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What Did He Say?

One small advantage of being bilingual

Post written by François Grosjean.

Jean Dujardin is the first French actor to win the Best Actor award at the Oscars and, during his acceptance speech, his thrill at receiving it was a pleasure to see and hear for those who are bilingual in English and French.

Clearly, Jean Dujardin is not yet bilingual but he did a beautiful job of expressing his happiness, and saying what he had to say (with well-prepared notes) when he came up on stage.

His English was peppered with French exclamations and body language especially when he was expressing his emotions. Having started with, "Oh, thank you", he slipped in a very French, "Ouais" (Yeah) before getting the audience on his side (as if they weren't already) with, "I love your country!" He then got down to reading his notes and rarely tripped up.

His last words, of course, are now being talked about all over the web. Having read, "If George Valentine could speak, he'd say....", Jean Dujardin then switched over to French for a set of French exclamations that one might hear at the end of a really intense sports event that ends abruptly, such as a three-point winning shot on a basketball court or a winning touchdown with three seconds left on the clock.

The words are now being translated every which way especially the one just after "Ouais"; I've already seen it being rendered as "victory" while others talk of the F-word.

I'm sure that when he came out with his string of French exclamations, people in the audience, and all over the world, were asking themselves, and others, "What did he say? What did he say?"

Of course, a small advantage of being bilingual in English and French is that you know what he said but the predicament is that you can't really translate all those exclamations adequately, especially to certain people. So you tend to fudge it a bit.

Jean Dujardin is sure to have a fine transatlantic career now. By using English in his everyday life, he will become an active bilingual .... and may even one day read some of the posts on this blog!

But many of us will keep in mind the jubilant French actor in February 2012, with that wonderful smile, who mixed French into his English and finished his speech with, "Merci beaucoup. I love you"!

Photo courtesy of Georges Biard (Wikimedia Commons).

"Life as a bilingual" posts by content area (see here).

François Grosjean's website.

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