Learning French Slang with Les Simpson

Watching French TV with the subtitles on was the fastest way for me to learn common slang words. Back in 2006 when I barely understood spoken French, I spent a lot of time watching TV and writing down the words that I didn’t understand. Unfortunately, French TV shows aren’t all that great, so I resorted to watching American shows dubbed in French. Normally I wouldn’t recommend this because the voice acting is ridiculously bad and the lips don’t match the words, which is extremely important in understanding the front rounded vowels of French.

However, in the case of Les Simpson, I made an exception because the voices are very close to the original and after a while I didn’t even realize that I was watching it in French. I also found The Simpsons Park website that has almost all of the scripts in French so I could go back and read them if I missed something in the subtitles. These scripts, similar to the subtitles, are also written in informal French so that it closely reflects the pronunciation and of course, the French translations are full of slang words that you should really know in order to understand everyday conversations.

Si t’es ici alors qui c’est qu’est là-dedans ? (t’es = tu es; qui c’est qui = qui est-ce qui)

Te biles pas, fiston. (te biles pas = ne t’en fais pas; fiston = fils)

T’as raison Milhouse, se marrer c’est marrant ! (t’as = tu as; se marrer = rire; marrant = drôle)

Ouais, on a rencard de l’autre côté du lac avec des meufs ! (ouais = oui; rencard = rendez-vous; meufs = femmes)

For those who live in the US  & Canada, the region 1 DVDs do have French audio, but it is Quebecois French. As much as I love Quebec and the accent, I have to say the European French version of Les Simpson is far superior to the Quebecois one. Plus, learners of French are more likely to understand the cultural references for France rather than Quebec. Nevertheless, The Simpsons Park does include a few scripts (about 20) in Quebecois French. North Americans who want to watch the European French version will have to buy region 2 (Europe/Middle East/South Africa) or 4 (Latin America/Oceania) DVDs and a region-free player, or try using VLC Media Player. Subtitles in French are also available from several sites (subsmax.comopensubtitles.org, allsubs.org, TVSubtitles.net) if the DVDs don’t have them.

I have tried doing the same with Friends because the Fan Club français de Friends has all of the transcripts in French and English, but watching Friends dubbed in French is torture. The voice acting and sound editing are beyond awful and even the voice actors themselves admit it. I’m not talking about reality TV awful, but more like The Room awful. Sometimes I still watch Friends on French TV when I’m nostalgic for New York, but at other times I’d rather stick a nail in my ear.

As for actual French series, Kaamelott, Samantha Oups !, Scènes de Ménage, Bref, Les Bleus, and Un Gars, Une Fille come to mind, but many DVDs do not have subtitles because laws on subtitling for the deaf and hard-of-hearing population are just now being enforced. Previously, it wasn’t really required for TV series or even movies to have subtitles available. I know Kaamelott and Bref do include subtitles, but I’m not sure about the others.

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  • Claudius

    I had forgotten that the Simpsons DVDs had French audio-now that it was mentioned, they also have Spanish. At one point, my local TV stations would only air more recent episodes. This along the fact that reruns are often edited to allow more advertising time inspired me to purchase the first nine seasons over the course of a year. I viewed them so much at one point that I did grow sick of them and haven't really even revisted the extras just yet.

    Most sets also include a few episodes dubbed in other random languages as bonus features. I remember there's one in Czech, though I never made an exhaustive effort to catalogue them all. I'm fairly certain that there's also Korean and Japanese. A list might be included with the booklets that come with the sets, but I've probably lost mine.

  • http://davidsswamp.blogspot.com/ David

    While I agree that the Simpsons is the only American show that is well dubbed in French, I'm not totally sure that it's the best way to learn slang…
    I find “Simpson slang” funny, but a bit artificial at times. What I mean is that the way it's used is not really the way one would use it in the “real world”.

    In other word, good to learn new vocab, maybe not as good to when when and how to use it.

  • http://www.soyezlabienvenuechezmoi.blogspot.com Dedene

    When I moved to France, I used to watch “Hélène et les Garçons” to practice my everyday French. Maybe the sillier the show, the better it is to learn expressions.

  • http://www.destinationeurope.com.au Andrea

    Quebecois French is really difficult for me. I usually can't understand a word they are saying and sometimes it'll take me like 5 minutes to even figure out they are speaking French!

  • http://www.correresmidestino.com Zhu

    I tried watching the Simpsons in Québec French but I really don't get it, plus I find it slightly annoying. It's best in English for me… although I did watch it in French for many years!

  • http://www.boeingbleudemer.com Cynthia

    Ah! I beg to differ, I prefer the French Canadian version, at least Milhouse is not Milouse ;)

  • jismyname

    The Québecois Simpsons also localizes the jokes, so baseball references might be “translated” into hockey. Not only do you learn slang, you learn some cultural tidbits as well.

  • Matt

    Wow, thanks for the link to the Simpsons scripts, what a goldmine! As far as American shows dubbed in French, I can heartily recommend three excellent dubs:
    1: Lost
    2: Batman: The Animated Series
    3: Battlestar Galactica (not just for scifi geeks, Time Magazine's Best Show of 2005)

    -Matt

  • http://www.barncathollow.com Lucas

    It's entirely possible that my friend Olivia did some of the voiceover for those Simpsons episodes. She did some of the Family Guy episodes as well, if I recall correctly. http://www.facebook.com/olivia.azoulay She and I went to Oglethrope together, down in Atlanta, and I helped her quite a bit with her English. If there are any translation errors in Les Simpson, I might be to blame. :)

  • ielanguages

    I wish I could get my hands on the Quebecois version here too so I can compare them. I'm so fascinated by how different they are.

  • ielanguages

    Hehe, I'm sure part of it is that I've just grown used to the French version. I've only seen a few short scenes from the Quebecois version on youtube and it's just not the same! :)

  • ielanguages

    Ah Hélène! I watched that show a few times last summer. I love the American girl on it!

  • Ellen_makher

    Would you know where to find the subtitles/ scripts? :(

    if so you can email me: ellen_makher@yahoo.ca

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  • http://twitter.com/jonathanpinkus Jon Pinkus

     AMAZING IDEA! THANK YOU!!!

  • 277545271

    bonjour!I am a girl who loves learning french,I am living in China,I bought from internet Friends DVDs avec french sounds,I feel it is terrific pour learning conversations,but ,but I encountered a great great problem,all transcripts and soustitres I can find until now are not at all correspondent to the exact words uttered by the french voice actors,I am totally lost,I can never figure out what they say word by word,if without a transcription exact,could anyone help me?my email adress is 277545271@qq.com ,I am a million grateful for anyone who could offer any help,thanks a lot!!!!!!!

  • http://parispassionnee.tumblr.com Anna

    I’ve been going through scripts of Kaamelott looking up all the new vocab. Love how almost every word is noted as (fam) or (très fam) it feels like I’m learning a whole different language. For dubbed shows I find that watching a show you’ve never seen before dubbed helps get over the fact that the voices are different (then when you hear the original version it will sound weird and the American voices will sound really high pitched). The first show I watched dubbed where I thought that the dubbing was pretty well done was Lois and Clark and since it had been years since I had seen the original version I had no interference when it came to the voices.

  • Bon-Paris-beurre

    I am from France and I would answer to some of you guys about the kind of slang that is used in the show. It’s not ”artificial slang”, in France a lot of people is using this kind of language all the time, perhaps except for some words (for example most people in France rather say ”punaise” instead of Homers ”pinaise”, but for the show ”pinaise” sounds funnier).
    If you want to improve you french slang I think it’s a good way, but it could be hard without subtitle. French is a complex language and we often ”cut” some words when we’re talking a little fast to each other. I hope you’ll be able to use french slang, as I try to use english/american one every time I can (slang is the best way to interact with people in every country).
    Tchao !

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  • http://medsos.blogspot.com/ GQL

    good idea

Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at a university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling and being an American abroad.

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