Open captioning

The TF1 program "L'addition s'il vous plait
The TF1 program “L’addition s’il vous plait

Did you ever see the movie “Splash” years ago where Tom Hanks was saved from drowning by mermaid Daryl Hannah? She ends up in his New York apartment watching television to learn English. Through the magic of the movies she becomes fluent in 24 hours, able to quote commercials and soap opera scripts at will. Bill and I are trying to do the same thing with French, minus the mermaid tail and any drama.

Our years of French vacations have almost always followed the same pattern: out most of the day for sightseeing and back by Happy Hour to enjoy a glass of wine while watching some early evening game show that we only half understood. Now that we live here it’s really not all that different except that now we’re out a good part of the day exploring Carcassonne on foot but back home for wine time and a TV show or two before dinner.

There is a difference, though, in HOW we watch the programs. The TV is set to automatically display closed captions when available so that we can hear the words and see them on the screen at the same time. That works great for pre-recorded shows and not at all for live programs, like the news, where the person attempting to transcribe the commentary can never keep up. We don’t watch the news.

What we do watch, however, are a couple of humorous (to us, anyway) reality shows that are often unsurprisingly food centered, given where we are. At 5:00 PM is “Check, please” where 4 restaurateurs prepare meals for each other and then judge things like the decor of the dining room, the efficiency/cleanliness of the kitchen, and the meal and its value for the euro. Interestingly on another channel at the same hour, 4 home cooks compete in essentially the same challenge with each other on “An Almost Perfect Dinner”.

Those are followed at 6:00 PM by “Welcome to Our House” or “Welcome to Camping” that use the same concept of rating someone else’s work, in this case very small hotels or curiously, popular campgrounds. It’s amazing what we can justify doing to learn the language, isn’t it? Just add in a glass or two of local wine and everything becomes crystal clear!