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Spotted at CDG baggage claim: An example of actually knowing thy audience. How the flow of people can create transnational islands; how global capital follows economic realities instead of cultural ideals. (Interestingly, this ad may be targeted at Britons, not Americans. Wouldn’t Britons take the Chunnel?)

Note the small, light green text in the lower-right corner of this ad. France is famously devoted to the preservation of its language; the Académie française has attempted to slow or halt the anglicisation of French (with mixed success; I attended a dinner where native French speakers all chattered eagerly about le weekend). France’s Toubon Law, adopted in 1994, mandates the use of French in almost all official or commercial communication, and requires that advertisements in English provide a French translation (as protection for the consumer, of course). Most ads provide the translation as unobtrusively as possible, typically in a footnote, whether the ad is targeted towards French speakers or not. 

Ads in English that are targeted towards the French seem to use English to align themselves with international or transnational ideas (i.e., this product transcends nation) or to make themselves seem advanced or cool. (This is not to say that these two functions are mutually exclusive—one often includes the other.) Many international firms market in English; Phillips—while a Dutch company—runs ads in the Paris Metro promoting its MP3 players, displaying both its slogan and the tagline in English. Local companies, French or Parisian, tend to market in French.

How do we code empire into language? How does our verbal architecture become a battleground where we may express our ideals and discontents? The problems and opportunities of marketing to a bilingual audience. The value of the novel, the impact of the alien.

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