MovieChat Forums > The Family (2013) Discussion > Most people in France don't speak Englis...

Most people in France don't speak English!


A detail, but it was incredibly distracting. Especially in a small town like this, the majority of the people do not speak English.

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Very few to none. Even in Paris. Although I found that many "boomers" spoke enough English that we could understand each other, with me butchering French. But they didn't do this until I made an earnest and truthful (I sorry my French is so poor, in French) attempt to communicate in French. Particularly in Normandy.

Tne Netherlands and Germany are two countries that have a lot of English speakers. It was interesting to hear Germans speaking English with a slight British accent.

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I would kind of expect of all places, Normandy would be the part of France where a lot of people spoke English. It's close to the UK, in a lot of places close enough you could get radio and maybe even television service. I also understand that France is popular second home destination for the English and more than likely a short ferry trip for everyone else.

I think a lot of the French get a repuatation for not speaking English, but I would expect in the better educated classes of people there's decent English skills.

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I also understand that France is popular second home destination for the English


The English would never choose Normandy as second home destination: it's as rainy as home!
They'd rather choose South of France, especially Périgord.

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I have been traveling to France for years. It used to be true that very few people spoke English, especially in the provinces. But my impression is that this really isn't the case any more. At least not in Paris. If you are traveling as a tourist, nearly everyone you encounter speaks English. Some speak it very well. Small towns - less so, it's true. But there's an age factor, too. Young people speak more English, and they like to use it.

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When watching this, it seems to be suggested that the the Manzoni family are all fluent in French. Consider that they had just moved to Normandy from the south of France, and that the two teenagers have no problem adjusting to school. Even when Mrs. M is shopping in the grocery store, she overhears the locals criticizing her and American food... that's what makes her decide to blow the place up. I think that for the sake of this film's audience, even though all of the dialogue with the locals is in English, it is implied that the Manzonis are actually speaking French (except when they are just with each other they speak English). Anyone familiar with the UK comedy 'Allo, Allo' may understand what I'm talking about.

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You could be right.

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That's how the classic mini-series "Roots" is, as well.

The Africans are all speaking English in Africa, for the sake of the audience. But once they are on the slave ship, they understand nothing that their English-speaking captors are saying. Moreover, when they get to America, the Americans speak English and the Africans seem dumbfounded. Then, when the Africans speak to each other, it is in English again, but they are talking to each other about how they don't understand the strange language these people (the Americans) are speaking. It was left up to the audience to use their imaginations, and suppose that the Africans were supposed to be speaking an African language the whole time, until they learned English later.

This spares the audience subtitle reading.

It's an interesting, though rarely used and potentially confusing, technique.

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Indeed. I saw Roots years ago, and hadn't remembered that it worked that way, so I guess I wasn't too confused.

I do hate though when they do a movie set, say, in Nazi Germany and everyone's speaking English with a ridiculous German accent.

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Well, they do that sometimes so that there is a distinction between who's who, I suppose.

When Scorsese made "The Last Temptation of Christ", it's obviously all in English, but he said he used American actors for the Jews, and British actors for the Romans, so there'd be an accent difference. Even the Jews were divided, with higher class ones sounding like well-spoken New Yorkers, with lower class people speaking in a colloquial Brooklyn type of accent. Then, he had mid-western Dafoe as Jesus so he'd stand out from everyone else. There was a method to his madness, whether people got it or not. I never understood why people ragged on Keitel, for example, for his Brooklyn accent as Judas, when there were MANY Brooklyn accents in the film, plus British ones.

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Another one I saw years ago and hadn't remembered these fine points. Interesting!

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That's the only reason to watch Nazi war movies - the accents !!!!

That which does not Kill me makes me Stranger

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I think they made it a point to pretend that they are Americans who've just moved in so that nobody could link them to their previous stay on the Riviera. I also think it would make the film better to drop the english and have the family bumble through conversations in broken english/french.

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I lived overseas for 3 years, most can speak English, they just pretend they can't

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I have been visiting France for almost 20 years and in places where tourists frequent they do speak English.

It's that man again!!

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It's the difference between "don't" and "won't"; like the Welsh. Let's face it we English are unpopular worldwide. When the English went 'abroad' of course we spoke the native tongue and integrated with the locals - like hell!

Bill Brooks

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According to wiki (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_English-speaking_population), France has 36% English-speakers in its population, for ~23M total, making it the 11th country with the largest English-speaking population. So while it's true that the majority doesn't speak English, there's still a decent proportion of French people who can.

Considering the proximity between Normandy and the U.K., chances are the proportion of English-speakers is bigger there, too, as opposed to the Cote d'Azur being more likely to have Italian-speakers or the Pyrénées being more likely to have Catalan/Castillan/Basque-speakers.

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This point has been made elsewhere, but I think it's worth emphasizing... I was brought up in Brussels, and (Bruxellois) French is my first language. I now spend anything up to six months every year in France, mainly in rural areas...

Especially in Paris (and other metropolitan centres), it's important to distinguish between can't and won't speak English. There is also a marked difference in attitude between different generations. We Brits (and to a lesser extent, Yanks as well) have an abysmal reputation abroad of refusing to use or learn the local lingo, and, when met with no response to enquiries made in English, simply shout louder... If you do this in Paris, you will be met with a typically Gallic shrug of the shoulders, and then be studiously ignored-this despite the fact that the individual concerned will almost certainly have some English... But why should you assume this, and why should they respond in your language?.. You, after all, are guests in their country, not the other way around. When I travel to Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany, Scandinavia etc., I make a fist of an attempt to (at least) address them in their own language-mauling it badly in the process... Once you've made that initial attempt, invariably, their attitude completely changes, and they will bend over backwards to help, almost always lapsing into broken English to do so... The younger generation tend to be more approachable in English, partly because they enjoy showing off, but also because they have been exposed to English through the media, and don't necessarily feel the same degree of 'language nationalism' that is felt by older generations...

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... (Sorry-I ran out of space) So, it is likely that older teenagers and adults would have some English, although far less likely in rural Normandy, despite the fact that it is geographically closer to England-I think, however, that for the ease of the audience, because so many people would be put off by subtitles, we should assume that all conversations outside their home, and with the FBI were actually conducted in French... The family has just relocated from the French Riviera, where English would be more common (it's the Lingua Franca in Monte Carlo), but the children would have attended French schools, and the whole family would have been encouraged to speak French, so as to draw less attention to themselves... This is underlined when Fred actually speaks on-screen French-his accent is atrocious, and yet I believe De Niro actually speaks fluent French-even if he doesn't, he obviously has an ear for language-his Sicilian in Godfather II was faultless, and yet it was all coached!..

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