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Friday, 26 March 2010

French Friday (20)

Don't forget to check out Brizmus' French Friday !

Bonjour à tous !

Wow, this is the 20th French Friday, already ?! Happy 20th birthday then !
This week I decided I would give a little rant about a problem that seems to be more and more frequent in the books I read. And it involves the French language. :)


I've recently had a few books to read where France or the French language had an important place in the plot. Meaning that, of course, some passages (especially dialogues) were in French. Here's the thing : I would like to know how and why these parts were not corrected by someone who knows a thing or two about how to speak French ?

First, I'm intrigued by the fact that these authors did not take 5 minutes of their time to ask a friend/relative/professional who speaks French to check out if what they wrote actually means something. Ok, let's say they didn't find anyone, or thought that Google Translate was enough. Now, what about the agent ? Or the editor ? Or the corrector ? That's where it's starting to worry me. 

If I wrote a book that took place in, I don't know, Germany, and wanted to add German dialogues for the plot's sake, I would definitely ask someone who speaks German if the translation I tried to work on really means something in German. This is part of the research I think. I would never dare to send my manuscript if I wasn't 100% sure that the German parts were good.

I've had quite a few books these past months where this particular problem appeared. And many were already released. When I get drafts, I always have in my head that it's still a draft, therefore not corrected yet. But when a book is published and read by everyone, it just bugs me a lot. And I guess this is a universal problem, and that it must happen with other languages too. I'm sure that some French books with English in them have the same kind of mistakes.

I will illustrate this by giving you a few extracts. I took them out of books of which I will not give the title here, but when I post the reviews of these particular books I will mention the problem. :)

Example n°1
"Vous là ! Arrêt !"
English translation : "You there ! Stop !". This is clearly a Google Translate thing. It does mean something in English. But this is something we clearly wouldn't say in French. "Vous là !" is correct. "Arrêt !" is not. You would say "Arrêtez-vous !". "Arrêt !" all alone would be like saying "Stopping !" to someone instead of "Stop !" in English. You just don't say it.

Example n°2
"Arrêtez-moi disent"
English translation : "Stop me say".
Hum, ok, this is not French. Nor English when translated. This is just plain weird.

Example n°3
"Je n'ai pas de la force."
English translation : "I haven't got the strength."
Once corrected, this should be "Je n'ai pas de la force" or "Je n'en ai pas la force".

Example n°4
"Un source"
"Magie Noir"

English translations : "A spring". "Black Magic"
This is the most common grammatical error that English-speaking people make, and I totally understand it since feminine and masculine are hard to get a grip on. Having many English-speaking relatives, I'm used to these mistakes, and I actually think it's cute. But in a book, it just should be corrected. So, these two examples should be written : "Une source" and "Magie Noire".

Here we go, a little complaining does no harm, right ?! I know that this may sound not that important, but it actually is because it's directly linked with how books are re-read and corrected. What do you think ? And have you ever encountered this problem with other languages ?

Oh, and on a more exciting and positive note, the Salon du Livre de Paris starts today ! Yay ! I will probably go next week. There are many interesting conferences and I simply can't wait. I will take pictures of course. ;)
Happy friday everyone !


  1. I can see why you'd get annoyed by that, it is laziness really. You'd think they'd have some pride in their work!

  2. I cannot believe that you are seeing so many mistakes in the translations. That is very sloppy and there really is no excuse for not making sure that the translation is correct. Great rant Charlotte!

  3. I'm such a nerd. I know very few French words. I love saying Arret just because I know how ;)

  4. LOL totally get what you mean! It's happened to me as well, when I see spanish in books - really annoying!

  5. oooh la la... so happy I found your site... I will return for French Friday!


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