Cinema and Language

amelieWhen I want to learn or brush up on a language, I immerse myself in foreign language films.  When I was studying Russian, I was always watching the Day Watch films (a vampire gore film).  I picked up on Russian very quickly, especially hearing the repetitiveness of certain words.

I didn’t realize how out of practice my French has been until I started watching Amélie last night.  I had a feeling the last time I was in Paris, my French had become Americanized (i.e. it means I’ve been speaking French horribly).

I speak three languages at home: English, French and Italian.  My Italian is far better than my French these days.  That was evidenced while I was in Italy a couple of years ago, speaking as fluently as an Italian.  French is my second language, English is my first.  I’ve been speaking French since I was a teenager.  Italian…I took one semester of it in college, got yelled at by the professor because she swore I was a native speaker and took the class for an easy-A.  My Russian professor said the same thing.  Go figure.

Last night, watching Amélie, I started repeating a lot of the lines, listening to my pronounciation and noticed how ‘Americanized’ my French was.  Talk about atrocious!  So I’m set on fixing that problem by watching more French films.

One thing I hate about foreign language films are the subtitles.  The way I understand French is not the same when I read the English translation.  I get caught reading the subtitles and thinking…that’s not what she said!  I have to keep reminding myself to stop reading the subtitles and focus on listening to the language and learning to speak it that way.  If there’s a word I don’t recognize, I’ll read the subtitles.

When you’re trying to learn any language, or want to brush up on the language, films are a great way to practice listening to the words and understanding the context of the conversations.  If you’re watching at home, you can even practice sounding out the words the way the actor/actress sounds out the words.

Being that I read a lot about hockey and fashion in French (merci, Montreal et Vogue France), I keep up with reading French via Twitter and news articles I find there.  [It also helps those hockey writers who know French to keep ahead of the other reporters that don’t.]

If you’re looking to speak better French, I highly recommend going to the cinema and watching French films.  You can watch French films online, on DVD and even on cable.

Amélie is one of my favorite French films.  I love Audrey Tautou!  I also loved her in Coco Before Chanel (also in French).

Danish star Mads Mikkelsen has also appeared in a lot of French films.  One of my favorites is Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky.  If you’re a Hannibal fan, you’ll find that there is always some sort of mention to Stravinsky every season.  In the first season, Hannibal played four notes on the piano…I knew immediately it was Sacre du Printemps by Stravinsky he was playing.  In the second season, he mentions Stravinsky’s theory at the start of an episode about music.  Coco & Igor is very important in the Hannibal world, because references are made every single season…all the way down to Hannibal/Stravinsky’s weird perfectionist thing with straightening their pens.

kohlhaasMads has a new French/German film out now in select theatres called Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas.  It’s definitely on my list of movies to see.

As for watching Amélie last night…it was a little bit ironic.  Most of the movie is based in Montmartre and around Sacre Coeur.  The irony in this is that last Saturday, I posted up my photos from Sacre Coeur only to watch a movie based in Montmartre a few days later.  It was interesting seeing how much that area has not changed since the movie was filmed (2001).  Then again, why would we ever want Paris to change?  It’s perfect just the way it is.

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