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emk
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 Message 577 of 1317
16 May 2013 at 6:23pm | IP Logged 
patrickwilken wrote:
I guess the French rarely (if ever) would consider adding a French-Canadian accent to the mix.

At the risk of annoying any Quebecois readers of this log, I would love to see a dub of Crocodile Dundee using a heavily dipthongized Quebec accent in place of broad Australian. It would be deeply wrong, but also hilarious.

I've seen one other marvelous example of translating English dialects into French. Terry Pratchett's hilarious Wee Free Men features a tribe of pictsies who are 6-inch-tall fairies, much given to drinking, stealing and fighting. (They're also heroic, loyal and a force for good.) In the original, they speak a dialect resembling Glaswegian Scotts.

The French translation is titled Les ch'tits hommes libres. The Scotts is replaced by Ch'ti, the French dialect spoken in Nord-Pas-de-Calais. At least to my non-native ear, it's an excellent translation, preserving all the important linguistic variation of the original. But I was very careful to avoid re-reading this book less than a month before my B2 exam, for fear of totally corrupting my spelling.

For a real challenge, I'd love to see someone try to translate Bon Cop, Bad Cop into, say, German. Much of the film's humor comes from the interplay of English, standard Parisian French, informal Quebec French, and (in one scene) extremely thick joual. Various characters code switch, have bilingual conversations, butcher English idioms, give lessons on how to swear in Quebec French, and make jokes about specific hockey commentators. Oh, and there's some truly terrifying Franglais, including the phrase, "Oh, come on! C'est ma journée off!"

Bon Cop, Bad Cop is a linguistic gem, and it's one of the most successful films ever made in Quebec. But it's also the single most untranslatable film I've ever seen.
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patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
radiant-flux.net
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 Message 578 of 1317
16 May 2013 at 7:01pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:

At the risk of annoying any Quebecois readers of this log, I would love to see a dub of Crocodile Dundee using a heavily dipthongized Quebec accent in place of broad Australian. It would be deeply wrong, but also hilarious.


That would definitely be worth doing. I have to state as an Australian, that I was a little horrified years ago, to learn that Mad Max had been dubbed into US standard English on release in the States.

emk wrote:

Bon Cop, Bad Cop is a linguistic gem, and it's one of the most successful films ever made in Quebec. But it's also the single most untranslatable film I've ever seen.


Thanks for the tip. I'll have to check it out. As I have got more into dubbed shows, I found it fascinating how much information accents carry. It's funny in a way, as the sort of information you get (class, economic, educational, birthplace etc) are not something that I have heard language learners really talk about. Most people, if they worry at all, seem to worry about getting a perfect accent, even though no such thing exists.

In Germany most language teachers seem to think that BBC English is the gold standard, which I find somewhat amusing. There are so many wonderful accents in English, I am not sure sounding like the News at 10 presenter is where I would automatically go.
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emk
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 Message 579 of 1317
17 May 2013 at 2:57am | IP Logged 
Fred Vargas

Here's a short excerpt from L'homme à l'envers by Fred Vargas. Camille is a Frenchwoman, a wanderer in old boots who works as a musician and a plumber, currently dating a Canadian wildlife expert who's studying a wolf pack in the Alps. Unfortunately, sheep have been turning up dead, and the local villagers blame the wolves. Here, Camille has climbed to a rock above the village for a little bit of solitude, trying to escape from the anger and noise in village as the local men prepare hunting parties.

I like this excerpt because it's an effective bit of characterization.

Quote:
Elle sortit l'eau, le pain, le catalogue. C'était un catalogue très complet, avec des sous-parties sur l'air comprimé, le soudage, les échafaudages, le levage et des tas de rubriques prometteuses de cette sorte. Camille lisait tout, y compris les descriptifs les plus détaillés comme Débroussailleuse thermique 1,1 Cv Barre antirecul Transmission rigide antivibrée avec renvoi Allumage électronique Poids 5,6 kg. Ce genre de notice, dont ces catalogues fourmillaient, lui apportait un vif contentement intellectuel — comme comprendre l'objet, son agencement, son efficacité — en même temps qu'une satisfaction lyrique intense. S'ajoutait le rêve sous-jacent de résoudre tous les problèmes planétaires avec le Tour combiné fraiseuse ou la Clef de mandarin universelle. Le catalogue, c'était l'espérance de contrer par force combinée à la ruse tous les emmerdements de l'existence. Espérance fallacieuse, certes, mais espérance tout de même. Camille puisait ainsi son énergie vitale à deux sources : la composition musicale et le Catalogue de l'Outillage Professionnel. Dix ans plus tôt, elle comptait aussi sur l'amour, mais elle en avait beaucoup rabattu sur ce vieux truc rabâché de l'amour. L'amour vous donnait des ailes pour vous scier les jambes, ça ne valait pas donc trop le coup. Beaucoup moins le coup qu'un Circ hydraulique 10 tonnes, par exemple. En gros, avec l'amour, si vous n'aimiez pas quelqu'un, il restait, et si vous aimiez quelqu'un, il s'en allait. Un système simple, sans surprise, qui engendrait immanquablement un grand ennui ou une catastrophe. Tout cela pour vingt jours d'émerveillement, non, ça ne valait pas le coup.

Combine this kind of tight characterization with mysterious livestock deaths, angry French villagers, and rumors of a loup-garou, and I'm sold.

Les Mondes d'Aldébaran

On the BD front, I quickly read the first four volumes of Antarès after work today. As usual, the French was easy, conversational, and filled with important expressions. Seriously, you could put pretty much the entire text of all 14 volumes on Anki cards and not go too far wrong. And the aliens were typically bizarre and dangerous. I was rather annoyed to discover, however, that there's one more book to be published, and I'm going to have to wait!

But here's the weird bit. One of the ongoing themes of this series is women's right to control their own lives. This appears on several levels, including romantic relationships (if she's not interested, stop bugging her) and colonial governments that try to treat women like chattel. The protagonists are smart, capable women who nonetheless have normal human failings and doubts. And the series passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. But despite all this, the main character manages to go swimming topless in virtually every single book. It's getting just a little bit predictable.

L'Avatar, le dernier maître de l'air

Episode 4! This is remarkably good. The characterization of Aang, in particular, is excellent. He's a 12-year-old boy, silly, sweet, reckless, and immature. He's lost everyone he ever knew, and his world is a century dead. He knows that he's responsible for saving the entire world, and he knows that the job is still way too big for him. Aang alternates between a playful child, a fighter who has worked hard to master very real skills, and—occasionally—an inhuman elemental force.

Edited by emk on 17 May 2013 at 12:39pm

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emk
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 Message 580 of 1317
17 May 2013 at 2:08pm | IP Logged 
Two subjects today: Gaps between the CEFR levels, and a little bit about key skills that really jumpstart the learning process.

Gaps between the CEFR levels

One of the challenges in bridging the gap between B2 and C1 is the need to simultaneously improve both the range and the quality of my output. Let me quote from the old Council of Europe self-assessment checklist. (Note that this checklist is calibrated very conservatively, probably to account for the natural delusion of the self-assessment process. It's OK to answer these questions fairly optimistically.) Here are the spoken language standards for B2:

Quote:
Spoken Interaction

I can initiate, maintain and end discourse naturally with effective turn-taking.
I can exchange considerable quantities of detailed factual information on matters within my fields of interest.
I can convey degrees of emotion and highlight the personal significance of events and experiences.
I can engage in extended conversation in a clearly participatory fashion on most general topics.
I can account for and sustain my opinions in discussion by providing relevant explanations, arguments and comments.
I can help a discussion along on familiar ground confirming comprehension, inviting others in, etc.
I can carry out a prepared interview, checking and confirming information, following up interesting replies.

Language Quality

I can produce stretches of language with a fairly even tempo; although I can be hesitant as I search for expressions, there are few noticeably long pauses.
I can pass on detailed information reliably.
I have sufficient vocabulary to express myself on matters connected to my field and on most general topics.
I can communicate with reasonable accuracy and can correct mistakes if they have led to misunderstandings.

And here are the spoken language standards for C1. As they say in the London subway, mind the gap:

Quote:
Spoken Interaction

I can keep up with an animated conversation between native speakers.
I can use the language fluently, accurately and effectively on a wide range of general, professional or academic topics.
I can use language flexibly and effectively for social purposes, including emotional, allusive and joking usage.
I can express my ideas and opinions clearly and precisely, and can present and respond to complex lines of reasoning convincingly.

Language Quality

I can express myself fluently and spontaneously, almost effortlessly. Only a conceptually difficult subject can hinder a natural, smooth flow of language.
I can produce clear, smoothly-flowing, well-structured speech, showing control over ways of developing what I want to say in order to link both my ideas and my expression of them into coherent text.
I have a good command of a broad vocabulary allowing gaps to be readily overcome with circumlocutions ; I rarely have to search obviously for expressions or compromise on saying exactly what I want to.
I can consistently maintain a high degree of grammatical accuracy ; errors are rare and difficult to spot.

This is not an easy gap to bridge, frankly. As I said, both the range and the quality required go up dramatically between the two levels. Now add to this the fact that the French love a good challenging exam. Here's some advice that a former exam grader sent me about the DALF C1:

Quote:
C'est un examen un peu particulier car il ne ressemble pas du tout aux épreuves du DELF. Comme vous l'avez sûrement vu sur les sujets en ligne, c'est un examen très théorique dans le sens où il est demandé des compétences de synthèse (et bien évidemment de reformulation très précise) pour les épreuves d'expression orale et écrite. C'est en réalité un examen auquel de nombreux français natifs échoueraient! Je ne veux pas du tout vous décourager, car je sais que vous seriez capable de le réussir en y consacrant suffisamment de travail…

The French exams are designed to be hard to bluff. In a way, they're a really fun challenge, because they push the limits of what can be done at a particular level. My DELF B2 oral exam, for example, gave me 30 minutes—with no dictionary—to prepare a 10 minute presentation on whether Paris should adopt congestion pricing, and to answer 10 minutes of questions from my examiners. I was not allowed to use notes for the presentation. This can absolutely be done at B2, but it requires a fair bit of ingenuity in how to deploy painfully limited language skills. So I suspect the DALF C1 is going to be another good challenge.

Key skills that jumpstart the learning process

Whitewater kayaking is a sport that involves taking a tiny plastic boat into an environment filled with big waves, powerful currents and lots of rocks. As one kayaker put it, the river environment is inherently hostile to human life. After all, you can't breath water.

Kayaking involves a number of skills, including peelouts and eddy turns (for moving into and out of the current), ferries (for moving back and forth across the river), bracing (for staying upright), and rolling (for getting back upright after you flip). There's another important skill, which everybody dislikes: whitewater swimming, which is what happens when you can't roll.

(Personally, I stay in class II rivers with occasional forays into class III rivers. These are places where a swimmer with the right gear, knowledge and friends is at extremely low risk, and even drunken inner-tubers generally survive their folly.)

Now, I'm a relative novice at whitewater kayaking, but there's a pattern that many experienced kayakers have observed: Once a new kayaker learns to roll reliably, their other skills will improve very quickly. This is because you can afford to take more risks, and the consequences are much less dramatic. So instead of being cautious during a bracing drill (because you don't want to swim every 10 seconds), you can deliberately push yourself beyond your comfort level time and time again, and just roll back up whenever you flip.

For me, at least, there seems to be an analogous key skill in language learning: watching TV with 80+% comprehension. All of a sudden, I have access to thousands of hours of interesting—or even addictive—French, and I can actually hear what people are saying, including most of the articles, clitic pronouns, verb tenses and gender markers. And I can hear this material as often as I want, on any subject, wearing those pathways ever deeper into my brain. And all I need to do is sit on the couch and pay close attention. This is presumably what Khatzumoto meant when he wrote, "You don't learn a language, you get used to it." You simply get so much input that it redefines your sense of what's normal. This is brute force familiarization with a language.

So this is the weird enigma of language learning: the more you learn, the bigger the problem gets. There are enormous, ever-growing gaps between B1, B2, C1, C2 and a well-read native speaker. But at the same time, your skills grow to meet the challenge. The only way to reach C1 is to have B2 skills—B1 skills are simply inadequate to bridge the gap. So concentrate on the next book, the next bande dessinée, the next episode, the next conversation, or the next essay. The road ahead may be far longer than you care to think about, but you're constantly accelerating, and the trees will soon be whipping by.
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emk
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 Message 581 of 1317
18 May 2013 at 2:49pm | IP Logged 
Cool news: I've made an appointment with my former DELF B2 tutor with the goal of improving my professional French skills. Ultimately, I want to be able to run my business in a French-speaking country, if the opportunity ever arises.

My business is pretty simple: I work with entrepreneurs and medium-sized businesses, and I write software for them. My typical mission is to create a product that they can sell, or that they can use to test a new market. This does require reasonable language skills: I need to be able to lay out the vision, negotiate a business deal, manage expectations, enforce boundaries, and keep the relationship in good working order.

But just to make this fun, my tutor and I aren't going to do regular lessons. Instead, we're going to pretend that she's an actual client, and we're going to design a hypothetical site for language learners. The idea is that she could use the site to help promote her tutoring business. Now, in reality, we have no actual plans to build such a site. But it should still be a really fun exercise.

And maybe we'll talk some more about the DALF C1.
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Avid Learner
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 Message 582 of 1317
19 May 2013 at 5:30am | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
At the risk of annoying any Quebecois readers of this log, I would love to see a dub of Crocodile Dundee using a heavily dipthongized Quebec accent in place of broad Australian. It would be deeply wrong, but also hilarious.

We're not very used ourselves to have dubs in heavily accented Quebec French. The most well-known one (and first one) is the movie Slap Shot, because hockey is very popular here and it was estimated that French French wouldn't work very well. Here is the history of this particular dub, which was initiated by a Frenchman. The move has become a cult here - not because anybody takes it seriously, off course.

It's a very good idea to create this "role play" with your tutor. You are right, communication is very important in your field, otherwise you might get unexpected results. ;)

Edited by Avid Learner on 19 May 2013 at 5:32am

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emk
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 Message 583 of 1317
21 May 2013 at 1:59pm | IP Logged 
Avid Learner wrote:
You are right, communication is very important in your field, otherwise you might get unexpected results. ;)

Ça, c'est la vérité. Le client ne sait pas toujours ce qu'il lui faut. Mais j'utilise un système simple, basé sur le « Jeu de planning » introduit par Kent Beck il y a quatorze ans dans son livre « Extreme Programming ». En bref :

1. Le client fait une liste des scénarios qu'il veut que le logiciel soutient[1].
2. J'estime le coût de chaque scénario selon un système de « points » ou parfois de « journées idéales ».
3. Le client choisit les scénarios les plus importants, étant donné les coûts.

Ça laisse le client contrôler les coûts. Et si le client veut changer le plan, le chemin est clair : plus de scénarios, plus estimations, plus de décisions. C'est un système juste, flexible et peu stressant.

[1] Ce n'est pas une très bonne traduction. Il me faut un meilleur mot.

Super Challenge

Another hundred pages of the very enjoyable L'Homme à l'invers, 200-plus pages of some pretty awful Fantastic Four comics I found in the local used bookstore, and several more episodes of L'Avatar. I was especially pleased with episode 6: My listening comprehension was very nearly complete, with only a handful of scattered sentences escaping me. I've had this before with a few episodes of Buffy and Ulysse 31, but it's always nice.

I've also discovered FreeTuxTV, which is a very nice Linux application that comes preloaded with a list of free, streaming TV channels. The selection's not nearly as good VoilaTV, at least for users with a US IP address. And VoilaTV, in turn, is not nearly as good as real cable in France. But it's nice to have some news shows available on my computer. (And apparently if you have a real French TV subscription and an appropriate IP address, you can gain access to more channels through FreeTuxTV.)
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lorinth
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Belgium
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 Message 584 of 1317
21 May 2013 at 2:53pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
1. Le client fait une liste des scénarios qu'il veut que le logiciel
soutient[1].
[1] Ce n'est pas une très bonne traduction. Il me faut un meilleur mot.


We say "prendre en charge" for "to support" as a computing term: "Le logiciel prend en
charge tel format de vidéo, tel module, etc."

However, people working in the IT business tend to use many many loanwords, so you may
also hear "supporter", strange as it sounds, because "supporter" is often used for
things that are hard to bear.

Your French is awesome, emk, congrats.



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