Candice: Apparently our gaelic writing friends are struggling to find a bigger market than their own turf. According to the BBC, French books don’t sell well outside of their own country because the French are seen as too deep and intellectual. And they aren’t very good at writing chic lit…
I have to say this probably relates to most of our European cousins, lets face it most of the books in the shops are British or American these days, the key European ones are more likely to be course text for English Lit students. The same could be said for the music charts and films – they again are mainly populated by the English-speaking countries.
Why is this? Well it seems it goes both ways, the French don’t read as much of the stuff we select in our bookstores. It’s highly unlikely you’d be sat on the Metro next to someone reading ‘Fifty Shades of Grey‘. No our french colleagues are to clever for that.
Personally I think it gets lost in translation. They always say American and the UK, split by a common language. The Yanks struggle with our sense of humour (though they get Monty Python) and we take their stories with a pinch of salt. But add in changing the words as well as cultural differences and I think it might be a step too far for most.
However, I’m not saying these guys are stupid. I think its us English speakers who don’t try hard enough. We will always opt for the easiest route as we are crap at learning another language, the closest most Brits get to talking to foreigners is slowing it down to say “Fish and Chips, please, senor”.
I have to admit if I had the option of a french film with subtitles or an English one I know which way I would go but then when I give them a chance, something like Leon or Amelie is the result. Two cracking films.
To our European based readers – what do you think?
2 responses to “Parlez Vous Francais?”
The Illusionist – French/Scottish co-production. No subtitles but you don’t really need them as there isn’t a whole lot of dialogue. Most beautiful looking film I’ve ever seen. Quite sad too.
Having lived with our french cousins for 9 years and still speaking rubbish French (mainly because my wife speaks it so well which is quite common amongst the English here -I think it is because women have an in-built desire to communicate) there are a huge range of books by French authors. Yes there are plenty of translations from English and American but crime writers such as Fred Vargas (a lady) who has been translated into English plus the Scandinavians means they have the best of all worlds. They also have the advantage of writers from their (ex) overseas colonies such as Vietnam to add an extra rich seam of creativity. Fifty Shades was on full display in our local village tabac and sold well according to the Spanish owner, with nary a hair turned as it’s subject matter was pretty much part of the mainstream (think marquis de Sade).
It’s not true to say that it is just the English who don’t bother with foreign languages – it is because in other countries English is the language of business and is taught in schools from day one. My son in law runs an English academy in Madrid and he has never been busier. Since the country’s problems the government has implemented a programme that will have every child leaving school having a good knowledge of our language.
Eric Cantona recently stated that he wished more films shot in France were made in English as people don’t like sub-titles or dubbing. There was a furore and questions in Parliament recently when it was disclosed that a new crime series was being shot in Paris using French actors speaking English! Sacré blue!!