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Jean-Benoît Nadeau

Award-winning author of The Story of French and Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong, Expert on French and Spanish Language and Culture

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Author, journalist and speaker Jean-Benoît Nadeau has published six books and 900 magazine articles, won 40 awards in journalism and literature, and given more than 80 lectures on culture, language and writing. He is the co-author, with his wife Julie Barlow, of the bestselling Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong—a detailed analysis of the French which has sold some 200,000 copies in five languages.


Nadeau is a regular contributor to Canada’s national French language magazine, L’actualité, and one of the few Canadian journalists to regularly publish in both French and English. His work has appeared in The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, The Toronto Star, Québec ScienceGeo, and L’Express. He has won two grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, as well as a grant from the Quebec Council for the Arts and Literature.


With a humorous lecture style that has won over audiences across the globe, Nadeau has given lectures on France and the French language in Canada, the U.S., the Netherlands, Japan and South Korea. He has been the keynote speaker for the Ontario Modern Language Teachers’ Association, as well as the International Day of Francophonie and the American Association of Teachers of French. Nadeau has also done speaking tours with the Alliance françaises and the Quebec Delegations. Over the past 15 years he has taught workshops on writing and journalism with the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec (FPJQ), Quebec’s largest journalists’ association, along with other professional associations.


Born in Sherbrooke, Quebec to a French-speaking family with little interest in France, Nadeau was a young freelance writer when he won a 1998 fellowship from the Institute of Current World Affairs to spend two years in France studying “Why the French Resist Globalization.” On his return, he published a humorous account of his years in France called Les Français aussi ont un accent (The French Have an Accent Too). The reports he produced for the Institute, with Barlow’s help, became the basis of their book—which was praised by The New York Times, The Telegraph (UK), The Globe and Mail (Canada), and by French literary critic Bernard Pivot.

In 2006, the couple published a follow-up book, The Story of French, which won the 2007 Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-Fiction from the Quebec Writers’ Federation, as well as the 2011 Prix de la Renaissance Française from the Académie des Sciences d’Outre-Mer in Paris.


They followed up this success with 2013’s The Story of Spanish, an investigation into how a dialect spoken by a handful of shepherds in Northern Spain became the world’s second most spoken language, the official language of twenty-one countries, and the unofficial language of the United States.


Trilingual in English, French and Spanish, Nadeau lives in Montreal with his wife and writing partner, Julie Barlow, and their twin daughters.


Jean-Benoit Nadeau at Macmillan
Read a profile of Barlow and Nadeau in The New York Times
Read The New York Times review of The Story of French

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Hardcover Paperback eBook
St. Martin’s Press

Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow, the husband-and-wife team who chronicled the history of the French language in The Story of French,now look at the roots and spread of modern Spanish.
Paperback eBook
St. Martin’s Griffin

Simultaneously frightening users with its delicately nuanced vowels, it is also beloved by millions for its romantic associations. The language is French, and this, is its story.


I say Spanish, You say Spanglish: The United States’ growing Hispanic community is producing something totally unexpected: a new variety of Spanish. It’s not Spanglish—it’s American Spanish. In 2014, the first words of American Spanish will enter the dictionary of Spain’s Royal Academy.

A Look at Spanish Though Names: The name España originally meant “land of the rabbits” in Phoenician. Its modern form actually came from French. A look at the different names for Spanish speakers—from Hispanic, Hispano, Latino and Chicano, to Spaniard, Castilian, Spanish and hispanounidense—reveals the fascinating influences that forged the Spanish language through its history.

The United States’ Spanish Roots: Discussions about Hispanics in the U.S. inevitably turn to immigration. Yet few understand how deeply the influence of Hispanic culture runs in the United States. Many fundamental features of Americana, from the dollar sign and barbecues, to cowboy culture and mustangs, are of Spanish origin.

French on the Rise: News of the death of French has been greatly exaggerated. In the last decade alone, the world got 20 million more French speakers. Though many see French as a language in decline, in fact, it is growing and spreading—notably in Africa. Though it only ranks ninth in number of speakers, French is still the world’s second international language.

The Other Side of the French Language: Mention of “French” brings to mind highbrow culture and language police. But the French language has another life as a popular tongue. In the 33 countries where it is an official language, French is evolving and adapting to new realities—from the suburbs of Paris to the backwoods of Louisiana, to classrooms in Quebec and libraries in Africa.

What makes the French so French: With their fascination with grandeur and lofty ideas, their fondness for fine food, their hedonism, and supposed arrogance, the French fascinate as much as they mystify. Yet the French have created a society that uniquely suited to the values France has forged over its long history.

The Riddles of France: Whether is the Islamic veil, labor riots or globalization, France adapts to political, cultural and economic challenges its own way, maintaining its unique personality and values in the process. In many ways America’s “alter ego”, France really does represent something “else.”

GLOBAL LANGUAGES How Major Languages Go Global: Believe it or not, French, Spanish, Arabic and even English all started out as obscure tongues spoken in remote places. Why do some languages spread and turn into global tongues? Politics, economics and even geography explain why languages grow and go global.

What’s the Best Language to Learn? English? Spanish? Mandarin? French? It’s not just a question of numbers, or countries where they are spoken. The “best” language to learn depends on what you want to do with it. And some languages have surprising hidden qualities . . .

WRITING The Pitch of Your Life: Writing Non-fiction Book Proposals A step-by-step process to writing a book proposal that literary agents and publishers will jump on.

Everything Writers Need to Know about Marketing: From pitching stories, to negotiating fees, how to get published in books, magazines and newspapers—and get paid for it.



Praise for The Story of French "A well-told, highly accessible history of the French language that leads to a spirited discussion of the prospects for French in an increasingly English-dominated world."
--William Grimes, The New York Times

"Exceptionally told, a celebration of the lasting influence of la française."
Kirkus Reviews, STARRED Review

"Excellent...An engaging and well-conceived book. Highly recommended."
Library Journal

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