Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Old Habits Die... Not So Very Hard

I swear my English has got much worse after five years of living abroad. When I first arrived in Paris, I used to translate large documents from French to English, and I think I was a better translator then than I am after five years' experience. My English was pure and unadulterated, I was mono-lingual and I could tell immediately what "felt" right in my mother tongue- any Franglais or French-isms were immediately obvious, and I had a clear idea of how a sentence should scan in an anglophone way.

This is no longer the case, which is unfortunate, considering I am trying to make my living translating! I am more muddled about correct English, it's no longer a reflex. I need to check and double check spelling, and I can't rely on my own instinct any more. My French is undoubtedly better than it was five years ago, which I have worked hard to achieve and am proud of, but this is part of the problem. There is a bleeding of the two languages together in my addled brain, and I often end up translating things too closely to the original, feeling it sounds ok as it is, it makes perfect sense to me. I should make more bold leaps away from the text and into a more natural English idiom. 

It seems pretentious but there are times when I look at the French and think, well, that's the best way to say it - we should leave the French word. I'm forgetting the French words that we do use in their original form - cliché, blasé, cul de sac, Le Freak c'est chic! And adding others I think we also leave but it usually turns out we don't! Or we do but we use them wrongly, or anachronistically. Brunette. Garçon for waiter. Résumé (CV in French!). English has so many rich borrowings from other languages, it's hard to remember which have been accepted by the Oxford English Dictionary, and which remain fully foreign, in need of translating. 

It's all that, I suppose, and it's also the terrible examples I see and hear in English all around me all the time in Paris - I am fluent in bad English spoken by foreigners! I know why they translated "The Hangover" film title to "Very Bad Trip". I sometimes catch myself using "people" in the French way (meaning celebrities). I use the word "speed" as an adjective! Sorry to got to rush, I'm a bit speed today!    Don't even get me started on Le Fooding. And as for grammar. Well, there's this : 

Beignet donut's - selling like hot cake's 
 It doesn't help. It's relentless!

Cookie's, brownie's and donut's

Liquidation you say? I wonder what can have been the problem with the chic and upmarket clothes store, After Pant's.
 I hope there is life after After Pant's for After Pant. Poor After Pant. Ok, the word Pant looks weird to me now.
My Pant. My Pant's... label?

I need to spend some more time in England, completely forget French (should take 2 weeks max.) and then come back and be the best translator ever.


  1. Hahaha
    Love the Pant's and the Brownie's
    Don't go anywhere
    Just turn on
    Or for daily infusions of the mother tongue
    It's s'wonderful!

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