French vs English
The French language originated in the 9th century, outdating the English language by over two centuries. It has been developed over the years as an interpretation of Latin, thus becoming known as a Romance language. English however was derived from Norse and Celtic, making it a Germanic language. This subtle difference that occurred ages ago now affects the overall sensibility of both languages, as well as the two dominant cultures.
Such an example is found in Les Miserables, a book written in 1862 by Victor Hugo, which showcases the different sensibilities the two different languages provide. English is more abrasive, giving the people who speak it a more forceful way of being, therefore stimulating an edgier culture. Both books and movies tend to be faster paced, with generally more stimulus. French is more languid, providing it’s speakers with a more relaxed outlook on the world. This viewpoint is reflected through French works, such as books, movies and various forms of art. Victor Hugo intended his book to be languidly painful, to draw torment in the reader, and yet still keep an unconcerned and monotonous tone.
When translated into English, the text morphs into a violent and deliberately horrifying portrayal of society and life in the mid 18 hundreds. French literature is renown for its subtle nuances. Les Miserable, a blatant example of hidden messages amidst a seemingly obvious theme showcases the overall French sensibility very accurately. Instead of explicitly describing the characters’ sufferings, the author writes about each situation sparingly, letting the reader use his imagination to embellish the writing. The English translation however uses more explicit language to showcase the characters’ emotions, which undermines the original subtleties of the text.
La Cage au Folles, a famous French comedy, does not engage in rambunctious or slapstick humor, and instead uses intellectual hints to amuse the viewer. The two main characters, a married gay couple, attempt to appear straight in the eyes of his sons’ new wife. Their unintentional mishaps fill the movie with laughter that an American movie could not have brought to the screen. The Birdcage, the American version, was well made and entertaining, but the overall experience of the movie was not as funny. To address such a silly matter and attempt to make it into a subtle yet hilarious production takes a certain kind of sensibility that American movies seem to lack. Conversely, when it comes to action and suspense, Americans have the upper hand.
Any book, like Harry Potter, that was translated into French lost its cutting edge along the way. The English language is somewhat harsher than French, therefore creating a tenser environment than a French text could achieve. For instance, the phrase, “”I don’t go looking for trouble. Trouble usually finds me.” has a straightforward meaning that is easily understood by any reader. However, when translated into French*, the phrase loses its candor and instead gains s slightly awkward sensibility that upsets the balance between the writing style and plotline.
One may not think that language affects the culture of an entire country, but numerous studies such as the article by psychologist Lera Broditsky, How Does our Language Shape the Way We Think?, have concluded that not only does it influence the culture; it aspires different values from children. In many languages, objects have different pretexts. In French, a chair is referred to as a female, while a painting is referred to as a male. This way of speaking enters the subconscious, therefore creating the idea that various inanimate objects have particular genders. As Charlemagne proclaimed, “To have a second language is to have a second soul.” *Je ne vais pas chercher des ennuis.
Les ennuis me trouve habituellement