Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Tale of Two Embassies

The man to your left, Craig Roberts Stapleton, is one of the most important figures in Franco-American relations. He is currently serving as US Ambassador to France. One would imagine that a major prerequisite for having such a post would be the ability to speak and understand French.

He can't.

Well, OK. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he's got another redeeming talent that earned him this position.


It just so happens that not only did he give the GOP mountains of cash, but he also is related to Dubya.

The immediate past ambassador wasn't much better (although, having been no relation of Dubya's, I'm more inclined to be kinder to him) - Howard Leach. What a descriptive last name! Though he was born in Salinas, California, the setting for so many of John Steinbeck's great novels chronicling the trials and tribulations of the downtrodden, he never looked back. After giving $399,359 to the GOP from 1999 to 2000, he managed to buy himself perhaps the cushiest job in the world. A friend of mine had the opportunity to attend an event in Paris at which Mr. Leach was present. She said he was like a child, nodding and smiling, but saying nothing - because he simply couldn't. What a wonderful face to show to the world.

It's absolutely pathetic that these men who aren't even remotely qualified to hold these positions were given them simply based on the money they were able to contribute (or the family secrets they're using as blackmail...). There are thousands of people in this country who have devoted their lives to the study of foreign languages, and the stiff we have over there can't even buy himself a sandwich at McDo.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Jean-David Levitte, the French Ambassador to the US. Besides being generally better looking and probably in far better health, this man has impressive credentials, including fluency in several Asian languages. I have no doubt that he also speaks English. What a novel idea - an ambassador actually speaking the native language of his post!

What will they think of next?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

'Arrie Poterre...Partie Deux

I have recently begun re-reading the Harry Potter series in French. I had planned to do this during my time in France--my little charge had even lent me his books--but I just never got around to it. I find that they are just as absorbing in French as in English; I had a very difficult time setting the book aside at the end of my lunch break today.

What fascinates me the most about reading these books in translation is that the invented words have a counterpart in French. For instance, "Muggle" comes out as "Moldu" in the French version. This makes me wonder whether or not J.K. Rowling came up with these words herself, or if the French translator did this. My instinctive guess would be that it is Rowling's doing, since she is a former French teacher. As it is, she's already based many of the existing characters' names on French words, most notably that of Lord Voldemort.

I wonder if I could get an answer to my question if I sent a letter to the publisher...