Watching French TV with the subtitles on was the fastest way for me to learn common French 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.com, opensubtitles.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.
Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.