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.