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Twitter user pinpoints the differences between France and Quebec dubs of The Simpsons and they're hilarious

Simpsons fan Matt English shows how people in France and Quebec get very different takes on the cartoon comedy

Simpsons fan Matt English shows how people in France and Quebec get very different takes on the cartoon comedy

The Simpsons have been going strong for 30 years — but it turns out people in Quebec and France have been getting distinctly different stories. (Fox/The Associated Press)

When people watch a film or TV show that's been dubbed into a different language, most expect a fairly faithful translation of the original.

But it turns out the people behind the French-language dubs of The Simpsons take quite a few creative liberties — and a sharp-eared Twitter user has noticed they're distinctly different depending on whether you're in Quebec or France.

Toronto marketing professional Matt English, who uses the Twitter handle @matttomic, grew up obsessively watching the English version of the show, and later discovered the French dubbed version when he set out to sharpen his conversational French.

Soon he found that each episode is actually dubbed into two versions for French language markets — one for Quebec and one for France. "Fans of the Quebec dub hate the European dub, and vice versa," he notes.

English goes on to explain how in the France dub, the characters speak in Parisian accents, with a few characters using more regionalized accents. (For example the Van Houtens — that's Bart's friend Milhouse and his parents — speak with a Belgian accent.) But for the most part, they don't regionalize the U.S. jokes.

"In the Quebec dub, The Simpsons family speaks with a thick working-class dialect of Montreal French," explains English, adding they also take things a step further. "They also do something the France dub doesn't do: they regionalize the scripts, subbing in Quebecois politicians or places for the more US-centric references."

He says that because he knows all of the classic episodes inside and out in their original English, it's easy to follow the French versions and notice when they've tweaked the script to localize it.

"Like in one episode, there's a joke that Hank Scorpio gives Homer the Denver Broncos as a reward, the punchline being how bad the Broncos were at the time. In the Quebec dub, they substitute the Broncos for the Montreal Alouettes," says English in an email interview with q.

"There's another time in the Quebec dub where Homer talks about what CEGEP he went to, and there's another joke about an American politician that becomes about Brian Mulroney," he adds. "A few times per episode you'll notice instances where the Quebec writers have had a little fun localizing the references."

In his Twitter thread, English includes several other examples, including one that directly references the dialect of Lac Saint-Jean, and another where Bart goes to France and can't be understood because he speaks Quebecois slang. (Quips Bart, "I thought they spoke French in France.")

"It's only when he learns to talk like a stereotypical Parisian that he can get through to the cop," tweets English. "Perfection." (Others on Twitter later pointed out that, in this scene, Bart actually speaks with a Marseilles accent.)

Since he posted the tweet thread, English has received a huge response online, with many saying that either the France or Quebecois versions sound horrible to them. He also heard from people who say the American Spanish and European Spanish versions are distinctly different. Others talked about the legendary Quebecois dub of the film Slapshot — many say it's better than the original — as well as beloved dubs of The Flintstones and King of the Hill.

"At the end of the day it's probably whatever you grew up with. Right now if you told me that they'd been re-dubbing The Simpsons into a British English version, it would sound completely wrong to my ears because I grew up with the American voice actors," he says.

"It's the same thing for French speakers. Let's say you grew up watching the European French dub, then stumbled across the Quebec French version where Homer suddenly doesn't sound like the Homer you know, and they've changed all of the jokes. It would sound completely wrong to your ears."

English says he prefers the Quebec dub because it seems more polished, and he finds the Quebec actors stronger, but he finds the distinctions between the versions fascinating — including the differences in how Homer is portrayed.

"Quebec's Homer focuses on that sort of beer-swilling, blue-collar nature of the character, and gives him this gruff working-class Montreal accent," explains English.

"The French Homer focuses more on Homer's dopey simpleton side, performing the character with more of a higher-pitched whine. They're both equally valid interpretations of the character; it's just an interesting case study to see how both voice actors tackled the same character."

He adds that entire songs are translated and dubbed, too, which is a remarkable feat. "It must be incredibly hard for the dubbers to do, since they're not only translating the lyrics, but also fitting it into the lip-sync animation and creating a new rhyming scheme from scratch," he says.

"I've got a huge amount of respect for the team of writers and comedians and voice actors that it takes to dub a show, especially with such pop culture reference-dense source material, and not only translate it, but find ways to make sure all of the jokes and puns work."

Have you spotted regional references in French-language movie and TV dubs? Share them in the comments below.

About the Author

Jennifer Van Evra is a Vancouver-based journalist and digital producer for q. She can be found on Twitter @jvanevra or email jennifer.vanevra@cbc.ca.

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