The language barrier in Paris has become so much easier to deal with since my arrival. I know think in little French phrases- “D’accord”, “oui”, “Merci beaucoup” “Aujourd’hui”, etc.

But now, the more I look around, the more I see English everywhere! Chic menu signs on the street boast “Lunch!” instead of “dejeuner”, and fabulous Parisian hair salons proudly display a little cursive sign proclaiming “English spoken” as a marketing slogan.

I also wondered how so many French people spoke English so well, if and when they deemed to speak it.

I have discovered the reason: they listen to American music, and watch American movies. I never thought about the fact that the industry of big movie-making is obviously Hollywood, and Hollywood is located in the United States, so all big budget, big star films are originally in English. And while some films are dubbed with French actors over the original voices, most films are shown avec sous-titres, with sub-titles.

French people are forced to learn and understand English if are to be able to enjoy Hollywood films without the annoyance of sous-titres. I can’t imagine reading every movie, or listening to one voice while watching an American actor’s lips speak another word. Phrases are different, expressions have different connotations, and nothing is comparable word for word, regardless of the language. American movie-goers complain when foreign films are in sub-titles- but why not, that is the original language of the film, the language the words were written in, and the way the film was created from the beginning?

There are some things that are just lost in translation, that even the most comprehensive sous-titres can’t replicate. You can’t go through life with sub-titles.

Advertisements