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What language do the Germans and the French speak to each other?

Seriously, I don't get it. When the British are around they speak British and therefore nobody understands them. Ok. Then how come the Germans and the French speak a common language and which one would that be? I doubt that the French would speak German between themselves since this is the same language they use in front of the Germans as well. And I also highly doubt that the conquering Germans would decide to learn French, the language of the local conquered lands. =P
This really doesn't make sense to me. o.o


The joke is that the audience knows exactly what's being said, but the characters do not understand each other. The language used is English, obviously. It is the accents that act as barriers between the different nationalites.

The Germans speak in a German accent and the French speak in a French accent, but you have to bear in mind that during the Occupation in the early 1940s, only the French and Germans were around. The British are the outsiders and so do not understand the lingo. The Germans, having been there for a while, would probably be trained in the French language or learned some as they go along. They need to exercise control and command the locals, so would need some degree of French. The Vichy movement (a French force which favoured the Germans) collaborated with the Nazis, so French would be needed in order to converse.

Conversely, the Brits would be a mystery to everyone around them!
Even Crabtree, who purports to be fluent in French, cannot be easily understood.
Because he is working as a secret agent, his "French" should be better, but his mix-ups are based from swapping vowel sounds over.

I.E. "Hole Hotler...Good Moaning...I want a dronk in the coffee"
("Heil Hitler...Good Morning...I want a drink in the cafe")

*** Bonjourrrrrrr! Ya Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys! (Groundskeeper Willie) ***



Hehe, that sounds logical. I never thought the Germans would learn French though.. o.o Well done to them! They have to constantly switch languages when around the French. And then Bertorelli would have learned even two foreign languages! That is something worth respecting him for. It does make sense now that I think about it but it still seems quite unlikely for most of the characters to learn the others' languages in order to make life easier for them... =P
Saying the characters' lines in their native language? A very interesting idea, I haven't tried it before. I am also learning German so let's see:

My spelling is ont so good but here goes..
Gruber: " Meine Mutter hat immer gehofft, dass ich einen schönen, blonder Deutscher heiraten soll... ich meine eine Mädchen!" <= ah no, but this one doesn't work... since the endings don't work for both male and female. Uhm I don't know, you try something. =P


Karrie-5: " I never thought the Germans would learn French though"

I figured that would be the case, if France was occupied by Germany, then any soldiers would have to learn the native language.

At best, we have five major German characters (Flick, Helga, Geering, Gruber &
von Strohm).

Helga seems like the most likely to be fluent in French, but I doubt Flick would bother.

I suppose Von Strohm might have avoided learning French, but it seems if he was stationed there, he would have made a point of learning the dialect.

Of them all, Flick seems like the one who just wouldn't have learned French.


You have a point there. Though I thought it would suit the Germans more to force the French to learn their language.. =P Anyway, don't forget about General Von Klinkerhoffen! He might have learned some French in order to be able to communicate with the locals.. or he might have been completely relying on his subordinates to translate for him... Hehe, out of all Gruber I think is the most likely one to learn French, it being Rene's language and all. ^_^


Karrie-5: "Though I thought it would suit the Germans more to force the French to learn their language.."

I don't know how successful this would have been even for a dictatorship, tho they might have forced dignitaries and leaders to learn German and 'encouraged' it among the locals.

As a businessman, Rene might have made a point to learn some German, with their encounters, the waitresses might pick up some German.

Forget that old mother up in the attic. She aint learnin' no German.




Learning a foreign language is more common in Europe. And officer, at least, would have been more educated than the average German, and recurring characters are all officers. Also, bear in mind that the Germans would prefer to send people who know the language to the occupied France.


Excellent explanation! I always thought it was that way too. French speaking French and the Germans speaking both German and French. And Michelle speaks with a British accent when she's talking to the airmen and so does Crabtree.


I think the show did a pretty good job on working out the language logic - but of course the German/French bit not simple.

I went thru the replies here but no one seemed to know what the actual facts were during the war. So I've ordered a couple of books on Vichy France to try to find out what situation really was. I suspect French collaborators did their best to learn German and clearly German administrators found they better know some French.

It's also interesting to wonder what languages were used during the occupation of the Channel islands.


If the Germans speak french ..OK, but i suppose that when there are only Germans around they speak German. How come then when Herr Flick and Helga are discussing how to kill the general (the katarri death pipe...) Rene' is spying on them through the keyhole and he seems to understand everything perfectly.... i think that english - french/german paradox should've been thought through...


I guess it might be a plot hole. But seeing as the series is so darned funny, I never give myself time to think about it. :D


Germans and French throughout history didn't have such a strong enmity as for example the French and the British. The French and British don't even want to learn each other's languages, which can be seen in today's UN meetings (they have their translators). The Germans probably learnt French in school as a foreign language, and since Gruber, Von Strohm and Klinkerhoffen must've gone to military academies so as to get their rank. They must have been taught a foreign language, and what other foreign language could they learn aside from French? I doubt they'd learn English (Klinkerhoffen apparently knows English according to the last episode when he surrenders to the British) and definetly not Russian.

The German soldiers must've picked up French while living in France and French picked up some German.

Herr Flick must know French. He is a member of the secret police for crying out loud - it's like being a spy, but working for the police rather than the army.
Helga was a Lance Corporal and a secretary, she would most probably know a couple of foreign languages.


"How come then when Herr Flick and Helga are discussing how to kill the general (the katarri death pipe...) Rene' is spying on them through the keyhole and he seems to understand everything perfectly...."

This is a good point, which brings to light the oddity about the languages I have been wondering myself.

If the accents denote languages, then it doesn't make sense for "Herr Flick of the Gestapo" to speak in german accent ALSO when he is disguised as an onion-seller! Wouldn't everyone be suspicious of an onion-seller that speaks GERMAN ONLY? (Not to mention Helga addressing him as "Herr Onion-seller"..)

And it would seem quite weird that the conversations between René and the german officers would be held in two languages simultaneously (wouldn't that become increasingly confusing, especially since two languages won't have the same idioms and ways of explaining things, etc.?), instead of just speaking the one language?

I mean, if René understands german, why doesn't he just speak german with the german officers? Wouldn't he want to please the 'conquerors' anyway? I mean, even when his life is at stake, he still speaks in a french accent!

Otherwise it seems to make sense, and is done very well, but this german-french-bit leaves me puzzled indeed. It seems to be either

1) The germans speak german, and René understands german but still chooses to use french to speak to the german officers (which would be confusing, illogical, disrespectful and odd)

2) Both parties speak french (in which case, the german accent makes NO sense)

3) Both parties speak german (in which case, the french accents makes NO sense)

Is there a fourth possibility, or didn't the writers simply think this through?


He is an innkeeper. I am sure he had German custom before the war. So I don't think it would be a plothole to think he knew some German.


I always just assumed, that the "Germans" in this show had learnt French as a foreign language, so that's how they could speak with the French, and they probably spoke German, when no French were around. But yeah, it doesn't seem to have been totally thought through, like the English/French thing was. And yeah, what about the Italians, like Bertorelli and his men? Did he really speak two foreign languages?

Intelligence and purity.


It makes sense that the German officers would learn French. Otherwise it would be extremely easy for the French to conspire within earshot if not actually in front of them. Plus, it is very difficult to order people around that don't understand you.
Rene would have learned German so as to make money off of them.
The Italian soldiers would most likely not know either French or German. It is most likely only the captain would have learned. Which is why they rarely react to anything but what he says to them the few times they are on screen.


"It makes sense that the German officers would learn French. "

It's not a question of who KNOWS which language, or who has learned a language.

It's a question of what do the accents denote in the show - if italian accent denotes italian language, german accent german language, french accent french language, then there is a big problem as to how the conversations are being held.

It would mean René speaks french, and the german officers speak german - or why else would they be speakin in GERMAN accent?

So either the accents equal languages (as Michelle from the resistance has shown that they do), OR they don't mean anything (which would mean the germans could be speaking french, but in a german accent).

This show tries to have it both ways and that creates confusion.

Just think about Bertorelli's accent meaning that he speaks italian the whole time - were nazis some kind of language geniuses, who could be spoken to using -any- language, without comprehension problems?

Shouldn't it be more logical for everyone to be like "I can't understand a word he is saying, why doesn't he just speak french!", whenever Bertorelli speaks?


There are only two languages. English and foreign. Hence Carstairs & Fairfax can't be understood by anyone except Michelle of the Resistance who is foreign but sometimes speaks to them in English. Officer Crabtree tries to speak foreign, but with such strong English mispronunciations it's difficult for the foreigners to understand him.

70 years after the war, Britain still has too many people who really think that all foreigners should speak English.