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Loved the movie Prey and I have a question about it.

French is not my first language and I'm not fluent in it, but the French that the poachers spoke seemed a little off to me.

Was it my imagination? If not, was there a reason to be off?

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    I haven't watched the film, but I know it takes place in the 1700s. It might be that they're speaking 18th-century French, and it sounds as weird as 18th-century English would. Or it might be that they're speaking 21st-century French, and it sounds weird because it's anachronistic. I'm sure someone who's watched the film will be able to clarify.
    – F1Krazy
    Aug 9 at 14:31
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    A fact I picked up from QI [re-run] recently. Until the last century or so, only about 20% of people in France spoke actual French.
    – Tetsujin
    Aug 9 at 16:14
  • How did it sound "off"? Having not seen the film, can you describe it or perhaps add a few quotes?
    – BruceWayne
    Aug 10 at 13:28
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    @F1Krazy: In fact, even modern Quebecois French will sound "off" to someone who learned standard school French. The reason is that the two dialects diverged a lot more over time than British English and American English did. I visited Montreal a couple of years ago, and the language sounded nothing like what I remembered from school. For example, the first vowel in the word "chaise" (meaning "chair") is pronounced in standard French with a vowel sounding a bit like the vowel in "bank" (but long), whereas in Montreal, it is a diphthong like in "shy". Aug 11 at 19:51

4 Answers 4

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From gizmodo:

Trachtenberg: And something that I’m really excited about, I will say, is that there are no subtitles at all in the movie. We are very linked to [the main character] Naru and her experience of the story. And so even when those French bird trappers show up, it’s as foreign to us as it is to her, unless you speak French. But even still if you speak French, because they’re speaking such a very specific version of French, it’s not going to be cogent to most folks. So I think language still plays a very specific role even in the original release of the movie.

So it was an artistic choice to have a specific version of French.

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    Have not watched the movie, but french is my native language and now I am curious: do you know what "version" of french it is ? (a "patois" ?) Aug 10 at 11:47
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    It's a little dissatisfying to learn that it is a very specific version of French but not what that specific version is.
    – Wyck
    Aug 11 at 18:56
  • @Wyck I did tried to dig more but got no explanation about it
    – Ankit Sharma
    Aug 12 at 7:05
  • It is NOT an artistic choice and NEITHER a specific version of French. Listen carefully and you'll understand three types of French. See my answer at the bottom of the page. Aug 13 at 15:01
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French speaker here. They speak the old French which is why it’s not like modern French. They speak French like people from Quebec because France settlers did not change their accents like the French did in the 1800s. Back then, everyone spoke like they do in the movie. They did a good job not using the modern french accent because it would have been inaccurate.

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    I haven't seen the film, but it likely isn't Old French (which had become Middle French by the 14th century), but rather Early Modern French (which starts around the early 17th century, 100 years before the setting of the film). And whilst Quebecois French does have many archaisms absent in Metropolitan French, it has also evolved. There are parallel common misconceptions in English (e.g. Shakespeare speaking Old English, and American accents not having changed since the 17th century)
    – Tristan
    Aug 10 at 9:21
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    @Tristan this post doesn't claim they speak "Old French". It claims they speak "old French".
    – AakashM
    Aug 10 at 11:27
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    @AakashM ah yes, a good point that I missed
    – Tristan
    Aug 10 at 11:28
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    The continental French view of how they speak it overseas evolved quite quickly. In a few decades it went from "just as well, if not better, as us in Paris" to "almost unintelligible and barbaric"... While in the last century or so Quebecois has assimilated many anglicisms, one suspects that this earlier sudden change of attitude rather reflected rapid changes in Parisian French.
    – Deipatrous
    Aug 11 at 8:53
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    ^_^ Reminds me of all of the bits of American English that I've since learned are older bits of British English, like using "soccer" instead of "football". Still tickles me the day I realized, as a Kentuckian, that my friends from West Virginia were basically speaking in Received British Pronunciation, but with a twang. Aug 11 at 13:21
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I'm a French Canadian and my first language is French.

This is not an artistic choice that has been made in the movie. There are three sources of French being used here: Quebec French Canadian, French from France, and French being spoken as a second language by an English Canadian actor.

As I understand it, production didn't care a lot about the French dialog, and let every actor speak their own French depending on their nationality.

The trapper chief, Big Beard, portrayed by Mike Patterson (His first language is English) who is also a standup comedian. You can hear his French accent here. Wax moustache, portrayed by Nelson Leis who is an English Canadian, born in Ontario to an Estonian father and French mother who taught him French as it is spoken in France. Trapper #17 is portrayed by Eric Beaudoin born in Québec (Canada), speaking Canadian French with a Québec accent.

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    Do you have sources to back this up? This reads more like a critique of the direction than an answer to the OP's question.
    – Joachim
    Aug 14 at 17:47
  • It's not a critique, it's just fact. And the question is "the French that the poachers spoke seemed a little off to me. Was it my imagination? If not, was there a reason to be off?" Then, I think that I'm bringing answers to the questions. (I edited my answer to add sources) Aug 15 at 14:13
  • @FrederickRoger: "production didn't care a lot about the French dialog, and let every actor speak their own French depending on their nationality" — unless you were on set, or you've spoken to people who were, then this is conjecture, not fact. Aug 19 at 22:31
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I’m french canadian and it’s the typical weird french in english movies type of situation. I heard french spoken with a french accent, french spoken with a french canadian accent and french spoken with an english accent, which was not always super clear. All the french dialogue wasn’t mixed very well anyway, my guess is that the sound was made by an english speaker, and for the english audience in mind which doesn’t understand the dialogue anyway.

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