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Tweeting French

July 5, 2011

Pro-cycling information-aholics could spend 24 hours a day exploring the cornucopia that is Twitter:  140 character tweets, attached photos, and links to blogs or other reporting which tempt like chocolate to yet more links and blogs and reporting, all of which are extremely interesting.  It’s easy to find fans, experts, and pro-cyclists who offer insightful and sometimes downright funny commentary that competes with live TV coverage for your attention while a stage race like the Tour de France is underway. Here’s an example, in reaction to Alberto Contador’s premature arm pump to signal he had won today’s Tour stage:

@inrng: You know those films where a someone has a gun that jams at the crucial moment with an empty click? Reminds me of El Pistolero at the finish

(Shooting an invisible gun is Contador’s, a.k.a. El Pistolero’s, signature gesture as he crosses the finish line a winner.)

There’s so much tweeting, I decided to count the number of tweets my favorite cycling blogger / reporter-types launched during two hours today after the stage had concluded.  I suspected @velochrono24h would exceed the others.  While the minority of tweeps I follow are French, it’s feeling like the majority of the tweets in my timeline are in French.

@velochrono24h (in French): 9 tweets

@inrng: 3 tweets

@cyclingnewsfeed: 1 tweet

@velonews: 2 tweets

During the 2011 Tour de Suisse, @velochrono24h posted a link to video of the last few minutes of one of the stages; I copied the link and tweeted it so my followers could enjoy some live coverage.  @velohrono24h replied to my tweet and thanked me in English for sharing the link. I replied in French, “You’re welcome.  I would like more Americans to understand the French point of view on pro-cycling.”  Does this explain why I’m taking French lessons, watching coverage of the Tour on a French cable TV channel, and so excited when French twittos reply to me?

I suspect, while this is a vast over-generalization, that American pro-cycling fans aren’t very familiar with many French coureurs (riders).  I feel compelled to help them become more interested.  The history of cycling in France runs so much deeper and longer than in the U.S.  Of course the same can be said for probably all of the European countries, but French was the only foreign language I studied in high school and college.

Madame Petritis, our high school French teacher, always prim in a skirt and red lipstick, used to enliven vowel sound repetition with slideshows of her trips to France.  The Eiffel Tower, the chateaux of the Loire Valley, Mont St. Michel – these slid one in front of the other on the white screen and I knew I wanted to see them in person.  If it was this desire that made me continue to study French in college, I don’t know.  I think I continued in part because it was fun to be able to express myself another way; it felt elevating.  It’s kind of like having a secret code and participating in a universe others cannot see.

Of course that doesn’t mean I feel very confident when I’m practicing the language in class or on the occasions when I visit France.  I’m often at a loss for words.  My current teacher forbids English in our advanced French conversation class.  When I can’t come up with a word, I’ll say, “um, um,” while staring desperately at classmates for help.  During my Twitter expeditions I encounter many French pro-cycling expressions I need to learn. I am grateful to Alexandre Philippon, Chief Editor of @velochrono24h, who graciously replies to my questions and explains the meaning of words like “numéro,” which is not what it might seem.

I haven’t figured out yet how I want to share the French point of view on pro-cycling with Americans. Is it to study the twittos’ and French reporters’ commentary for what they notice and question?  Or maybe what I really want to accomplish is sharing my love for pro-cycling in a French way.  I’ve often felt I should have been born a European.

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