French translation: What to know to get it right

December 28, 2015

By: Anthony Delanoix

By: Anthony Delanoix

The process of translation involves converting a source text from one language to another. There are thousands of French translation professionals in the world, and only the best can translate information accurately and precisely utilizing extensive skills to produce clear and coherent documents.

Here at Translation Source, we realize that French translation involves communicating the meaning of a source-language text via various types of software to simplify the overall process and make it error-free.

French Speaking Countries

While French is spoken in many countries worldwide, it is an official language in 29 countries. In addition to France, Central African Republic, Haiti and Switzerland, some other French speaking countries include:

  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Congo
  • Luxembourg
  • Monaco
  • Vietnam

Eleven dependent entities also list French as an official language, such as French Polynesia, Saint-Martin and New Caledonia.

Difficulties in Localization

Localization is the method of adapting internationalized software for a particular language by adding locale-specific elements to assist with text translation.

Localization is performed multiple times for different regions. It employs the flexibility that internationalization provides as an integral part of ongoing development.

The translator who is attempting a French translation must be familiar with many important nuances of the French language to produce high-quality text.

Although French derives from Latin, the pronunciation differs from the spelling of many words because of a large number of silent letters.

There are five diacritical marks in French, and politeness is expressed by the shift between the formal vous and informal tu.

Though some regional dialects exist, Parisian French does not vary much worldwide.

Cultural Challenges for an accurate French Translation

The culture of every nation is an essential feature of its identity. In fact, culture has a profound effect on the composition and vocabulary of a language.

The difference between cultures creates one of the biggest challenges in French Translation. People within a certain culture view things from unique perspectives. Many words look like they are equivalents, but are not.

They have distinct connotations or complex focuses in various cultures. In addition to linguistic and cultural untranslatability, traditional translation challenges include:

  • Lexical, such as idioms, phrases, collocations, words and contextualizing lexical items
  • Structural, including grammatical particles such as tenses, case markers and gender
  • Cultural, such as variations in terms rooted in culture or no equivalent in target language
  • Ethical, including attitudes, personal values and beliefs, source text errors and misinterpretation
  • Political, such as generating meaning that are not inherent in using them for political ends
  • Ambiguity, including linguistic diction and structure, and thematic, such as inept rendition or hazy thought

It is important to understand that while being bilingual is an excellent skill, fluency is the ability to comprehend, speak, read and write in that language at the level of an educated native speaker.

Pathway to Translating

Working as a professional translator is a challenging but popular career choice for an increasing number of other people with a flair for foreign languages.

French is one of the world’s major languages and is a fundamental communication mechanism within the European Union.

French translations experts are extensively in demand in the science, business, legal, medical, diplomatic and academic arenas.

While the tools required by the profession entail considerably more than just speaking French, complete fluency is a non-negotiable starting point.

If you would like additional information on this topic or have questions on planning and executing your next translation or multilingual initiative, contact us today for a free 30-minute consultation or call us at (800) 413-7838

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