Friday, 15 January 2010

My rotten French

ready for the next power cut.

Thought it was time that I started to try and improve my French from horrendous to bearable. Naturally since we are trying to organise the contents of the house, a Herculean job, nearly everything we want to find is now buried and lost. My prepaid prescription card, worth a hundred times it’s weight in gold has vanished off the face of the earth and the French CDs have also gone into hiding.

More relaxing and entertaining would be to watch French movies, they are always entertaining and so unlike anything the brits can manage. We watched two on consecutive nights, one recorded off air the other a DVD. Both had subtitles which could not be switched off, great you are probably thinking, compare what is said to what it means.

The movies we watched were, La Vie en Rosé and Ma Vie en Rosé.

One was about a crazy drunken singer who seems to have drunk herself to death the second a really sweet film about a child who knows that she is a girl but the rest of the world thinks she is a boy and boy are they going to make each others lives as miserable as hell to prove it, naturally once everyone is thoroughly miserable they realise they were stupid and wrong and possibly some of them live happily ever after.

Though well made I would pay not to see the first again, the second while full of angst I would, did watch again.

So has it helped my French any? Well my hearing is getting slightly worse with age and I do find it quite difficult to hear exactly what is being said. Sadly I hear and understand enough to know that the person who writes the subtitles fancies themselves as a writer and feels free to write a slightly different story to the one on the screen! Enough of a difference for you to think they have put up the wrong subtitles! I don’t want to have to read the subtitles all the time I want to watch the film, rather miss some of the dialogue than be driven insane and have to keep groaning out loud or howling when they get it completely wrong!

Well this is not going to be much help, have to seek out some discs where I can switch off the titles.

My biggest difficulty is that I can often follow a conversation in a group without any pressure put on me to join in. Sometimes I make the big mistake of letting on that I have understood what has been said, even stupidly laughing at a joke someone has made. This has resulted in scary face to face dialogue with someone who switches on high speed, never have to stop to breathe, dialect and I am like a rabbit in the headlights, moments from death! I never paid “any” attention to French at school since I knew that I would never need to know it. Seems that I could have ignored most of the things I did listen to for they are mainly useless now but this one thing would have been some use. The little I did learn from a teach yourself French book weeks before the final exam, which the teacher told be in an honest but demeaning way that I would never pass, is so old fashioned it is of almost no use now. For a while I was quite good at building site French so was good with words foe hammer, nails, screws, joist, buckets and trailers and will never go hungry in a restaurant for want of understanding the menu, menu as in English is quite different from menu in French!

Time to start thinking about how to put on a show in the chapel gallery in May, seems an eternity away but time melts like the snow. I have the audience! Going to improve the French tourist economy all by myself! Now have to experiment with presentation so as to be able to get it all in our wee car. Spent a while today with an artist friend who’s work I like and we played with some painting ideas to create interesting substrates to mount the images. I am not going to frame and glaze a show as I normally would, time to start experiments...

If this is all a bit disjointed I blame it on yet another power cut plunging us into darkness and messing up all the heating controls and clocks and the fact that you are getting stream of consciousness post as usual.


  1. I understand exactly what you are saying; My understanding of French is much, much better than my speech. I always recommended DVDs to my pupils learning English.(Almost all films have a selection of languages with subtitles on or off as you like) The trick is not to try to translate, just let it flow over you, it's great for accents, speed, vocab and so on. The subtitles people have a problem because they have to precis the dialogue into small enough bites to be read quickly to fit the scene. As you know there is a lot which can't be translated.

    The best bit is that your subconcious picks up a lot more than you might think.

    Perhaps next time you come to France you could pick up some cheap DVDs, but you have to make sure they are compatible with the British system.

  2. Interesting! I have heard that La Vie en Rosé was a movie worth watching. I guess as with all things, it's a matter of perspective.

    I have always been intimidated by films with subtitles, because I am a slow reader. I always have to watch the movie twice, because I'm so busy trying to read the the subtitles before they go away, that I miss most of the acting on screen. The few Chinese movies I have seen, were a different story. Maybe it's just the particular director's works, but Chinese movie makers seem to be able to tell a good story, mostly by use of great acting and photography, and less dialogue.

    Melissa XX

  3. Melissa, I try to do both and curse that you miss much of what film making is all about. They should allow you a double entry for films with subtitles as you say once to just read them then just sit back and enjoy or bring back silent movies which were truly international, just change the caption shots!

    Caroline xxx


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