Apparently, the sub-title The Curse of the Black Pearl was translated as La Malédiction du Black Pearl for France and as Malédiction de la Perle noire in Canada.

I'm trying to understand what would govern translators to make this choice, which is fairly subtle. Why does France stick with "Black Pearl," as if it wouldn't translate well, while Canada makes the full translation to "Perle noire"?

As an addendum, why isn't noire capitalized?

  • I think it's worth mentioning that the two versions were most likely translated by different people, and also star a different set of dubbing actors.
    – Kareen
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 1:52
  • French people has a taste for English names, stranger means also exotic and the sounds can be enjoyable to hear. On the other hand, it is a law in Quebec to translate every words of English to protect French language, so literal translation will be made without thinking about it.
    – Yohann V.
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 7:26
  • I also think things changed in France. If "Star Wars" (1977) had been released today, I'm almost certain it would have kept its original English name.
    – vc 74
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 7:48
  • @vc74 talking about "Star Wars", first versions were too much translated in french, and sounds "horrible". Certainly because it was one of the first english movies, so it was difficult to judge what is good or not to translate. Now there is a real difference between Quebec and France for translations. In France, we keep english words for titles, or proper proper names, and tools name in SF, where most of the words doesn't exist...
    – Random
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 9:51
  • @YohannV. Are Quebecers really forced to translate every single word? Is this only concerning movie titles? Are books also forced to do so? What about the locally produced movie ‘Bon Cop, Bad Cop’? Specially exempted? Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 12:11

3 Answers 3


The reason for that is that Quebec is much more protective of the French language so they will always translate everything, even the names.

There is a law in Quebec called "loi 101" which aims to protect French language. Among other things, it forces movie titles to be translated.

Black Pearl being a "translatable" name I guess it would fall under this law. (Not 100% sure about that, might also be for marketing.)

In France, however, names are usually kept in the original language. Also, in France people have integrated a lot of English words into the spoken language.

So sometimes, for marketing reasons, a movie title will be translated into another English title but something that most people will understand. A notable example would be The Hangover having been translated into Very bad trip.

As for the "noire" not being capitalized, I guess it's because noire is an adjective and in French, when using simplified rules for writing titles, only nouns are capitalized.*

*For general rules, special cases etc... please refer to this page.

  • 2
    Where does that comment about only noun being capitalised come from? If it’s about title capitalisation, the rules are quite complex (or, dare I say, messy?) but certainly do not exclude capitalisation of adjectives.
    – Édouard
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 20:07
  • It's actually a supposition based on common usage, i was not aware of those complex rules. I was trying to show the differences with English where (almost) all words are capitalized in a title. In this case, "Pearl" being a noun, it still follows the simplified rules.
    – seg-s
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 21:44
  • 2
    The title capitalization rules say only Malédiction should be capitalized but Perle noire is a proper noun (the name of the boat). The capitalization rules are similar to those for titles (I think; this should be checked), making the capitalization mandatory for Perle and not for noire. Hope this helps.
    – Chop
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 5:58
  • 2
    @Édouard Adjectives placed after the noun are never capitalized in phrases used as proper nouns such as titles, vessel names, etc. Adjectives are only capitalized when they're placed before the noun that would be capitalized (under the traditional rules). Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 9:59
  • @Gilles My point was not that “noire” should be capitalised here, but that there is no such rule as “only nouns are capitalised”.
    – Édouard
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 10:11

Canadian French titles are, I think legally , fully translated, most of the time very literally. Quebec is actually much more protective of French than France itself. I guess being surrounded by English makes you more enclined to protect your language by laws... Some French Canadians out there might provide more insight on the matter I guess.(EDIT: cfr edit here below, it is indeed legal and from my research the reasons/goals of it are exactly that, protection of French language) In other French-speaking countries, titles are "adapted" rather than translated. There are also examples of English titles being adapted but still in English.

About you extra question, "noire" isn't capitalized because French is much more strict/complicated than English on capitalization and in this case, "noire" being an adjective isn't supposed to be capitalized in French. "Perle" is capitalized because "Perle noire" is a proper name and proper names are supposed to be capitalized.


I did some research on Loi 101 mentionned by @seg-s in his answer. It was promulgated in August 1977 in order to protect French language. It seems it gets stricter and stricter broader and broader over years and it causes a lot of discussions.

I also found, for reference, an article with some examples of translations. The ones I personally find really "funny" are :

  • Trainspotting vs. Ferrovipathes
  • Frissons vs. Scream
  • Fiction Pulpeuse vs. Pulp Fiction
  • Rapides et dangereux vs. Fast & Furious
  • Danse lascive vs. Dirty Dancing
  • Les bagnoles vs. Cars
  • One thing that apparently this law wasn't able to control is car related words: "les brakes, la clutch, le hood, le steering" which afaik are not common outside Québec
    – vc 74
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 10:17
  • Laws can only enforce official things... The way people talk is obviously not driven by law, at least in democracies. There are indeed a lot of English words used only in Quebec for everyday things, while others that aren't usually translated are strangely enough translated.
    – Laurent S.
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 11:29
  • @Divulgâchâmes > offensive towards...dictatures ? I don't understand your point. I never said the law tells you how to talk, but the exact opposite, which I think is true to a certain extent in most democracies, and usually to a lower extent in dictatures. You're right about the use of "strict" though, it's probably a bad choice of word especially as I don't master this law. But it obviously tends to become broader from some articles I read (= covering more and more fields), which I wrongly translated to "stricter". I will update my answer on that, but I still believe my comment is right.
    – Laurent S.
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 15:05
  • What is Ferrovipathes ? I don't know enough French etymology to get anything out of that, it doesn't seem to have anything to do with trains *or * spotting. Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 17:45
  • @Aerovistae it's a neologism so etymology is tricky. Basically, it's the exact translation of "trainspotter" or "railfan"
    – Laurent S.
    Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 1:16

Industry related, examples

  • The dubbing and translation related industry has country specific ramifications; there is competition for the translation rights to American productions; sometimes France dubs for the world, sometimes Quebec does, sometimes each go their own way etc.
  • The majority of English movies distributed in France had their title translated to French in 2010 (this is one source); there is nothing specific to Quebec in that respect.1
  • Some of the industry traditions vary depending on the market; in France you will have renaming of some English titles per se (see this insightful article 2). A renaming can also occur for various reasons from one variety of the French language to another - for instance the same article lists Lance et Compte (1987) from Quebec, renamed Cogne et gagne in France3. Obviously with speech you're trying to cater to what is familiar within the target dialect or sociolect to create an immersive experience; there are possibly as many differences between markets as there are differences in France itself, and between France and other countries in the Francophonie in terms of what the viewership considers usual and natural spoken French; and those differences can be considerably greater than with the written language.

Observations about the Black Pearl

  • The stance on the integral borrowing of casual words from the English language might differ between France and Quebec and this might steer the speaker's choice.4 One can't say for certain what the translators had in mind when translating here, but we can expect a translator to be first and foremost a speaker. From my point of view, in my world, English is not a prestige variety for the French language; there is no context where it is "authentic" in written form except when one writes in English. This is not a movie where people use English car terminology because they're dealing with English speaking suppliers etc. Furthermore, English pronunciation within a sentence in French is often incompatible with French phonetics; constantly having to "switch" from French to a standard English pronunciation in the middle of a sentence, then back again, is disturbing and tiresome, especially to say basic words which already exist in the language. Parsing English words within French text also hinders readability as one naturally expects French when they read in French; this is not speech this is written French text in a title. Finally, if the Black Pearl is not some exotic string of words in English then why should it be so in French?
  • On the other hand, as someone mentioned, the underlying generic is the galleon here (galion, n. m., a type of gallère, n. f.). The interest lies in how you're going to leverage grammatical gender in the context of a boat name with varying underlying generics. Gender has an impact on how this sounds. Bateau, vaisseau, navire are masculine; goélette, frégate and such are feminine etc.. Then again, it is possible to use the masculine irrespective of the gender of perle (n. f.) for instance, and the French Marine nationale does so, which is consistent with modern trends in the field. The Le bon usage (Grevisse and Goosse, ed. Duculot) discusses boat names at §475; you basically have an equal set of examples where authors use an article which reflects the gender of the underlying generic, or not. The most well known case is undeniably that of Verne's le Nautilus, which has both the masculine article and the capitalized N. But it's a simpler case also involving a sous-marin (n. m.) and Nautilus doesn't have a feminine ending. I did not watch the movie you speak of and don't have access to possibly different versions of the dialog to see if they refer to any underlying type of boat or generally how they would deal with using Perle noire5.

  • Generally proper nouns start with a capital letter and LBU at §99a)2 indeed refers to boats sometimes being equated with such nouns. If a noun, especially a nickname, is made out of many words, all of them would usually start with a capital letter. The current French Navy ships include La Grande Hermine and Belle Poule, but the adjective comes first and this makes a difference as someone explained. I can't come to terms with this complexity and with applying the rules to the boat name form found in this case. More generally, one can look into the topic of capital letters to add significance and how generally capital letters should only be used if required. The subject requires a much more careful study (see specific uses).


1. You would think it's common business sense to present your product in French when the overwhelming majority of your customers happen to be French speaking. In that respect the Charter of the French Language simply makes sure you have comparable results to what ends up happening in France in a different but comparable scenario. History's lessons are remembered; money talks louder than good intentions so you need laws to strike a balance against carelessness or ignorance; and a balance has been struck. But this is really about the idea of inscriptions on products for sale i.e. labels, not content; there's no guideline for translating a movie title, and this is not about the name of a business. La Malédiction du Black Pearl is a title in French containing two English words; I don't see what relevance the law (section 51) has here and why it was brought up (in the answers). One should also note the Charter doesn't require a movie to be dubbed to French, and in that case no French material or label is required (see q. 29, 30 here). Otherwise according to Wikipedia it seems New-Brunswick went along with the Quebec version of the title/movie.

2. It lists 8 other titles renamed besides the one provided in an other answer: American hustle/American bluff, Silver linings playbook/Happiness therapy, Two mothers/Perfect mothers, The purge/American nightmare, Escape plan/Evasion, Prince avalanche/Prince of Texas, Baggage Claim/Destination love. It doesn't come with an explanation; it most likely connects with some cultural references in France.

3. Beyond titles, in terms of spoken French, see Paul Newman's Slap shot (La Castagne (!), 1977) audio track translated in Quebec for a taste of how far the differences with language and references can go (nsfw).

4. For instance, consider the case of the cranberry, or that of the book in the fashion industry; and many other examples, such as sponsor (it always were commanditaire in the French Code de commerce). How one can consider any of those words properly "integrated" into the language is a mystery: there are perfectly usual French counterparts which are perfectly in sync with the evolution of the language. This begs the question of what is the rationale for using such and such a loan word. Nobody seems to know. For a careful case by case assessment of some such integral loan words in Quebec, and their usefulness, or lack thereof, see this.

5. I think I would have gone for La malédiction du Perle noir, which I find the best of both worlds as it uses French words and the masculine for of the underlying galleon. But it may sound slightly off without mentioning the generic (du galion Perle noire); but then will that word galion be casual enough to be understood, will people make jokes about it etc. these considerations might also govern the choices translators make.

  • "The majority of English movies distributed in France had their title translated to French in 2010 (this is one source); there is nothing specific to Quebec in that respect." > I find this statement really misleading. Looking at your source 57% is a majority indeed, but close to the half... if you compare France and Quebec , it is still 43% of those films that got translated to French in Quebec, I find it specific enough although I admit I don't know the situation in other French Speaking countries (in Africa for example).
    – Laurent S.
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 15:26
  • 1
    Rot: pr. modif.: lien here note 2 (q. 27).
    – user3177
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 4:12

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