Today is Groundhog Day. Have you seen the movie “Groundhog Day,” starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell? The French title is “Un jour sans fin” — ” A Never-ending Day.”
Here in New England, we seem to be living through The Never-ending Snow Day right now — 5 snow days since New Year’s. (How fitting: a snowstorm also played a central role in the film.) But I wondered whether the term “snow day” was universally understood or is a geographically or culturally based concept, and thought about how understanding cultural sensitivity will become more important in education.
In my experience teaching writers to prepare their writing for the translation process, students were able to learn and apply most of the concepts very well, but the biggest challenge was in the area of cultural differences. People who were multilingual and had lived abroad were far better at recognizing and handling cultural differences in their writing than people who did not have that knowledge and experience.
I believe that multilingual, multicultural people will increasingly be in demand in the global economy. Already, many people work on global teams, have supply chains that cross multiple countries, and clients around the globe. Even small businesses that put up a website are now global.
The world is going to continue getting more and more interdependent. Companies are more and more likely to be global from the start, and to be successful, they need globally savvy people. This needs to be part of one’s education for non-fungible types of work. Fungibility determines whether your job can be automated or done more inexpensively someplace else.
So let’s look at the film as an example of cultural differences. In Québec, the film title is “Le Jour de la Marmotte,” — “The Day of the Groundhog,” virtually the same as the original title. Maybe you guessed that the French title is so different because Groundhog Day isn’t celebrated in France, though I learned that similar traditions exist in some regions of Europe, with different animals:
Actually, the two pages have slightly different information. The English page mentions that the tradition came from Germany. The French page lists a few of the traditional animals for similar events in other areas, such as Ireland, Lorraine (a French region which is of course near Germany), and Limousin (a region in south central France).
Here are the Wikipedia pages for the film:
If you compare the two pages, you’ll see that the holiday is explained in the French version. But there are more differences. These two pages are very similar to one another, and I would guess that one was translated from the other and adapted for the local culture — but don’t assume that’s always true.
I won’t bore you by listing every difference, but here are a few:
- More emphasis on the actors on the English page vs. the director on the French page (this was predictable)
- The main character “drives into a quarry” vs. “il jette sa voiture du haut d’une falaise” (literally “throws his car from the top of a cliff”). Maybe quarries in the U.S. have cliffs and in other countries, not necessarily?
- Some sections are different. The “Legacy” section and “Commentaire” have some overlap, and some completely different material. For example, the English page provides the linguistic use of the term “Groundhog day” in a military context and the French page explains the Nietzschean philosophy in the film. Perhaps the differences reflect what is more relevant, interesting, or valued in each culture.
- The English page has, under See also, a link called “Time loop as a plot device.” The French page has a section called “Œuvres similaires et influences” (Influences and Similar Works). The French page lists a couple of books and a few American TV shows with episodes specifically referencing this film. The English time loops page includes several types of time loops in various media (TV, literature, music videos, etc.).