By Stephanie Ciccarelli
July 17, 2007
As we continue our lingual tour around the world and learn about some of the Romance languages, French would be the obvious choice to detail next, non?
But of course, ou, mais naturellement!
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When you think of the French or French as a language, images of elegance, couture, Amelie and Ratatouille (!) may pop into your head.
French is not only the language of love, it's also a very useful and universal language that has found its way into many lands, whether through conquest or substantial settling by French immigrants and Ã©migrÃ© to the New World as is the case with speakers in North America representing French Canadians, Acadians, and Cajuns.
The American state of Louisiana was originally named by the explorer La Salle for Louis XIV, the Sun King himself, after all.
Today, we're privileged to share some interesting facts about the French language with you courtesy of French voice over talent Liz de Nesnera of the US and Andre Clermont, featured in the article following this one, of Canada.
When speaking with Liz de Nesnera about the role of French in the voice over marketplace, I was amazed by the sheer number of countries that have adopted the French language as their primary or secondary national language.
Liz revealed that besides being spoke in France and Canada, French is also spoken in Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Monaco, as well as many African countries including Algeria, Cote d'Ivoire and Senegal with many others to numerous to name here. She concluded that given the number of French speakers world-wide, the opportunities for Voice-Over are growing abundantly.
Liz, although a native French speaker, was born and raised in New York City to European parents. At the de Nesnera home, European French was spoken to preserve their heritage and she was not allowed to speak English in her home. The linguistic life of Liz was nurtured further academically through her attendance at a French high school called the LycÃ©e FranÃ§ais de New York in New York City, Fordham University in the Bronx and the Institut d'Etude Politiques de Paris in Paris, France.
Unique aspects that Liz pointed out about French are that it's a beautiful language that is still spoken around the world and is also evolving.
Liz remarked "Whenever I go back to France, I'm amazed at how the language has grown and changed. Words are created and change meaning much faster it seems in French than in many other languages. It's this fluidity that I think makes it wonderful!"
As we had mentioned before in our Spanish articles, there are a few languages that round out the top spoken languages in the US. French happens to be one of them.
Liz said that French is becoming the "third language" after English and Spanish and that she has seen a definite increase in the amount of jobs requesting French as the language of choice, including more complex options for corporate telephony (IVR or Message on Hold) or narrations geared toward French speakers.
French has always been a major market as far as voice over goes with Canada being an officially bilingual country, speaking both English and French. Liz has personally witnessed an increase in the number of bilingual jobs, asking for both English and French for any given project.
Bearing that in mind, Canada has proved to be a boon for Liz's particular language skill sets. As a speaker of a "neutral" form of French, that is to say that she has no discernible accent in either English of French, Canadian companies have hired Liz to record bi-lingual English/French jobs for them. It gives the companies a continuity in their "sound" to have the same voice in both English and French without having to compromise and not have native speakers in one of those recordings.
Recently for an American client, Liz voiced an English job for a French company that had French words peppered throughout, and the client was really pleased that she could pronounce the French words correctly while voicing the English narration without an accent. The result? The client was particularly pleased with how smoothly everything flowed.
As mentioned earlier, Liz was born an American to European parents who moved to the US from France. I asked Liz how important it was that a speaker be native, what it means to be a native speaker, her own upbringing in mind as an example.
"The first thing is that you have to look at is HOW the person was taught the language from a young age. As a personal example, even though I was brought up in the US, I was not ALLOWED to speak English at home. French was my first language, and it was the family language. Once you walked in the door of our house, French was what you spoke.
So if a child was brought up speaking that language correctly, and did NOT, as you said, "speak a mixture of English and the native language" then that language can remain pure. If the person maintained connections with the "mother-land" (I have close family in France), if the child was taught to read and write in that language (I attended French speaking schools) and maintained a cultural connection, then I believe that in terms of VO, the person taught to speak the language outside of their "Native" land can provide just as correct a read as a "mother-land-based" talent.
By the way, the official speech-pathology definition of a "native" language is the language that you spoke at home as a child. As opposed to the "primary" language that you speak on a daily basis now. Yes, the tone may be a bit different, but depending on the market, that tone or lack there of, may be just what the client is looking for."
To go a bit further with the topic of native speaking, in the US there is "Broadcast English." It's a neutral form of the American English dialect. Anyone who wants to be a voice talent on the US market, must be able to voice in that particular style. Whether they are from California, Texas, North Carolina, Maine or New York, the US market prefers Broadcast English.
THAT SAID: If a client is looking for a very specific dialect, that's fine, too. A Texas accent might work for a local radio commercial running in Dallas, but it's not desired by the majority of the market.
Liz relates that the same goes for French. "The accent in Paris is not the same as the accent in Marseilles or Quebec or Brussels, Geneva or Algiers. However, having an almost "generic" accent that can allow the client's message to be understood by everyone is, in essence, what we in Voice-Over are here to provide."
When quoting for projects Liz quotes in US Dollars and usually asks for payment via PayPal. As a courtesy, Liz will usually provide an estimate as to what the cost will be in the currency of the country her client resides in.
A handy tool Liz uses is the online Universal Currency Converter which gives them a good idea of the cost. Of course, currencies fluctuate with the markets, so if you are using this as a gauge, be sure to check in daily.
When I asked Liz about her marketing efforts online and off, she has found both methods to bring her success. When marketing offline, the majority of her work comes through referrals via word of mouth. Personal recommendations come from studios, engineers, and even other voice over talent with whom she has worked.
While the "personal touch" works for Liz, she admits to being an Internet Junkie as well, always looking for more voice over opportunities.
The difference between online and offline marketing?
Liz says that you can spot differences in the way that prospective customers are approached. Making a personal connection in important to Liz which bodes well for either form of marketing, stating that both methods can work but you need to find what works best for your personality.
"Marketing is an aspect to this business that many newer voice talents are afraid of... get over it! You need to look at marketing as making connections. Talking to anyone and telling them that you're a voice talent? THAT'S marketing!" Liz commented.
In addition to networking in person and referrals, Liz markets herself through Voices.com, her own website HireLiz.com, and via daily Internet research.
Her bilingual world, while useful professionally as a voice over talent, is also fulfilling and applicable regarding other aspects of Liz's personal life, providing her with another outlook on the world and a wider lens to see through. Consumption of the French news via satellite gives Liz an additional perspective on global affairs and communicating with relatives who live in France is first nature to her. Liz is "eternally grateful" that her parents passed on their native language to her.
Liz de Nesnera offers "Voice Tracks Voiced Right" in English & French!
To learn more about Liz, visit her websites:Accent, child, Dallas, French, High School, hired, New York, radio