11

Star Trek: The Next Generation introduced among its main cast Captain Jean-Luc Picard, explicitly defined as a Frenchman, who was given an accordingly French name.

I grew up watching TNG with the German dubbing, and Picard's name (both first and last) was consistently pronounced with the French pronunciation by himself and anyone else on the show.

When I first watched TNG with the original English audio, I was somewhat surprised the original voices invariably changed the name by simply reading out what the letters "Jean-Luc Picard" could sound like in English, barely approximating the sound in French.

How did it come to this?

I simply can't see a reason for it:

  • If it was not possible to pronounce anything non-English, then why insist on him being a Frenchman in the first place? (This touches upon other aspects, such as him liking Earl Grey Tea and Shakespeare rather than anything particularly French.)
  • I read Patrick Stewart said him doing a French accent would have ended up sounding silly. But then, why wasn't at least a French name picked that would be easier to pronounce for native English speakers, or where the French pronunciation would have been closer to the English one, than especially Picard's first name, "Jean-Luc" (which, despite its shortness, appears to contain as many as three distinct sounds that English native speakers would not be used to)?
  • Even so, why was even the effort of acknowledging that the final 'd' in "Picard" would not be audible in French deemed too much? That wouldn't have required a full-fledged "French accent".

Was production too far along so the name couldn't be changed anymore when the problem the actors had with it became apparent? Was the name somehow that uniquely special that there was no option of changing it? What happened there? Are there any interviews or texts that describe the process in those days?

EDIT: As an example, here you can hear Dr. Crusher's German voice call the Captain by his given name, and here is the same line with the original English voice - the latter sounds pretty much like "John Look" to me, in particular, the 'n' at the end of "Jean" is clearly audible in English instead of the nasal sound. Unfortunately, I cannot find this scene (or any other with his name in it, for that matter) with the French dubbing on YouTube, which would grant an even better comparison (as I can verify locally with other scenes when setting Netflix audio to French).

  • 10
    It's not a mis-pronunciation. It's how someone that speaks English would pronounce that surname – Valorum Feb 29 at 21:20
  • 20
    I have a delivery here for John Luck Pickard? – Jack B Nimble Feb 29 at 21:42
  • 6
    could the question be updated to include examples of the you think the proper pronunciation to be? – NKCampbell Feb 29 at 21:54
  • 2
    @NKCampbell: I was able to find a scene on YouTube with his first name spoken in different language versions and added the links. – O. R. Mapper Feb 29 at 23:36
  • 1
    I am French and honestly, the German version sounds like it was pronounced by the voice of Google Translate. I completely lost focused after that. – Taladris Mar 1 at 12:41
19

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Luc_Picard

Jean-Luc Picard was born to Maurice and Yvette Picard in La Barre, France, on 13 July 2305. As a child, he dreamed of joining Starfleet.[17] He and the rest of his family speak English, with English accents—the French language having become obscure by the 24th century, as mentioned in the Next Generation episode "Code of Honor". Picard also has a number of British habits, including the regular consumption of Earl Grey tea, a fondness for Shakespeare, which he performs in holodeck simulations, riding horses with English tack and a knowledge of such British songs with Royal Navy associations as "A British Tar" (Gilbert and Sullivan) and "Heart of Oak". [bolding added]


Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry named Picard for one or both of the twin brothers Auguste Piccard and Jean Piccard, 20th-century Swiss scientists.

So while Picard is apparently ethnically French, my understanding is that France and French do not exist in the 24th century as we know them today. So apparently, the English pronunciation of "Picard" has come to dominate, at least in Jean-Luc's portion of the family. And in more than three centuries, it's likely that pronunciations have shifted.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    youtu.be/pwODwwgE6rA – DarkHeart Mar 1 at 0:34
  • 7
    "And in more than three centuries, it's likely that pronunciations have shifted." – As a native German speaker having also learned French in school (and living on the French border), I recently watched a documentary about the Texas German language, and I recently visited Montréal, Canada, and MAN can I attest to that. – Jörg W Mittag Mar 1 at 6:09
  • 3
    @JörgWMittag Ah, yes, Montréal, where the same person may speak English with French accent and French with English accent (lay tay - the summér) – Hagen von Eitzen Mar 1 at 11:02
  • 2
    The French language may have become "obscure," but Jean-Luc doesn't much like it when people point that out. :-D – T.J. Crowder Mar 1 at 12:57
  • 3
    "And in more than three centuries, it's likely that pronunciations have shifted." - unless the English we hear on the show has shifted away from what is usual today, as well, this point seems irrelevant. Clearly, the universal translator built into our TV sets translates Earth languages on the show for us to contemporary versions of the same Earth languages ;) – O. R. Mapper Mar 1 at 21:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.