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By Hélène Classine (5e MI)

A French success that would have great difficulties to impose itself in North America

The concept

Every year in France, at the end of September, just after the grape harvest, supermarkets organize wine fairs. For one week or two, they dedicate a large space to wine. Consumers can find a huge choice of wine, at all prices.

The biggest supermarkets also have employees working in that space to give advice to the consumers and to offer wine tasting.
This business concept is well-rooted in the French culture. Every year, supermarket wine fairs are very successful: around 20% of the total amount of wine sold annually in France is bought in supermarkets during that period.

Wine fairs were first launched by the supermarkets Leclerc and Auchan in the seventies. Later, other supermarkets as well as wine merchants and specialized liquor stores also implemented this concept.

Why is this concept such a success in France?

Wine and France
As beer is the first alcoholic beverage in other countries, wine is the major one in France.

First of all, it is a major aspect of French culture. France is well-known for its gastronomy, and French cuisine always has to come with the perfect wine to accompany it. It is much more than a sole alcoholic beverage: it is part of any proper meal – if not every day, at least on Sunday’s meals.
Traditionally, wine conveys a spirit of celebration, pleasure and sharing.

Many studies have also demonstrated the beneficial effects of red wine on the health when consumed in moderation (preventive effects against cardiovascular diseases, cancer and dementia).

It is also important to note that France is the world’s largest wine producer (before Italy and Spain) and the third exporter. There are 3,420 different wines produced in France.

Wine in supermarkets
Consumers can buy wine directly from the producer, through cooperatives or in liquor stores. Nevertheless, seven out of ten bottles are sold in supermarkets, where you usually find the cheapest wine. And it is also more accessible: when one is inviting friends or family over, he or she can choose the wine and buy the ingredients for the meal to prepare at the same time and place. It is a lot easier and faster for the consumer.

A commercial operation
This business concept is a success because supermarkets use a cultural tradition to highlight a product. This concept enables the expert consumers to buy good wines at interesting prices, helps the enlightened ones develop their knowledge about wine and discover new products, and teaches the basics of oenology to non-specialists.

Why wouldn’t this concept work in North America?

The concept would have to face great obstacles to impose itself in the United States or in Canada.

Legal Context
The first obstacle would be a legal one. In most states or provinces of both countries, selling alcohol is highly regulated. The 21st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution authorizes each State to regulate the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages.
It is generally forbidden to sell alcohol in supermarkets: you can only buy it in specialized liquor stores that own a specific license. Therefore, organizing wine fairs in supermarkets would simply be impossible.

Read more about US Wine Shipping Laws

Cultural context
Gastronomy and wine are not an integrated part of the North American culture as it is in France: even though the consumption is growing fast, drinking wine is not yet a well-rooted habit in North America.

In 2010, the average consumption per person amounted to 9.6 liters in the US, 13.4 liters in Canada… and almost 50 liters in France!

In France, most parents allow their children to taste wine long before they are legally authorized to do so. By doing so, they are teaching them an aspect of their culture and history. This behavior is really rare in North America, where wine is just an alcoholic beverage among others and is generally drunk outside mealtimes as it is not associated to gastronomy.

The cultural context also explains why American consumers can find many types of containers: plastic bottles, tetra-bricks, glass bottles with stoppers that unscrew easily, etc. Those now exist in France but are far less numerous than the classic glass bottle with cork stoppers and it took consumers a long time to accept and buy them.

Economic context
From an economic point of view, wine fairs in North America would struggle to be profitable, even if the law was to authorize them.

Wine in the US

The distribution system in the United States  is very complex. The great number of intermediaries increases the wine market prices and therefore makes wine less accessible to the general public.
Although the United States is the world’s first consumer of wine  (because of the great number of potential consumers) and the fourth producer, the share of wine represents less than 10% of their total consumption of alcoholic beverages.

And even though individual consumption of wine has doubled in forty years in the US and increased by 66% over the last ten years in Canada  (!), it remains marginal in North America

***

In a word, supermarkets wine fairs today would probably not be successful in North America… unless this business concept is adapted to the context, turning them for instance into supermarkets beer fairs?

Some other links of interest about wine consumption in the US:

  

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An interview with Marie-Agnès Latourte, head of the Intercultural Communication and Translation (CIT) Master’s at ISIT. ISIT alumni, professor and translator.

CIT & Learn: What makes the CIT Master’s so special?

The CIT Master’s, like any other Master’s is constantly evolving – especially compared to other translation degrees. We introduced intercultural communication classes in 4th year to complete the translation skills that our students have (in both languages and technical writing). For six years, we carried out a market study and we realized that ISIT’s initial name (Higher Institute of Interpreting and Translation) was reductive and deadlocked so we changed it to Higher Institute of Intercultural Management and Communication. However, ISIT remains a translation and interpreting school, even if our classes are more diverse.

We pay particular attention to companies’ and graduates’ feedback. Between 30% and 50% of our students end up working in the field of translation. We wanted them to have other skills to be able to work in other sectors and to make them true project managers through the PRA and PRE projects. Sometimes, it is hard to see the point but they develop actual methods which are really useful in their business life. The PRE (Research project within a company), which is a peculiarity of the CIT Master’s, help students to fit in the company as they develop a project with their tutor or other colleagues in order to meet one of the company’s need. They become indispensible and are sometimes hire at the end of their internship.

CIT & Learn: Because of the current job crisis, schools must be particularly worried about their students’ employability. What makes CIT students desirable to recruiters?

ISIT students have specific and unique skills that they develop through internships and projects. They are versatile (they do not know only how to translate!) and easily understand the instructions they are given. Some of our students end up working in highly technical and complex working environments (Orange, Geodis, EDF, etc.). Recruiters usually like our students’ professional background: their internships and apprenticeship are much-valued. Lots of their soft skills are also appreciated: their behavior, curiosity, respect as well as intercultural skills (i.e. they know how to adapt to other cultures and people and know how to listen).

Cit & Learn: In addition to redefining classes, what is ISIT doing to help students find jobs?

First, we implemented an employability policy in which we try to involve students. We make students do internships in their 1st year, which is something new. Depending on the level of study, internships are longer or have to be done abroad. For five years, we have been working to have better relationships with the APEC (French Association for the Employment of Executives): members come to raise awareness among our students about professional careers and ways to find jobs. We also set up simulated job interviews for fourth and fifth year students with actual human resources managers who have a neutral and objective opinion on them.

We also highlight our apprenticeship programs, which is something entirely new for the Intercultural Management Master’s. Of course, there is a lot students do not see: relationships with companies (business breakfasts with potential tutors or alumni). We also encourage students to take a year off: more and more leave school to work for a year either in France or abroad. We also visit the companies our apprentices are working in: it is essential to develop a human contact between the school and their work environment.

When drawing up CVs, we realize that internships, apprenticeships and sometimes their translation thesis are essential: they are true professional skills which attract recruiters.


CIT & Learn: To you, what is the essential balance between “theoretical” and “practical” classes in order to help students find jobs?

It is an interesting question but as a linguist, the word “balance” does not seem really appropriate to me. Let’s look at a definition: “Equality of strengths between two opposing elements or the state of stability and harmony resulting” which seems more adapted. We are not looking for a power relationship: it is true that our programs are constantly evolving which is something usually unsettling for our students but, to quote Marie Mériaud-Brischoux, our headmaster, “If we do not go forward, we go backwards”. I would rather talk about complementarity. Theoretical and practical classes complete one another. Our apprentices quickly realize that: their work within their companies allow them to understand better technical classes such as XML or SQL.

CIT & Learn: What makes ISIT the perfect place to understand interculturality? What are its strengths? Do you precise examples to give us? Do you witness intercultural situations when you set up partnerships with foreign universities?

First, our professors are a perfect example of interculturality: they speak various languages, come from different cultures and as such, have different teaching methods. We also welcome lots of Erasmus and METS students. All of this makes us realize that there are different approaches to translate: languages truly reflect cultures and personalities. To quote Michel Boutaud: “a language is the beginning of a new life”. Another one his sentences, which I really like, is “learning a new language is getting a new soul”. We learn and discover a lot: it is essential to get closer to culture in its wider sense.

I went to London to set up a European partnership with the University of Westminster as part of a Long Live Term Program (two years) for the PIT program (Promoting Intercultural Competence in Translation) with Italians, Polish, English, Norwegians, etc. to introduce intercultural skills in the academic programs (which we are already doing at ISIT): we had an interesting conversation about the way we understand the word “framework”. English understand it as an open word, more like guidelines whereas Polish or Norwegians see it as something much more fixed and settled.

Frédérique de Graeve (head of the Intercultural Management Master’s): I can add an example: one of our former student used to work at  XXX and was in charge of setting up a transfer of competencies in HR to Romania: she had to go there on a regular basis to train people and facilitate the transfer. The problem was that Romanians (because of the Communist regime), did not recognize her authority: to them, there is only one chief and he had to go there himself so that they realize all the changes and training cessions to be set up.

Marie-Agnès Latourte: It is essential to understand the codes of the country we are working with in to efficient and carry out a project.

CIT & Learn: In the work environment, how it is a strength to have an intercultural expertise?

It brings a better understanding of the methods used to work in concrete projects. It helps to anticipate the reactions of the people we are working with (mails, negotiations, answers, etc. : Koreans for instance do not talk during a meeting and wait for the end to give their opinions and remarks).

Let’s take the example of an advertising campaign that Coca-Cola develop in the Persian Gulf: they did not focus enough on the countries’ communication habits. They chose the desert, which is something relevant to Arabic countries but forgot that in these countries, people read from right to left! The message was read completely backwards. As linguist, we always have to wonder how our message is going to be received.

Le message que voulait faire passer Coca Cola : boire du Coca redonne de l'énergie !
What Coca Cola wanted…

At the top, the message that Coca-Cola wanted to disseminate. At the bottom, the way it was received.

What Coca Cola got…

CIT & Learn: Throughout the years, ISIT and its programs changed to adapt to the modern world, which is faster and much more multicultural. What can you tell us about that?

If we look back to a couple years ago, we might want to talk about a revolution rather than an evolution, particularly for the CIT Master’s. We tried to adapt to companies’ and interculturality experts’ demands. There were less and less vacant positions for translators (less translation departments within companies, lower prices, etc.). We could not train 100 translators a year knowing that only 10 of them would find a job. Nowadays, this tendency is changing, particularly thanks to international organizations in which lots of translators are retiring. They are setting up huge recruiting campaigns. And let’s not forget that our Master’s went from 4 to 5 years.

In addition, we tried to develop networks with companies (apprenticeships for example) but also with schools and universities (FESIC, METS, SFT, CGE, FIT, CIUTI etc.): we open the school to the world by promoting exchanges. This year, we opened an international department headed by Marina Burke.

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ISIT website 

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– “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.

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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!

  

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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.

 

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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!

    

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