– “No Strings attached” posters from Quebec, France and United States –

You may not know this but in France and in Quebec, not all movie titles are translated. Sometimes, English ones are replaced with other English titles.

Many sarcastic French bloggers have been listing translated titles that appear to be… say, quite interesting:

  • Made in Dagenham > We Want Sex Equality
  • Not another teen movie > Sex Academy
  • Paradise Alley > La Taverne de l’enfer

And it is actually worse in Quebec! On the other side of the ocean, French language protection can lead to some funny results if you speak French:

  • Pulp Fiction > Fiction pulpeuse…
  • Waiting to Exhale > Vénus dans la Vierge…
  • Chicken Run > Poulets en fuite…
  • Legally Blonde 2 > Blonde et Légale 2…
  • Ghost > Mon fantôme d’amour…
  • Scary Movie > Film de peur

Canadian are not the only ones, Spanish people are quite good at it as well but for now, let’s focus on American and British movies in France.
Some bloggers have spotted some general tendencies such as using the word “sex” or “American” to make it sound cooler, or using the word “mort” (death) or “enfer” (hell) to make it sound profound, or removing “the” to avoid pronunciation issues… but we can go into this deeper: who decides what? Are there official rules?

Renaming a movie is a very common thing used by all motion picture distributors. They sometimes use surveys (e.g. for “The Reader”) or translation contests (e.g. Tarantino’s “DeathProof”, translated to “Boulevard de la Mort”). This process can take up to several months!

According to a study published in 2010 on the French website Slate.fr, “57% of 200 Americans movies released in France between 2009 and 2010 by the main movie studios have been translated in French and 43% had an English title: 35% kept their original one and 8% had a new English one.
Although there are no specific rules about renaming titles, some main trends can be highlighted, although they include  exceptions:

  1.  Children movies’ titles are translated.
  2. Titles that do not mean anything to French people are translated or renamed: “No Strings Attached” became “Sex Friends” which is easier to understand in French with the plot being more obvious.
  3. When too complicated to pronounce or to remember, English titles are translated or changed.
  4. Character movies are not retitled.
  5. Movies adapted from a French book are not retitled.

As the poster, the trailer and the advertising campaign, the title is part of the main marketing strategy that is based on cultural values. Its target and image are decided just as its positioning. The intercultural process is an integral part of each of those steps.
Here, “intercultural” implies national cultures only, as movies are released on a national basis.

There are three main rules for movie titles: sound, connotations, references.

  • Sound:
              American poster                                     French poster

“Chevalier et Jour” does not sound great in French. Exotism (English above all) once more prevails and as the word “knight” could have not been understood either, it was removed along with the pun.

  • Connotations :

              American poster                                French poster

As the author of the study writes, “it would have been more logical to use the French book title Le Liseur but the team in charge of choosing the movie title feared that it might sound too intellectual and would not convey the dramatic tension. A testing organization showed a poster to 500 people with the title “The Reader” and another one with “Le Liseur”. They realized that people prefered the first one over the second.”
  • References :

              American poster                                          French poster
Get Him to the Greek” was renamed American Trip in France. The same author reports that “”The Greek” was a direct reference to the Los Angeles theater and would not have meant anything to a French audience. It was necessary to rename it but using another English title with the word “American”, they tried to make it sound “cooler” and the word “Trip” reminded of the success movie “The Hungover” which was released in France under the title “Very Bad Trip” in 2009.”

Renaming a movie is not a game in order to find the craziest title ever but it is an emblematic process of intercultural communication.


Whether you are in a professional environment or on a trip abroad, you may need to communicate with people from different cultures. Throughout my education and my various immersions in foreign countries, I have experienced these situations and I would like to give you a few tips on how to handle them:

What you should do

  • Make sure you remain open-minded: stay away from clichés and stereotypes. Last summer I worked with a Russian girl who told me she was always asked about vodka, weapons and KGB, which she finds quite annoying!

  • Spending as much time as possible with the foreigners you meet is the best way to get to know and understand them.

  • At any rate, ask and read about the customs of the country that you are to visit: body language, for instance, can vary a lot from one country to another. In Cyprus, thanking a yielding driver with a wave is considered as an insult. In Thailand, eating your plate clean when you’re treated to dinner is offending – your host will think you haven’t been given enough food!

What you should not do

  • Don’t take it for granted that you will be understood: even though you speak the same language as the person you’re talking to, remember accents and expressions can vary a lot. When I lived in Britain, I shared a house with eleven other students from nine different countries such as Scotland, Ireland, Britain, the United States… They all spoke the same language and though I realized that sometimes they didn’t understand each other! “To be pissed”, for instance, means “to be upset” in American English whereas British people use it to say they are drunk, which led to some comical conversations between my housemates! Now imagine what a conversation between two non native English speakers could be like!

  • Don’t try to understand foreign cultural concepts based on the practices and customs of your own country. In Western countries, arranged marriages are usually considered pejorative and it is often thought that the bride has been obliged to get married. However, in some civilizations, it sounds completely normal.

  • Make sure you don’t ask stereotyped questions: it happened to me many times that foreign people having heard I’m French would ask me for tips to choose wine (the thing is, I know absolutely nothing about it!) and try to say something in French – something which, very often, didn’t mean anything!


Culture and interculturality are part of our everyday’s life. Most of the time, we do not even realize its impact on our daily interpersonal exchanges.Why is it easier for Americans to go forward to other people (including superiors) than for French people ?
Why do we think that Eastern European people are colder at first sight consider it is not the case? All those questions that we ask ourselves, those situations that we experience, all of this is called interculturality.

So what’s the secret to get along with everyone? It is called “intercultural communication” which, let’s face it, is only to anticipate or deal with conflicts to be in the professional environment that might be related to cultural differences. Of course, it can also be used to have a better communication and understanding without  “conflict” as square one.

Sometimes, those differences so appreciated by nationalists and patriots can be at the source of funny situations.
Let’s take an example: the “The adventures of Tintin : The Secret of the Unicorn” poster.

A family member saw the poster in the Parisian subway and sent me a text message: “Is Steven Spielberg dead.. ?”

Panic on board. WHAT ? How ?! I haven’t heard anything ! I rush on the Internet, have a look at a few websites and pages that might enlighten me but no, nothing. No one is mentioning it.

I dont understand. I ask around and a friend tells me that last Tuesday evening, she was at the movie’s preview next to the Grand Rex, that she saw him and that he looked fine… not really a living dead.

I did some research and resolved the mystery. I happen to be from Poland, and in my country, when the name of someone is in a square on a movie poster (which is the case for Steven Spielberg here), it means that the movie has been released after this person died! It is a posthum tribute and no a simple way to enhance Spielberg’s name on the movie poster.

I was relieved. But then I had to explain to the person who texted me that in France, putting someone’s name in a square did not mean one joined Steve Jobs in paradise… French graphists surely wouldn’t take that Polish cultural detail into account when creating movie posters meant for a largerly French audience. No on’s going to stumble on a square over here.


Finding an answer to the question “What is intercultural communication?” doesn’t seem very difficult: it’s the communication between different cultures. But what is culture exactly? And how can it be defined?

Culture is seen as something abstract and inaccessible by a lot of people. Instinctively, we all know what culture is, but when we are asked to describe it, we block. However, a certain insight into the concept of culture is essential to understand the meaning of intercultural communication. In the following paragraphs, I’ll try to describe culture and make it a bit more concrete.

Culture can be defined as the total of beliefs, values, attitudes and ways of thinking and acting shared by a certain group of people. Or, as the anthropologist Clifford Geertz stated: “Culture is a set of control mechanisms – plans, recipes, rules, instructions – for the governing of behavior”. The Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede defined culture as “the collective mental programming of the people in an environment”.

When asked, people often say that a culture is shared by those who speak the same language, or those who have the same nationality. Still, the term ‘culture’ doesn’t only apply to national or ethnic groups. It also applies to groups within a society, at different levels. People from the same age can share a culture, just as people with the same profession or the same belief and people who work for the same company. The variety of cultures is enormous: national culture, corporate culture, age culture…

That variety of cultures implies that intercultural communication is a very large domain. It doesn’t only imply communication between people who don’t speak the same language, but it also implies communication between people of different ages or between two companies with a completely different corporate culture. Welcome to the fascinating and continuously expanding world of intercultural communication!