How do you translate… ?

by Shari Leslie Segall

Newcomers, stay with us here: you might need this some day. Old-timers, has something like the following happened to you?

You’ve moved to France and after several weeks, your nice bakery-lady realizes that you’re not a tourist but a bona fide resident of the quartier. She’s always found you genial, so one day she tries her luck, saying in French, “I want to put a sign in the window about all our offerings, to attract English-speaking clients. I would be thrilled to translate it myself, as I know a bit of English, but I’m not familiar with specific words related to gastronomy. Could I ask you to do me a biiiiiiiiiiiiiiig favor and translate it?  It’s not long-only three paragraphs.  That said, please feel free to say no.”

Several months go by and you find a job. You get along well with everyone, from the floor sweeper all the way up to the CEO.  On your way out to lunch one day, the receptionist corrals you and says in French, “My son is looking for an internship in the UK. I would be thrilled to translate his CV myself, as I know a bit of English, but I’m not familiar with specific words related to education.  Could I ask you to do me a biiiiiiiiiiiiiiig favor and translate it?  It’s not long-only two pages (plus the cover letter, of course). That said, please feel free to say no.”

Soon, becoming totally ensconced in French life, you join some clubs and organizations.  During a networking event at one of them, a man approaches you and says in French, “I have to give a talk about my business to a group of exchange students from Australia. I would be thrilled to translate the presentation myself, as I know a bit of English, but I’m not familiar with specific words related to banking practices. Could I ask you to do me a biiiiiiiiiiiiiiig favor and translate it?  It’s not long-only 30 slides.  That said, please feel free to say no.”

By the end of your first year, what started out as a flattering sign of recognition by and acceptance into your adopted community has become an increasingly onerous imposition. You don’t know what to do.  You think of adding a cryptic automatic signature to your e-mails: “I.W.N.P.O.T.E.T.T.Y.D.-F.F.!” (“I was not put on this Earth to translate your documents-for free!”) but realize that for all its diabolical charm, it won’t make the problem go away. You don’t like saying no, because you’re a nice person and so happy to be living and working among these French-speaking folks. But you sure don’t want to say yes to this abuse. You see no middle ground between those two extremes.

But you are wrong. The middle ground has been handed to you by the abusers themselves. The next time you hear “I would be thrilled to translate it myself, but I’m not familiar with specific words related to_____” suggest one of the following web sites, smile calmly (or, OK, diabolically) and say, “Well, now you have the words, don’t you?  Happy Translating!”

wordsFrench-English/English-French glossaries for

banking:
www.fusac.fr/banking-glossary-of-french-english-terms/

business: www.e-anglais.com/ressources/glossary.html

education:
www.proz.com/glossary-translations/english-to-french-translations/33

information technology:
www.proz.com/glossary-translations/english-to-french-translations/68

real estate:
www.fusac.fr/housing-glossary-of-french-english-terms/

tons of other categories including but not limited to: sports, poetry, publishing, patents, petroleum and politics
www.proz.com/glossary-translations/french-to-english-glossaries

If that’s not enough, suggest www.wordreference.com, and while they’re there, they can check out the forum (below the definitions) for some questions/answers related to their words

And if that’s not enough, there’s www.granddictionnaire.com

And if even that’s not enough, they can, needless to say, plug “French-English [category] glossary” into Google.

Shari Leslie Segall is a writer who lives in Paris