Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Downside of Canada: Bilingual Covers

I am very fond of Canada. And since Montreal was my favorite city to live in, I have great affection and admiration for French-Canadian culture and the French language. I was living in Montreal the last time there was a referendum on Quebec separation, and my most vivid memory is of a guy on a soapbox on St. Catharine Street, telling Quebeckers why they shouldn't separate: "I have come here, even though I do not speak your language, to tell you that you Quebeckers should stay in Canada. You Quebeckers don't realize the contributions you have made to Canada. Some of the best hockey players...." So I don't want to be that guy; I like the French language and I don't have a major problem with official bilingualism, even though I once got turned down for a job for not being fully bilingual. I am a happy-go-lucky guy.

But. Ah, but. There's one problem. Official bilingualism requires, apparently, that a DVD that includes a French soundtrack (as many DVDs do) must have a cover both in English and French. And this leads to Canadian versions of DVDs having ugly-looking covers with so much text that the cover art is obscured. Just look at the Canadian cover art for The First Season of "Hill Street Blues." Great that there's a French soundtrack, but do we really need to know that the French title of the show is "Capitaine Furillo?" It just doesn't work. I know some people who just order all their DVDs from the States to avoid the ugly bilingual cover.

It could be worse, though: we could have a law mandating that movies in Paris French be translated into Quebecois French. It's already happened in the other direction. I once saw a Quebec-made show, "Lance et Compte, on a French television station, and there were subtitles translating the heavily Anglicized Quebecois French into correct Paris French. The line "J'ai coaché ma dernière game" became, in the subtitles, "J'ai dirigé mon dernièr match."

No comments: