French/Spanish to English translation

09 October 2012

Signs, Subs & Students

There are many overlooked industries and professions that require French to English and Spanish to English translation. Business documents and legal documents leap to mind for obvious reasons, but filmic subtitles, medical records, or even street signs are overlooked - all and many are in dire need of NAATI certified translators.

Sign Writers
Opening to Montreal, Quebec, a state building development has highlighted just such a need. Recently, beach visitors were surprised to find newly erected signs at Hampton Beach that were translated from English to French all too literally. One sign, intended to warn French speakers about rip currents, was supposed to read “if you’re in trouble, wave for assistance”, but read more cryptically as “if you need help, ocean wave.”

The incident has been embarrassing for the local government as a substantive portion of the area’s economy is made up from French-Canadian visitors. The signs have since been replaced.

Incidents like these are relatively common in French to English translation and can be amusing. Filmic subtitles, too, can share this levity, and exemplify the difference between amateur translators and, say, professional NAATI translators.

Film subtitles are experiencing something of a renaissance; powered by the internet and amateur enthusiasts. Many movies that were once exclusive to one language—usually due to their niche or low-distribution—are now accessible to a wide audience of multiple languages. There are many French arthouse films that require traduction Francais Anglais.

Many film producers only consider subtitles as an afterthought.

A keen subtitlist, Alexander Whitelaw said “English is the key language” for selling films internationally. Whitelaw goes on to describe that the verbal language, and especially that of artistic cinema, is so wrapped in metaphor and idiom that it is a bit like trying to solve a crossword puzzle.

Above all, the internet has been the primary driver of change—and many changes in the language itself.

Language Conservatives
The internet’s influence has not gone unnoticed by the Académie française, an organisation that has been a persistent and adamant source of French language conservativism. The organisation has defied Anglicisms for generations.
Despite this, the frequency and volume of English words being found in printed publication is steadily increasing. The academy draws up French equivalents for cultural phenomenon, but it cannot possibly keep in step with the pace of the culture.

Examples of these cultural phenomena include podcast being met with podçasté and tweating with tweaté. Neologisms like these need to be understood and familiar to professional translation service providers.

Many of these words border on parody in what has been coined ‘Franglais’ words, like ‘le weekend’ and ‘le parking’.

In 2008, France’s education minister stated that success lies for newer generations in knowing better English, and not simply relying on French to get the job done. In the future, all French students will be expected to know how to make French to English translations and English to French translations.


What is translation?

Translation is the process of changing the text from one language to another whilst conveying the same meaning as demonstrated in the source text...


How long does it take to translate a document?

Although dependent on the field and complexity of the translation, generally speaking, personal documents can be translated within 2-3 business days. Larger jobs will vary...


Why should I have my documents translated professionally?

Professional translation differs greatly from machine translation (i.e. Google Translate, Babylon, etc). A professional translator ensures that the translation reads naturally and not like a translation. Accredited through NAATI...


How to choose a translator?

a. Check their qualifications - and/or request information about their experience. Translators should only accept assignments for which they are competent and as a client, you should expect...