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French Voices in the US

Aug 18, 2007
When you think of the French or French as a language, images of elegance, couture, Amelie and Ratatouille may pop into your head.

French is not only the language of love, it's also a very useful and universal language that has found its way into many lands, whether through conquest or substantial settling by French immigrants and emigres to the New World as is the case with speakers in North America representing French Canadians, Acadians, and Cajuns.

The American state of Louisiana was originally named for Louis XIV, the Sun King himself, after all.

When speaking with Liz de Nesnera about the role of French in the voice over marketplace, it was amazing to discover how many countries have adopted the French language as a primary or secondary national language.

Liz revealed that besides being spoke in France and Canada, French is also spoken in Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Monaco, as well as many African countries including Algeria, Cote d'Ivoire and Senegal with many others to numerous to name here. She concluded that given the number of French speakers worldwide, the opportunities for Voice-Over are growing abundantly.

Liz, although a native French speaker, was born and raised in New York City to European parents. At the de Nesnera home, European French was spoken to preserve their heritage and she was not allowed to speak English in her home. The linguistic life of Liz was nurtured further academically through her attendance at a French high school in New York City, Fordham University in the Bronx and the Institut d'Etude Politiques de Paris in Paris, France.

French is becoming the "third language" after English and Spanish and that she has seen a definite increase in the amount of jobs requesting French as the language of choice, including more complex options for corporate telephony (IVR or Message on Hold) or narrations geared toward French speakers.

French has always been a major market as far as voice over goes with Canada being an officially bilingual country, speaking both English and French. Liz has personally witnessed an increase in the number of bilingual jobs, asking for both English and French for any given project.

Bearing that in mind, Canada has proved to be a boon for Liz's particular language skill sets. As a speaker of a "neutral" form of French, that is to say that she has no discernible accent in either English of French, Canadian companies have hired Liz to record bi-lingual English/French jobs for them. It gives the companies more continuity in their "sound" to have the same voice in both English and French without having to compromise and not have native speakers in one of those recordings.

Recently for an American client, Liz voiced an English job for a French company that had French words peppered throughout, and the client was really pleased that she could pronounce the French words correctly while voicing the English narration without an accent. The result? The client was particularly pleased with how smoothly everything flowed.

Liz relates that the same goes for French. "The accent in Paris is not the same as the accent in Marseilles or Quebec or Brussels, Geneva or Algiers. However, having an almost "generic" accent that can allow the client's message to be understood by everyone is, in essence, what we in Voice-Over are here to provide."

When quoting for projects Liz quotes in US Dollars and usually asks for payment via PayPal. As a courtesy, Liz will usually provide an estimate as to what the cost will be in the currency of the country her client resides in.

A handy tool Liz uses is the online Universal Currency Converter which gives them a good idea of the cost. Of course, currencies fluctuate with the markets, so if you are using this as a gauge, be sure to check in daily.

When I asked Liz about her marketing efforts online and off, she has found both methods to bring her success. When marketing offline, the majority of her work comes through referrals via word of mouth. Personal recommendations come from studios, engineers, and even other voice over talent with whom she has worked.

While the "personal touch" works for Liz, she admits to being an Internet Junkie as well, always looking for more voice over opportunities.

The difference between online and offline marketing?

Liz says that you can spot differences in the way that prospective customers are approached. Making a personal connection in important to Liz which bodes well for either form of marketing, stating that both methods can work but you need to find what works best for your personality.

"Marketing is an aspect to this business that many newer voice talents are afraid of... get over it! You need to look at marketing as making connections. Talking to anyone and telling them that you're a voice talent? THAT'S marketing!" Liz commented.

Her bilingual world, while useful professionally as a voice over talent, is also fulfilling and applicable regarding other aspects of Liz's personal life, providing her with another outlook on the world and a wider lens to see through. Consumption of the French news via satellite gives Liz an additional perspective on global affairs and communicating with relatives who live in France is first nature to her. Liz is "eternally grateful" that her parents passed on their native language to her.
About the Author
Stephanie Ciccarelli is the VP of Marketing with Voices.com, the voice over marketplace hosting more than 15,000 professional voice talents. Stephanie is also the author of The Definitive Guide To Voice-Over Success.
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