Being Bilingual: The Story of Julia Child

Being Bilingual The Story of Julia Child

The name Julia Child is, of course, quite famous and evokes many obvious impressions.

So why is a professional translator discussing Julia Child? Because so many people forget one of the key words in her famous debut cookbook was French. Julia Child arrived in Paris in 1948 not speaking a word of French! Yet she became one of the global experts on French cooking. She studied at Le Cordon Bleu. She went, in other words, from being ignorant of the language to being fluent in a few short years.

Passion is the Key

I also think that Julia Child underscores one of the major aspects of language learning that is often overlooked. People stress immersion, practice, conversation – but what they forget is passion. What led Julia Child to master her adopted language so quickly and so well? I would argue at least a large portion of her success had to do with her passion for cooking, which became a passionate desire to be able to communicate. Nothing inspires success like passion, and even though it was secondary to her true desire, this energy is why Julia Child was able to learn so quickly and so well.

Life Itself is the Proper Binge

Too many people, when attempting to learn a new language, see it as a chore, as an obstacle, and then wonder why they have so much difficulty attaining their goals. You need to find joy in everything you do. Connecting your attempts to learn a language with the life you wish to lead – much as Julia Child, initially adrift in a strange city and frustrated by the local attitudes towards a woman who wished to study traditional gourmet French cooking, then energized by a sudden appreciation for her newfound career – is the key.

Don’t think of language lessons as homework – think of them as passports to what you seek – whether that simply means being a citizen of the world, or a specific career goal, or, as with Julia Child, unlocking the secrets of a culture hidden, in part, behind a different language.

Julia Child remains an iconic image and voice in our culture. Reading about her, one has an impression of an earthy, joyful person who found her calling later in life and enjoyed every moment of it. We can all learn many lessons from Julia Child’s example, even if we don’t attempt to cook every recipe in her famous cookbook like the one Julie Powell did. If nothing else, we can learn that passion is the secret to learning, and apply that to our own language endeavors!