Whoui Spik Inglish

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Whoui Spik Inglish!

The other day, we went to see Kiss & Kill, a U.S movie. You may have heard of it: the Eng­lish title is “Killers”. Why did the French bother chang­ing the orig­i­nal Eng­lish title to another Eng­lish title? No idea. Sim­i­larly, “The Spy Next Door” is “Kung Fu Nanny” here. Go figure!

We sat in the Gaumont’s tiny seats with no cup hold­ers (French don’t eat or drink dur­ing movies) and watched the com­mer­cials. Two min­utes later, I burst out laugh­ing when I heard that the ice-cream adver­tised was “as good as gold” – it sounded like “has goude has golde”, pro­nounced with the worse French accent you can imag­ine. Yes, I know, some of you find it sexy. But it doesn’t mean it’s not ridiculous.

When you sit in the T.G.V, you hear loud and annoy­ing announce­ments to encour­age pas­sen­gers to talk to the “rail team” (the “rele teeme”?) should they have any ques­tions. It’s only after the third announce­ment that I actu­ally under­stood they meant “the rail team” – that bad.

Okay, don’t get me wrong. I know I have an accent. I must have one any­way even though appar­ently I don’t really sound French. Yet I can’t help won­der­ing why French are obsessed with Eng­lish words they can’t pro­nounce correctly.

French already use a cer­tain num­ber of “Eng­lish” words: le park­ing (for park­ing lot), le press­ing (dry-cleaner), les bas­kets (run­ning shoes), le pull-over (sweater)… These words, like many other for­eign words (Kalash­nikov, pesto…) came to be part of the French vocab­u­lary and are pro­nounced with a nor­mal French accent. Sim­i­larly, Eng­lish peo­ple say “déjà-vu” and “maître d’” after all. I per­son­ally don’t have any prob­lem with that and I do find Quebec’s ten­dency to come up with a trans­la­tion for every sin­gle word of Eng­lish ori­gin a bit annoy­ing at times. I mean, “le chien chaud” for “hot dog”? Come on!

Now, what I truly dis­like is the cur­rent trend of using Eng­lish words or sen­tences just to sound cool. First, I don’t see why Eng­lish would be cooler than French, and sec­ond, the accent is just laugh­able at best. If I hear one more per­son say­ing they study “busi­ness” (“bouzinez”) I’m gonna laugh. Var­i­ous media use a lot of Eng­lish words as well, pre­sum­ably to sound mod­ern and cool. The slo­gan of one of the lead­ing radio sta­tions, NRJ, is “hit music only”, pro­nounced “it mou­sic only”. They have their “top vidéo” (why the accent??), a “music store”, and a “peo­ple” sec­tion — in French, “peo­ple” means famous peo­ple, as in stars and jet-setters.

The hard­est thing for me is to revert to pro­nounc­ing these words with a French accent, to drop the “h” for instance. Oth­er­wise, peo­ple don’t under­stand. And yes, it’s harder than it seems!

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French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

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