Dutch without tears… a guest book review

The PGCE Modern Foreign Language students are due to visit the Centre on Monday, so for them, and for anyone interested in authentic French children’s literature, here is a review of a book in our collection.

Marie-Aude Murail, Le hollandaise sans peine (Dutch without tears)

“It was in my ninth year that I learnt Dutch. At that time, I had a father, a decent type like me, who wanted his children to succeed in life.”

These are the opening sentences of this hilarious tale of a French family’s camping trip in Germany. The father, keen to further his children’s education, proposes that the young hero should learn German by the immersion method, by making friends with a boy of a similar age staying in a neighbouring tent.  However, our hero prefers to make up some nonsense vocabulary, pretending to his playmate that it is Dutch, and persuading his parents that he, in turn, is learning Dutch.

The book is pitched at newly independent readers: good-sized typeface and plenty of illustrations. The French is straightforward but colloquial, with plenty of tongue-in-cheek humour.  For English readers, I would say it is accessible (and enjoyable) for those with secondary school French and a good dictionary.*  It would work well as a group read for motivated pupils, willing to delve into authentic French.  Exploring how to best translate the French colloquialisms into everyday English would be a good collaborative task, so long as teenagers weren’t put off by the implied, younger, readership of the book.

Marie-Aude Murail is a celebrated, prolific and best-selling author of books for children. She has written many (longer) books aimed at a teenage audience. In 2004, Murail was awarded the Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur. Much of her work has been translated into many languages, but I couldn’t find an English version of this title.

Particularly recommended for teachers of Foreign Languages, since learning a language is the premise on which the sustained joke relies.  There’s a nice message at the end, too.


Marie-Aude Murail, 2010, Le hollandaise sans peine, Paris : L’école des loisirs.  First edition 1989.


*That is the proficiency level of this reviewer, so please excuse any mistakes in translation.


Guest review by Mandy, who also works in the Curriculum Centre.

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