Saturday, March 5, 2011

Things I Have Learned About France from Reading Twilight

       And I'm actually not kidding.

Allllllmost kissing the wall of a French metro station last summer. But I promise I didn't. And then I Listerined afterwards, just to be safe.
      I've recently begun reading Twilight in French, because I wanted to practice, but I knew if I bought something too hard, I would lose motivation, avoid it, and never finish. I figure that if I start with fluff, but read it in another language, it effectively cancels out the fluff-factor and gives my brain just the right amount of a challenge. My plan is to read all the Twilights (entitled Fascination, Tentation, Hésitation, and Révélation), and then move onto the Harry Potters. 

     I have found the footnotes surprisingly enlightening, especially because the English editions have no footnotes. Each of them are something about American culture that we take for granted as we read, but has to be explained to the French because in that regard, our cultures are very different. 

     Here is what some of the footnotes have explained:

  1. Who Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker, and Louise Lane are. Really, France? You don't have comic books? You've never seen George Clooney in tights, or Heath Ledger with creepy make-up on? I guess you have no geeks, either.
  2. The concept of Bella being in an "advanced" biology class. I discussed it with some of my teachers, and they confirmed that there are, in fact, no advanced classes in French high schools at all. If you're brilliant, tough luck. You have to go through physics at the regular pace, just like everyone else.
  3. Metal detectors at high schools, which, as the footnote explains, is because "American students sometimes bring weapons to school." This is, apparently, only an American thing, and only enforces the stereotype the French have about Americans as being overly violent. All they see on the news about America is when something violent happens, much the same way all we see about France on the news is when there's a strike, encourages the clichés. 

     Another particularly noteworthy moment was when they translated the expression "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth." I don't know if they have the expression in French or not, but man, it did not go well. It ended up as something like "If you get a horse as a gift, don't look in it's mouth to check its teeth or to see if you have presents, because it might be bad and they'll take the horse back and then you won't have a horse anymore." Right. 

     They might not have violence, comic book heroes, or advanced algebra, but boy, have they mastered the concept of a long-winded over-explanation. 

1 comment:

  1. Très amusant, Melissa. I would agree about the long-winded over-explanation but whoever wrote the footnotes had to be thorough... That expression with the gift horse and the mouth is one serious b... to translate ;-)