A Day in Paris

So I’ve been gone for quite a while now..

What have I been up to?

I disappeared off the radar back in October after I signed myself up for a TCF examen “Test de Connaissance du Français” at the Sorbonne University in Paris. Cue complete geek breakdown. For the geek in his life my boyfriend bought me the two requisitory revision books for this exam for our three-year anniversary (two spent in France – time flies!!). Maybe some girls would be a little bit disappointed with this kind of gift but I think I ate the first one over one weekend.. It was so long since I had a real academic project with a deadline that I just threw myself headfirst, evenings were spent with my old study playlists booming in my headphones while I devoured le subjonctif, l’imparfait, le passé, pourquoi cet nom est féminin et pas masculin ? etc.

I took the TGV at an ungodly freezing cold hour in the morning for an exam beginning at 10am in the 5th arrondissement.. Continue reading

Les Français sont nuls en anglais? I found the reason!

Yet again I find myself frustrated by French irritating nationalism and overarching pride in la belle langue.

Today I’m ranting about French doublage (dubbing).


It’s something that has bothered me for a long time but I’ve never got around to writing about it. Now, I do frequent a great independent cinema here in Reims (http://www.cinemasreims.com/) so I can’t complain too much as without it I would go insane. They offer all their films in the original version (VO) with French subtitles as opposed to the French version (VF). As opposed to the horrific chain Gaumont which supplies all the latest trash from US Hollywood and French Hollywood (apologies French daydreamers, not all French films are in black and white with lots of wide shots of Paris‘ rain soaked streets with smoking androgynous girls).

Before the naysayers begin, I am not just another “Eeenglish” who can’t bear to watch anything that’s not in my native tongue, au contraire, I would rather pull my eyes out with a snail fork –9818843-snail-on-a-fork-sitting-isolated-on-a-white-background

A snail fork you say?

Noooooooo! That’s not a snail fork! This is a snail fork.


Now back to the story

– than watch Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain in English. A charming Parisien dashing around Montmartre uttering the words of Shakespeare? No thank you. By contrast the French have neither shame nor worry with the contrary; quintessential English roses running around London, or swashbuckling Irish gardai chasing drug dealers in Connemara – all get to communicate through the tongue of Descartes, Rousseau et. al. And why not? It is the most beautiful language in the world after all… mini-violins…

I have spoken with many French people about this, of whom  over 90% are in agreement with me: just put the subtitles on goddamn it! It doesn’t take Albert Einstein to figure it out. In Europe, almost all Northern countries subtitle their English language films and TV series, we’re talking Norway, Sweden, Holland, Denmark etc. While Southern countries(excluding Portugal), Spain, Italy and France dub EVERYTHING. If you want an example of why I put the last word in uppercase, it’s because even on the news during a foreign item, if someone, a protester perhaps, speaks in English, it’s dubbed! Surely it’s not quicker and cheaper to just put up subtitles? So where is the connection? Ah, I’ll tell you. Have you ever met a relatively young person from Northern Europe who didn’t speak extremely, impressively good English? ……….see?

There will be French people who will say “baaaah we don’t care about English” which may be true, but any relatively ambitious person in France knows that, for business, without English, you’re dead. So why then, do the French dig their heels into the ground, regarding subtitling English films and TV series on French television? Because they really like having their heels dug into the ground because of their problems with change (see the Mariage pour Tous debacle at the moment)? I’m joking this is not the only reason. The media are also in a hole with this as apparently a programme broadcasted in VO will see a fall in audience numbers of 30%!  (http://www.slate.fr/story/18195/pourquoi-la-france-double-t-elle-tout-le-monde) It is no secret that oui, les français sont nuls en anglais (the French suck at English) and as the French never like to lose at anything why would they be reminded of their language ineptitude when they are watching TV? But the solution is shockingly obvious, introduce subtitles and break the curse!

A child who is exposed to a language up to the age of seven greatly improves their chances of speaking the language fluently when they are older. The human race’s fatal flaw of never seeming to be capable of thinking longterm hinders the French again. The millions spent by French companies to teach their hopelessly nul executives to speak English at the age fifty (when the brain has a much lower capacity to learn a new language) will be SAVED if they introduce subtitles on television. The French must surely realise they cannot rely on notoriously bad English language education in schools, which of course is improving somewhat but teachers at l’école primaire are teaching children English when they themselves can hardly speak. Not exactly a recipe for success.

Why am I suddenly so irritated today? Because I really love good cinema; the details, the charm and the subtleties of good dialogue and good direction. At the moment, I’m interested in going to see “I Give it a Year” (Mariage à l’anglaise) which has the air of being an atypical English comedy. Basically something I cannot bear to watch in French (much like Shutter Island a few weeks ago…Leonardo Dicaprio is NOT French). Unfortunately, my beloved indie cinema has not taken it up, leaving me with the option of watching it in VF at Gaumont. Decisions, decisions. Je pense que ce sera un non pour moi.

Why are French people so irritating beyond the point of belief?

I never thought I would meet a nation of people more annoyingly stubborn than myself.

Arras – Birthplace of Maximilien Robespierre

‘One leads the people by reason, and the enemies of the people by terror…. If the mainspring of popular government in peacetime is virtue, the mainspring of popular government during a revolution is both virtue and terror; virtue, without which terror is baneful; terror, without which virtue is powerless. Terror is nothing more than speedy, severe, and inflexible justice; it is thus an emanation of virtue; it is less a principle in itself than a consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing needs of the patrie.’

Robespierre, – OEuvres, X, pp. 356–7.

I recently visited Robespierre‘s hometown of Arras. I already knew a little about Robespierre through studying history but here’s a refresher for those who are interested (the phrase that stuck in my fifteen year old’s brain was “rivers of blood flowed through assembly…” and I thought to myself what a nice bunch these French).

The Wanderer is set during the Reign of Terror...

Maximilien Robespierre was born, of Irish origin (bien sur) at Arras May 6, 1758. He was elected a deputy of the estates-general (a form of parliament, but without real power) that met in May 1789, and subsequently served in the National Constituent Assembly.

He was primarily behind the Reign of Terror (1793-94) where over 40,000 French men and women were executed by the guillotine, incited by rivalry between two political factions (the Girondins and the Jacobites) following the overthrowing of the monarchy.

Note: Let’s not forget one man/woman cannot possibly be responsible for a grand deed such as this and it is entirely plausible that his role was exaggerated so others didn’t have to take their share of accountability, but it can be under no doubt that his inflammatory speeches did not light the match.

English: Plaque at the place of the house (now...

Plaque at the place of the house (now destroyed) where the french philosoph Jean-Jacques Rousseau lived during his last years in Paris : 54 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Paris 2e arr. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He was heavily influenced by 18th century Enlightenment philosophies from Jean Jacques Rousseau and Montesquieu.   He saw virtue in revolution and he maintained that the Terror was virtuous as it was an attempt to maintain the Revolution and the Republic. His supporters called him “the Incorruptible,” while his adversaries called him the blood thirsty dictator. Indeed.

Fun fact: he has been described as being “physically unimposing…” what is it with short French men being little bolloxes, they are really trying to over-compensate for something aren’t they!! Fascinating..

If his antics (acting morally superior, introducing a new religion entitled the Cult of the Supreme Being, murdering people etc.) are starting to piss anyone off, no worries. After capture by the Convention on the  28 July 1794, he was guillotined without trial and buried in a common grave (he is now however in the Catacombs of Paris). If you’re interested in the Cult of the Supreme Being google it, needless to say I have zero patience for people establishing new religions as I think we have rather enough trouble with the old ones don’t you think?

Of course, I don’t think Robespierre was power-hungry (but one can never know) he seemed to genuinely want to maintain the Revolution in order to save the Republic as he figured one was inconclusive without the other. As usual regarding extremists, he had good ideas but was all wrong in his pursuit of them (finding people to blame just for the sake of it, execution etc). It seems naive to say it, but there isn’t a revolution in history that was bloodless. For anything to begin anew, there must first be destruction of the old, and as the old is almost always human beings it is certain to involve death. If there was a way for there to be victors in war without violence, the inventor of this miraculous feat would surely have discovered the mysteries of the universe, the secret of black holes, and could travel at the speed of sound. I don’t have the answers I merely wish to engender debate.

Assez! (enough)

I spent a morning strolling around Monsieur Robespierre’s birthplace and there wasn’t a severed head in sight. An entirely (I think I have used that word over three times in this article, I’m feeling entirely “something” today it would seem) charming town, and the weather was pleasant which is always encouraging when in the North of France. A little Dutch and Belgian in architecture as it lies so close to the border.

Here’s a few photographs which I took – maybe you will see where Napolean and such got their ideas for their silly hats !

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