I minored in French in college. There was no real “reason” for me to do that, at least no practical reason—I have never been to France or Québéc or any other Francophone locale—other than the fact that I just really liked my French classes in high school and felt like I was relatively good at it. During my last year of college, I actually worked at a call center speaking French full time. I got pretty good at talking about shampoo, laundry detergent, and various health supplements over the phone en français with les Québécois.
As part of my foreign-language study I had to read a handful of books in French. I really liked La Peste (The Plague) and Le Château de ma Mère (My Mother’s Castle), but Descartes and Molière were harder for me.
As part of my MA and PhD coursework, I had to pass language proficiency requirements. The requirement was one language for the MA (Latin, French, Italian, or German), and two for the PhD (one of which must be German). To meet the proficiency requirements, we had two options: take a written test (basically, translate into English an article in the foreign language), or, take two semester of college-level classes in that language, and come out with an average GPA of 3.5. (One of these methods is clearly harder than the other.) I took the French test during my first semester. The German requirement, for the PhD, took me a while to complete. I had virtually no experience with German before grad school, so I took the two-semesters-of-college-level-classes route. I remember almost none of the German I learned, save a few phrases/words here and there.
Almost all books have the title and author written on the spine. This way, it is easy to know which books are which even when they are placed on a shelf or in a stack. In English, the title, author, etc. is written from the top to the bottom. So, the book, Moby Dick would have the letter “M” somewhere above the letters “oby.” But, in some other languages, French being one of them (and German, and Spanish, and others, I imagine), the words are written from the bottom to the top. Les Misérables would have the letter “L” below the following “es.”
If I am browsing titles in a bookstore or library, I often tilt my head to the right, slightly; this gives my brain a little help in reading the sideways words. As I said, I have never been to France or Québéc (or inside a library in a German-speaking country), so I need someone to answer a question for me: Do people walk around bookstores and libraries with their heads tilted to the left in these places? This is really important for me to know. Thanks in advance.