Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
Pardon My French

Rémi Savard | 11 May 2010 12:32
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The familiarity that I had developed with the game in English, this language that wasn't my own, was gone. I managed to convince myself at the time that my own language, my beloved Français, had betrayed me, plunging its icy, chauvinistic poignard in my back. To some extent, I was right. Playing the game in French made the target audience obvious, and I didn't relate as much, but that was the lesser of two evils: Bad translation was the mastermind of my disappointment - I know this now.

Today, I can spot "Engrish" in a game, and even though localization has indeed gotten better with time, playing a game in English is still a much more enjoyable experience to me than playing it in French. I'm no neurologist, but my uneducated guess is that this might be related to the various parts of my brain that have to be poked and activated in order for me to process something in a language other than my own. This might also be part of the reason why I'm writing this article in English; it's different, it's not what I usually do, and it breaks my mold.

It's stimulating.

Don't get me wrong, I love my mother tongue. I'm a proud Québécois, and no francophone could ever publicly admit to hating French (other than to say it's freakishly complicated - the verbs, man, the verbs!). Thing is, none of them in their right mind could say they'd prefer a French version of a game to its English counterpart - well, no bilingual Québécois, at least. I know I don't. Never did, never will.

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I tried, Dieu knows I tried. I was over at my brother's place, last Christmas, and he insisted on playing me in EA's NHL 10. In French. To my disappointment, it was France French, which makes no sense. Would a baseball sim be voiced and produced in Great Britain? A cricket sim in America? A pétanque sim in Québec? Then why wasn't the hockey sim's French localization done here in Canada? It makes sense that it be done in a country (France) that's seen a total of three of its hockey players have a noticeable career in the NHL. Yes, that makes perfect sense, EA. Félicitations. /le sarcasme.

I'm not trying to discredit localization, far from it - it is a noble pursuit, bringing games to cultures that may not have their own videogame industry. So far though, I haven't really been impressed with the games that have been localized for the French audience - probably because they were in fact targeting a European French audience. France's French has its own expressions, its own accent, and is therefore very different from Québec French; it's hard for us to relate. Not every translation is bad, of course, but very few titles successfully go from la langue de Shakespeare to that of Molière, in my opinion.

My love of gaming and the absence of any localization early on provided me with an opportunity to teach myself English at an age when I was probably too young to spend much time learning a second language on my own. In retrospect, I'd say those were not wasted hours, regardless of what my parents thought. I'm thankful then that my dedication to gaming in English had such an influence over my life. I just wish that the people responsible for localizing games into French were as dedicated.

Rémi Savard now works in a bilingual environment and likes to believe videogames are part of the reason why he got to where he is today. He never got on the Céline Dion bandwagon, and sincerely hopes there will NEVER be a pétanque videogame.

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