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During my time in France, I have been looking for English everywhere in my hometown of Epône. Not solely on signs and billboards around the town, but also listening for it around the house i.e. on the radio, the television etc. I have been shocked to hear so much of it on the TV, especially in programs featuring young “down with it” teenagers (I’m so old), on the French equivalent – in my view – of “The only way is Essex“, entitled “Les Ch’tis” and “Les Marseillais“. For example, French-ified verbs such as “Twerker“, and “Faire le freestyle” can be heard, along with them talking often about “les people” – meaning in English “men and women who have become famous without doing anything” (According to an informal chat with an English teacher (who is French) on 28/02/2015 about the meaning of this word – see field-notes) .
Furthermore, throughout numerous interviews with french subjects, I have discovered that when talking about TV series that they like to watch, a majority of them only mentioned Anglophone ones, gave the anglophone names, and said that they preferred to watch the in VO (original version i.e. English) but dubbed. To exemplify, even my eldest interviewee (60+ years old) who is not an English teacher, stated in a formal interview that even at home, his children preferred to watch series in their original language “Ils les regardent qu’en langue originale, les films…et les versions originales sont quasiment tout le temps en anglais” (08:26 – 13/03/2015). He explains that the reason for this, in his opinion, is that “ …c’est plus agréable à l’oreille, parce que la synchronisation est évidente, parce que l’accent à de l’importance, etcetera.”(10:23 – 13/03/2015). So from this, we can conclude that even though he may not be watching the series himself, he is still subjected to English in his own house via these TV series and films.
In fact, just last night at a dinner party here in the house of my famille d’accueil, I was discussing TV series that I liked to watch. I attempted to name a few French ones that I watch here in France, in an attempt to sound well educated and show them that I’m making an effort to watch French programs. I name programs such as the above mentioned “Les Ch’tis“, “Les Marseillais“, “Les reines du shopping” and “Un dîner presque parfait“. However, instead of getting a flurry of interest, instead, my mere d’accueil’s nephew (23 years old) starting naming series that he likes…but anglophone one such as “How I met you mother” and “Breaking Bad“. He also knew of “Game of Thrones“, which surprised me as I said the title in English (instead of the French translation “Le Trône de fer”) and he understood it even though he didn’t appear to have a very high level of English.
This made me think a lot about English titles (of TV series/ films/ programs etc) and English series in France. It made me wonder what the French have to say on this matter, as it is their language which is being impacted upon/ or not in some people’s opinions. Luckily, a teacher who works with me at school – and knows about my project – managed to find and give to me an incredible article which she found from Monday 16th March 2015 in Paris’ daily newspaper, “Le Parisien“, on this very subject; a well timed article released appropriately a few days before the UN French Language Day, which is annually observed a few days later on march 20th.
I therefore enclose below a photo of the newspaper clipping, under which I will provide my own attempt at the English translation. I hope that the translation is as interesting and clear for those reading it in English as it was for me to read it and translate it. I would be grateful for any translation comments in terms of how some phrases can be improved/ structured differently, so please feel free to comment below:
Too much English on French TV!
(NB: CSA = Conseil Supérieur de l’audio visuel/ French broadcasting regulatory body. The English equivalent being the IBA, to my knowledge)
Programs. In order to encourage channels to track down anglicisms, the IBA has launched today “French language day” for audiovisual media. But is this mission impossible?
But what use can the first day of the French language in audiovisual media, launched by the IBA be? Supposedly TV channels and radios will get together, notably on the subject of “say it in French”.However, after a simple glance at today’s TV programs, we can see that this good intention has not exactly come into fruition. For example,at the three busiest points of the day, France 2 shows “Mon food truck à la clé“, the unpronounceable series “Rizoli & Isles” and the fact-finding magazine “Cash Investigation“. It is almost as if every new show has had to take on an English title with an English word, at risk of seeming unfashionable! It’s no better on TNT and private channels. M6 has put on 3 series under a foreign title “Raising Hope“, “Drop Dead Diva” and “A Gifted Man“. And what about Canal + ? After channel hopping, the evening begins with “le Before du Grand Journal” before going onto the new fiction “Spotless“. And if TF1 does well today, the weekend will be rich with “battles” taking place on “The Voice, the best Voice“…
French is uncool and unfashionable
“It’s younger, more trendy and more skilled to use anglicisms“, explains the TV expert François Just, who just 16 months ago took part in the IBA’s symposium of the future of the French Language, in which the only concrete measure was this day’s creation. “When the term exists in French, I don’t see why we should say it in English. “La Voix” must have appeared as too much of an everyday, unremarkable title in the producer’s and broadcasters’ eyes, who preferred instead to go with “The Voice”, and even more shockingly, on TF1 with “50 minutes Inside“, a title that means nothing to TV viewers. For me, this goes back to the time of YèYé (A style of music from the 60s), with this fascination for anglo-saxon rock, which encouraged artists to anglacise themselves – like Johnny Hallyday“.
Francophones outside of our borders defend the French language better than we do. Here, it’s uncool, worried Patrice Gélinet, the President of the IBA’s French Language work and Francophone group. The French language is rather respected in the media, except for one case, the abuse of anglicismes, which represent 70% of TV complaints.
Globalisation is to blame
According to channels, the recent changes of an industry of globalised entertainment supports this trend. “We have effectively lots of English sounding titles on M6” accepts Christine Bouillet, the head of program scheduling. “15 years ago, we were renaming “Aux frontières du réel“, the X-Files series. But the world has changed. Today, when a series starts to be well-known in the states, it becomes well known instantly everywhere on earth, thanks to specialised sites and social media. It is therefore logical to not change the original title, so that we can gain from this fame. And it’s more practical. Bones is also the surname of the heroine. NCIS is an acronym that we see again and again everywhere, like on the characters’ baseball hats or bullet proof vests.”
Even France Télévisions, which buys less and less foreign programs, still puts them on. “We are making an effort, notably for the Sunday series on the channel France 3” claims David Djaoui, the director of harmonisation and events of the public group. “But with Broadchurch, a place or castle, a real name, we haven’t found an answer. However, I feel that with their games, Julien Lepers or Cyril Féraud, make better use of the French language than some reality TV programs like Les Anges, broadcasted on TNT”.
Not a matter of sanctions
Faced with abuse, “it’s not about constraining but convincing“, hammers home Patrice Gélinet of the IBA, who doesn’t pretend to be a purist. “Sanctioning would be counter-productive. French language day in the media is a booster to provoke awareness and to bring back the taste for French. By dint of repeating that certain English words have (French) equivalents, (French) it will come back into fashion“.
Must we translate English TV titles and words?
Jean-Pierre Bailleul, 71 years old, Retired, Le Havre (76): Yes, I am for this because it’s not always coherent. New expressions appear and we are lost, even if certain terms like “casting” or “live” have fallen into everyday language. We must defend the French language. There can also be problems with translation. It’s annoying to hear. Anglicised terms are more present in media such as TV, as well as Radio.
Frantz Jeanjean, 18 years old, Student, Puteaux (92): Hearing English terms on the TV doesn’t bother me. They shouldn’t be overly used so as not to spoil French, but all languages anglicise expressions. In the program “The Voice”, candidates contend with each other in “battles”. That didn’t impoverish our language; quite the opposite. Imposing this this barrier -as a way of preserving our culture – seems disproportionate to me.
Sophie Pompilii, 43 years old, Landscape Artist, Rouen (76): Anglicised terms suit me very well. To Frenchify certain expressions would be ridiculous. We are not going to call the series “House of Cards” “Maison des Cartes”. English is the universal language. All european citizens learn English from as young an age as possible. This fear of seeing French disappearing seems irrational. Translating titles into English would lower our intellectual capacities.
Axel Nzouzi, 44 years old, Insurance Office, Villemomble (76): It could be a good thing. We must protect the French-speaking world. Television is mass media, and it must be the driving force behind instilling the French language on us. We have the tendance to anglicise words. It’s become an obsession/ habit. Why use the word “business” instead of “affaires”? We have a real hang-up for it. There’s nothing but English. I believe that it impoverishes our language.
Heitiri Amaru, 22 years old, Student, Papeete (Tahiti): No, I am against it. It would be good for us to learn English. TV is a good learning tool to get used to it (English) from a young age. We want French people to speak English, so it’s a contradictory approach. I find it ridiculous to challenge evolution. We don’t speak old-French anymore. And Anglo-Saxons use some of our words like “marriage” and “restaurant”.
In Quebec “La Voix” has replaced “The Voice”
It is possible to avoid anglicisms on the TV, even when discussing famous American TV series. Quebec demonstrates this to us on it’s TV channels. For example, TV addicts of TF1 are loosing their heads about “Mentalist“, and the series will soon become “Le Mentaliste”, on the other side of the Atlantic. Not so complicated either is the promotion of “Le Château de cartes” (otherwise known as “Game of Thrones”, on OCS) or “Personne d’intérêt” (“Person of Interest” on la Une)…The French translation of the series “Beautés désespérées” (“Desperate Housewives” on Canal + and M6) or “le Chimiste” (“Breaking Bad” on OCS) is every bit as good as the medical version of “Dre Grey, leçons d’anatomie” (“Grey’s Anatomy“) or “Mémoire sous enquête” (“Unforgettable” on TF1) and “Elémentaire” (Elementary” on M6)…
The Quebecois also play the Francophone card when it comes to TV shows. For instance, the show “The voice, la plus belle voix” which takes neither side in the debate on TF1 becomes “La Voix” on Quebecois TV, and the “battles” of the singer-competitors are quite simply called “duels“. As far as TV talent shows are concerned, the “Star Academie” in Montreal competed in it’s time with the Parisian “Star Academy“. As for the adventure game “Facteur de risques” (“Fear Factor”), it still sends shivers up it’s participants’ spine.
Fans of Quebecois cinema are still waiting for the next “Rapide et dangereux” (“Fast and Furious”) after having enjoyed the animated films “les Bagnoles” (“Cars”), or “Poulets en fuite” (“Chicken Run”), and applauded Tarantino’s film “Fiction Pulpeuse” (“Pulp Fiction”) or moving and grooving to “Danse lascive” (“Dirty Dancing”).