all around the world and even lived for several years in seven different countries and three different continents. I always felt like I’m a world citizen, I grew up and was raised like this: I don’t understand frontiers and limitations. During those traveling years, I spoke English almost all the time.
How many people understand and speak French on our little planet, compared to those who speak English? Wikipedia gave me the answer: less than 300 million versus more than one billion.
Choosing English over my first language allows me to show up and share my work with a wider range of people all around the world, wherever they are, and feels more consonant with my inner freedom.
The challenge appeal
Lastly, deciding to run my business in English was challenging. I like to be challenged: I’m ambitious and I love to learn. I’m happy to go out of my comfort zone if I know there’s something truly inspiring waiting for me. And I love that taking this decision helped me switch my mindset.
When I thought: “What if I make English mistakes?” I instantly answered: “Well, if what I have to say inspires even only one person on Earth, it’s worth making some mistakes from time to time.” When I thought: “What if people don’t like my accent?” I thought about all the wonderful and charming accents I love all around the world, and that maybe my own accent would be an asset. And when I thought: “I won’t be fluent enough to run a whole business in English…” I took action and organized weekly appointments with two to three different groups of English speaking people to practice and get better at expressing myself in this language I love so much. I chose to go for progress, not perfection. Choosing English over French made me feel bolder and more confident, what a wonderful gift…
Stepping out of my language comfort zone taught me so much about myself. It wasn’t easy: I had to overcome the fear of what would people think or say, the fear of failure… And even the fear of success. But I’m very happy with this decision because it opened a whole new world of opportunities for me: I met more new people in the past ten months than in the past ten years, and I feel they are my tribe.
I love to speak English. It’s a calling I can’t explain, but it certainly has to do with the English speakers’ mentality. I always found them optimistic, open-minded, and supportive. They’re a heartwarming and cheering community from all around the world, that I’m now proud to be part of. My heart speaks English, and we should always follow our hearts.
Please follow your heart, or your calling, whatever you call it, even if it feels challenging and scary. Stepping outside of your comfort zone is essential for your growth and can become exhilarating. You might even discover a whole new you.
Would you like to start with learning some essential French words? Well, here they are, waiting for you: “La vie est belle, profitons-en!”