2.4 Translating Privacy into French
Section 4: Translating “privacy” into French
In this section we will explore notions of personal space and privacy. We will also think about how differences in the conceptions of private vs. public from culture to culture can cause misunderstandings and even friction.
Key terms and concepts: Privacy
Table of Contents:
· Chapter 3: Private Space (Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong, pp. 31-45)
Objectives for this section:
|After completing the following readings, see if you are able to do these things:|
|· Cite examples that illustrate differences between French and North American cultural notions of “privacy.”|
· Imagine a situation in which a misunderstanding between a French employee and North American tourist occurs where the problem is not one of language miscommunication but rather of a different set of cultural norms having to do with private space.
· Give two historical reasons that might explain why the French mind-set includes a preference for using shutters and an aversion for talking about money that might strike North Americans as peculiar.
Chapter 3: Private Space (Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong, pp. 15-29)
· What does the word “privacy” mean to you?
· Do you feel that you behave very differently in public than you do at home? Are there different codes of conduct?
· Do you feel that you can be very good friends with someone very different from you and with whom you might disagree a lot?
Robert Doisneau, “The Kiss” (1950)
French home: note the shutters
American home: note the picture window..
Students of French soon learn that the English word “privacy” has no equivalent in French. N-B spend this chapter relating a series of anecdotes that illustrate why this is so. In France, there are different notions for what is considered personal space and what is considered private space. A lot of misunderstandings between people raised in different cultures arise from these differences. Sometimes these differences can be a source of great humor as well as a source of great discomfort, confusion, and mistrust. By considering France from an historical perspective, we gain insight into the culture that has given birth to certain attitudes and customs frequently cited as “typically French.”
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