When translating English to French documents, texts or books, many people incorrectly assume that they can hop onto Google Translate for a perfectly accurate translation. This is certainly not the case. Even though the service is handy when translating single words, there are intricacies to both languages that cannot always be captured correctly using algorithms. There may be a word or phrase in one language that does not have an equivalent in another. Professional translators can solve these issues, such as those offered by us at BLC, and in just a few minutes of reading, find out the complexities of translation services from English to French.
One word, many different meanings
When languages are closely related, translation becomes much more straightforward. When comparing French and English, there are striking differences. Each noun in French is gendered, where nouns taking the feminine and masculine form are preceded by the articles “la” and “le”, respectively. Then, “les” is added for nouns in the plural form to make things even more complicated. To make matters even more complex, the ending letters of verbs are often dependent on whether the sentence’s subject is masculine or feminine. These are but a few examples of some of the French language’s complexities, not shared in the same way by English and often overlooked by translating algorithms.
Another difficulty is what is known as “polysemy,” which refers to the coexistence of multiple meanings for a phrase or word. This presents issues in translating services if the translator is not adequately qualified since a direct translation often does not give an accurate equivalent. For example, consider the word “get” in English. It boasts many different meanings, all depending on the context; for example:
“To get the gist of something” – to understand something
“To get some wine” – to buy some wine
“To get a train” – to take a train
In this example, we see the verb “get” having several different meanings. Therefore, to understand what a verb means, it is of the utmost importance to understand the proper context of the sentence. Failure to do so is why machine-generated translation services tend to produce strange and awkward translations. Most algorithms do not understand translation services tend to make strange and uncomfortable translations – since most algorithms have no understanding of context. Where machines can help provide the main idea of things, humans are undoubtedly responsible for executing the best translation services.
The matter of cultural differences
For unqualified or inexperienced translators, translation services can be challenging due to cultural differences. There are different words in any specific language that reflect the society and the culture that use them. For example, phrases and terms used to make sense of and describe particular emotions or ideas often do not exist in other languages. Able translators know well that translation is culture related, and due to their experience, these issues do not usually pose a real problem. For example, professionals executing translation services from English to French will be familiar with the following French phrases, for which there is no English equivalent:
This word has, time and time again, been mistranslated by Google into the English word “impediment.” However, this word is much more subtle than the latter. It would be more accurate to describe it as something that “prevents you.” If you have an “empêchement,” it constitutes a solid excuse to cancel your plans or be late. No other reason will be needed.
This adjective is usually used in the negative – “pas sortable” – to describe friends or family members you cannot take out into public without anticipating embarrassment or shame. You would say that person is “pas sortable” if you cannot go out with them without fearing that they will fool you or themselves.
Perhaps the most well-known French phrase with no direct equivalent, “l’esprit d’escalier”, can be equated to “staircase wit.” It refers to the feeling you get when you think up an answer or a compelling argument to a debate or conversation you had earlier, only when it is too late.
This word describes the feeling that creeps in when you are away from your homeland or country, literally “un-country-ing.” It can be likened to the disorientation you may feel when exploring a foreign environment. It does not carry the negative connotations that “homesickness” does.
L’appel du vide
Many people liken this phrase to “the call of the void,” the urge to jump from high spots. It is also used to describe any troubling or dark impulses that cross your mind.
When you wander around the streets of a city with no final destination, you are practising the verb “flâner.” Doing so entails enjoying the present moment with no other goal in mind – an idea that is very much entrenched in French culture.
Invented by the celebrated French poet Charles Baudelaire, the term “spleen” refers to dragging yourself around with great feelings of dissatisfaction, discouragement and general melancholy. The word is indeed derived from the English word for the spleen organ due to the well-known Hippocrates’ theory that our moods may be related to our bodily secretions coming from our spleen.
Although we are dealing with English to French translation, the knowledge of the above “untranslatables” is vital in creating concise, relevant and culturally-appropriate copies in French if applicable. Trying to explain the above concepts in a long-winded French explanation would be bizarre to a French reader knowing the appropriate phrases.
Yet another complexity that becomes relevant in English to French translation is the issue of false friends, which can be described as word pairings in two separate languages that seem to have a similar phonetic form, yet possess entirely different meanings, spelling and origins. False friends are also known as “bilingual homophones.” English and French have hundreds of words pronounced similarly or look alike. Some examples include:
This word is synonymous with “daunting” or “intimidating.” However, in French, the word means “terrific” or “great,” almost the opposite.
In French, this word refers to “bread” and has nothing to do with the unpleasant feelings we associate with the word. On the other hand, we understand the French equivalent of pain to be “douleur.”
It is simply not enough for professionals executing translation services to know a foreign language thoroughly. Besides having an excellent grasp of the grammatical complexities of the language in question, they must also be aware of the existing false friends that could lead them to make errors. When it comes to translation, the company’s integrity depends on the quality of the work produced, which is why mistakes are rare in professional and reliable companies such as BLC.
Different vocabulary and structure and the length of texts
It is well known that not every language has the same sentence structure and vocabulary length. Translating an English text into French is likely to lengthen the word count by 15-20%. When it comes to blogs, articles, and official documents, having a longer text is not always an option, especially when a set word count is involved. Fortunately, professional translators will know how to deal with this situation, often through informative summaries that still capture the main ideas – perhaps only shedding unnecessary sentences to stick to the word count. It takes excellent knowledge of both languages to perform this perfectly, however.
Like the variations found in the English language spoken in different countries, there are significant differences in the French language spoken in Africa, Canada, Belgium, the Middle East, and the United States. This is without even taking into account the potential cultural and grammatical differences. This is yet another reason why a professional translation company is necessary for translation services from English to French. The translation depends heavily on the target audience of the text.
Translators, equipped with this knowledge, must undertake the necessary research and apply special techniques to either make the text universal or shape it to reach a specific group of French speakers. This is a sure way to avoid embarrassment and errors in communication.
Why consider translation services from English to French for your company?
Around the globe, there are thousands of languages spoken. Among all of them, French is widely considered one of the most important languages to learn. Around 80 million people talk about the language – and it is also an incredibly relevant business language. As a result, translation services from English to French are in high demand, with companies wishing to make new connections and broaden their customer base. This former is particularly relevant when it comes to legal translations, as in this case, there is little room for error or mistranslation.
French is the 4th most common mother tongue among European countries, with more than 12% of Europeans speaking the language. Interestingly, French is the only language (after English) spoken on 5 continents. Demographic projections have estimated that French speakers will reach around 500 million by 2025 – a clear sign for companies to liaise with their French counterparts and customers. Translating novels from English to French is becoming more popular with these predictions in mind, as English writers wish to expand their reader base and hopefully make more revenue in different countries.
After English, Bloomberg reports that French is the most-used language in business, and 4% of internet content consists of the French language. This means that translation services for websites can only be to a company’s advantage. This is especially important in online shopping, where item descriptions being in more than one language are likely to attract a more extensive customer base. Essentially, your products will be able to traverse the language barrier. To attract French customers, though, the translated language must be impeccable to avoid any customers doubting the reliability of your business.
Why use translation services by BLC?
With years of experience in translation services, BLC offers reliable solutions to any translation issues. We employ professional translators with adequate knowledge to ensure that your translated texts, documents, websites, ensure that your translated texts, documents websites or books are impeccable and culturally appropriate. As we have detailed, translating English to French is no easy feat and not one to be executed using translating programs that do not ensure 100% accuracy. Utilising them only increases the chances of unnecessary language blunders and further complications. Instead, we firmly believe that humans are the best fit for the task.