[Transcript] ATA Continuing Education Series Podcast – Episode 21 – Interview with Ruth Simpson

A glass of white wine
ATA FLD Podcast. Photo Credit: Unsplash

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Episode 20: Interview with Ruth Simpson

Andie Ho: This is Andie Ho, host of the continuing education series, a podcast produced for the members of the French Language Division of the American Translators Association, offering educational content about the craft of French-to-English and English-to-French translation and the division.

A brief comment here, my dog, Huckleberry, makes a cameo in this episode with his signature howl, so if you hear some background noise, that’s him saying “hi,” to everyone.

Today we’re joined by Ruth Simpson, a freelance French-to-English translator since 2008. Ruth is based in France, currently, and she specializes in beauty and cosmetics and wine and spirits. She has a diploma in wine and spirits, which I’m very excited to talk about, is a qualified member of ITI, with certified translator status, and, apparently, is a keen musician, as well. Very multitalented. Welcome today, Ruth.

Ruth Simpson: Thank you so much! Multitalented, I don’t know. I certainly like to try lots of new things. Um, so, yeah, that’s… I love playing all different instruments. I’ve got ukuleles, I’ve got a violin, and I love singing, as well, so, yeah, my husband would probably say not so multitalented, just “multi-interested.”

AH: Well, isn’t that the prototypical translator? Interested in a little bit of everything?

RS: Yeah, yeah probably. That’s true, yeah.

AH: So, let’s dive right in. The main thing I wanted personally, selfishly, to talk to you about today is your specialization in wine. Now, I translate for the food industry, but I specifically do not translate wine, because it is, as I’m sure you’re going to tell me, is its own deal.

RS: Um, right.

AH: I’m sure it’s a specialization, a dream specialization for many people. How did you get into it?

RS: Well, both of my specializations, cosmetics and wine, both could seem like dream specializations to a lot of people, but they really do all involve urgent translations, demanding clients, tricky words, just like everyone else’s specialist fields. So, wine, and cosmetics also, come under the variate umbrella of what I like to call whipped cream or fluff translations, um, they’re very much in the nonvital category when you compare them with, like, the important work done by medical translators or legal translators, and that has the benefit of taking the pressure off mentally, but you’d be surprised, actually, how many cosmetic brands take lipstick as seriously as they do a drug trial, as the pharmaceutical industry would take a drug trial.

Um, well, how did I first get into wine translation? I was working in Paris doing English teaching. I was actually working at L’Oréal’s luxury product division, which is how I got into cosmetics translation, and my boyfriend at the time, who is now my husband, he was also working in Paris in advertising, but he had a family wine estate in Chablis, and he knew that at some point in the future he was going to take on the wine domain, the wine estate that belonged to his family. But we were still living in Paris at that point, so the Burgundy countryside was pretty far away from our thoughts. One thing, he’d decided he’d had enough of the métro-boulot-dodo lifestyle, and he decided to start a year-long training course in a specialist college near Chablis, and so, I went down to three days a week in Paris, and two days a week in Chablis, and I created my business and began contacting agencies, and, from that point, I was working just in cosmetics.

I eventually took an interest in wine when I moved here more permanently in 2009, when I had my first child, and I was struggling to keep up with conversations at the dinner table. My husband’s family and the friends we’d made here got to talking about wine, and I couldn’t follow along. I was a bit struggling with the vocabulary, and I didn’t really understand what was going on. I’d always enjoyed drinking it, like lots of people, but I didn’t quite know how to get to grips with the technical and more descriptive vocabulary. That was in French, let alone in English, so in neither language. I researched some qualifications in the field and I wanted to do the qualification in English, so I found the WSET, which is the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. Um, so, that’s how I first got into specializing in wine was through my family connection with my husband and my qualifications with the WSET.

AH: Okay, well, so that kind of answers my next question about which came first, the chicken or the egg, the wine or the translation.

RS: Right. The cosmetics definitely came first, because that was, for me, the most obvious choice, having spent… I spent four years working in the offices of L’Oréal’s luxury products division, so I was working with marketers and people… people… coming into daily contact with the English of the beauty industry. And so, that really gave me a big jumping off point for setting up as a freelance translator in that world.

AH: So, tell me more about this wine and spirits diploma that you obtained. How did you find out about this diploma, what did it involve? What kind of people take this diploma, and what all did you learn?

RS: Um, well, I learned so much. How I got into was, when I contacted… I contacted the WSET and I explained my situation. I’m living in Chablis, starting to become a bit familiar with the world of wine, and they suggested that I start at their Level 2, which is what they call the intermediate level. The intermediate level is a short, three-day course in London, and that… it was very quick to do; it’s quite accessible, then I was encouraged to move on to the Level 3, the advanced course, which is five days, in London again, and then, after that—this is about a year-long time span between the two—I was encouraged to do the Level 4 diploma, which is a very, very different beast. The diploma is two years long, well, the one I did was two years, and it involved four week-long classroom sessions split up over the two years, and a dissertation on a subject, and lots and lots of three-hour exams, and tastings, as well. So, it was very, very intense for those two years, and my son was only, I think, eighteen months when I started, so that was a very full-on time, as well as translating full-time by then. Um, the people doing the course with me were all wine enthusiasts, obviously. Lots of them were from Majestic, which is a UK-based wine merchant. Some of them were retirees, they just wanted to learn more. There was a journalist, there was an Italian winemaker there, too, and people working for other wine merchants. So, lots and lots of different backgrounds. But not one single translator except me.

AH: So, actually, I was going to ask, um, did that help with any networking? I mean, did any of your classmates end up, you know, being sources of work for you?

RS: Yeah, that’s a good question. Uh, it could have been, couldn’t it? But it actually wasn’t, no. I didn’t… I kept in touch with, I would think, three or four people from the course, one, especially, who came to visit me in Chablis, and we’re good friends, but, uh, actually, no work came from that initial training period. But after that it was a different story because, um… Shall I go on to say what I developed after that?

AH: Please.

RS: So, I developed some training courses for different associations. It actually started out as a tasting session at the end of a Wordfast conference. I did an hour of a brief A to Z of the year in the vineyard, then some tasting exercises for the people, just as a fun end to one of the days of training with Wordfast, and that was picked up by another association, the MET—Mediterranean Editors and Translators Association—who asked me to develop it into a sort of half-day workshop, which I did, and then ITI, the… another association, picked up on that, and afterwards it developed into a full day, so all of that, um, just from a very short, hour-long, fun, tasting session, it developed into quite a serious few rounds of specialist wine translation training for other translators, and that did sort of establish me as a specialist wine translator, and then I started getting work, yes, references from other translators and people in the wine business who noticed that I was offering those training courses.

AH: Okay, so indirectly then.

RS: Um, yeah, indirectly. Nobody actually, at the course, said, oh, I want you to translate something that I’ve been asked to do, but certainly, as a result, yeah.

AH: All right. I just want to point out to our listeners that this is networking at its finest. It’s not always about direct connections, but about one thing leading to another, so…

RS: Absolutely. Yeah, and in those training courses that I gave, I was often asked, “Yes, but how do we get into wine translation,” and I’ve probably done five or six sessions of training, including cosmetics, as well. I also do a cosmetics training course for other translators, and, at the end, or in feedback, people will often say, “Well, how do I do it, though? How do I get into it?” It’s so different for everybody. All I can do is say what I did and how it worked for me, and that’s the only advice I can give, because I can’t give you a list of people to contact, obviously. Um, so, that’s… It’s sometimes quite frustrating because I really want to help people, but I don’t quite know how to go about doing that, other than telling them to look for themselves.

AH: Yeah, there’s not a single pathway to success in freelancing, which is both wonderful and devastating, I find [laughter].

RS: Yes! That’s true! Yeah, and actually, the very best client that I’ve ever had is a publishing house which led to six books, which is a whole other story, but I met at a party, I met someone at a party, who ended up being my very best client, so, it’s a strange world. [laughter]

AH: All right, I’m just writing this down. If I want six book deals, I should go to parties and drink wine.

RS: That’s right! Yes! Six books [laughter] That’s the exact advice I would give. Yes, six book deals. Go to a party. And talk! Talk to people. But that is a good piece of advice. Always talk to people about what you do because you never know when it’s going to be really, really useful.

AH: Absolutely. That’s a really good point, yeah, always, I always try to drop in conversation what I do, just to plant seeds.

RS: Yeah, absolutely!

AH: So, back to your courses, um, everybody thinks about the wine tasting aspect of learning about wine, but did you learn about technical aspects? What else did you learn? It couldn’t have all been fun and games, or we’d all be doing it, right?

RS: Oh, no. No, it really wasn’t fun and games. And, especially, it was quite a convivial atmosphere, and we were there for a week, and we were all in London, and we did sort of have a few evenings out, so I can tell you that tasting vodka at 9:00 a.m. on a hangover is really not for the fainthearted. [laughter] But, uh, that wasn’t a particularly technical session, but there were very, very technical sessions. Um, it covered viticulture, so, all about growing grapes, how grapes are grown, how to prune a vine. Or in different places they have different pruning techniques, so that can be quite a struggle to remember all the different places and all the different pruning techniques. So, here in Chablis we have a pruning technique called the Guyot, which is just one cane or two canes with a double Guyot, and in a place, for example, such as Beaujolais, they have another form of pruning, which is called gobelet, which is more like, the vines are grown like a bush, rather than like a single cane, so all of that technical aspect has to be covered. And that’s just in France, the differences there. And the course covered the whole world, so there were more than a few different pruning techniques to remember. Then you’ve got the chemistry of vinification, of fermentation, all of that, so you have your history and your geography of viticulture; you’ve got your chemistry in vinification, and then your creative writing in the tasting, tasting notes… how to write an objective tasting note, which is quite difficult at first because, as you can imagine, there is a big difference between, “Oh this wine tastes great,” and “This wine is high in acid, low in alcohol,” etc., etc. You really have to learn how to do an objective tasting note. And then, all the vocabulary to do with marketing and how to sell a wine, as well, and the food pairing, so there’s a lot, a lot, a lot to learn.

AH: Okay, I’m starting to see the similarities between translating wine and translating cosmetics because it seems to me that both seem very light, and like a daily item we can all relate to, but can be surprisingly technical, as well. But then, there’s still the transcreation/creative aspect.

RS: Absolutely. That’s so right, and it actually has quite a lot of cross-over, especially in terms of, I mean, very specifically in terms of when you’re writing a tasting note and describing aromas, and you’re describing the perfume, it’s so similar. There’s a lot of cross-over there. But, absolutely, in cosmetics you’ve got the chemistry part as well, and the medical, almost medical side to it, if you’re dealing with the cosmeticovigilance, the people working on side effects of cosmetics, that can be very, very chemistry based, just like vinification, and yeah. So, there’s lots of cross-over there.

AH: So, what do you find to be some of the hidden challenges of translating wine, then? Is it the creative aspect, or the technical aspect, or something else?

RS: I think that depends on the translator. For me, it’s not so much the creative writing part, because I love a bit of whipped-cream, as I said, fluff translation. I love that. For me, it’s really knowing your stuff. So, when you’re translating wine, you really have to have a full grasp of the whole process. I’ve got a great example for you. I had a text, I have texts, several, regularly, in French, that say things like “Le vin est ensuite fermenté dans les fûts ou dans les cuves,” which can seem to be quite a straightforward sentence. But when you look at it, you think, they’re saying that the wine is fermented. You don’t ferment wine unless it’s the second refermentation. You ferment juice, or must. So, you have to know that, at this point in the production process that you’re writing about, this is when you’re dealing with juice, and not proper wine, so you then… I always flag this up, and I always say, look, this is a problem, because we’re not fermenting wine, we’re fermenting juice, and they regularly come back to me and say, “Oh yeah, no, you’re absolutely right. We’re going to change the French” because it’s wrong. So this is when the original source text is not written by the producer, obviously, it’s written by a communication agency, or a journalist or some other nonspecialist, not by a wine journalist, I’d like to think that they never would write something like that, but definitely some kind of communication agency writing things like that that don’t seem to be wrong when you read them, but then when you know the process, they are wrong, and you really have to flag it up, and that just creates immediate added value. As a translator you’re very valuable because you can improve the source, as well.

AH: All right, you are validating my decision not to translate wine, because, clearly, I don’t even know what I don’t know. [laughter]. I would never have picked up on juice versus wine. Wow.

RS: Well, I mean, when you’ve seen it once, and you’ve realized it once, then after that it’s very easy. And, you know, there aren’t a hundred examples of that. I’m not constantly finding errors in people’s texts, but there’s actually another challenge I could talk about, which is knowing when not to translate. Um, there are some words in the world of wine which have to stay in the source language quite frequently, and that’s often the case when you’re dealing with French. You’ve got words like terroir, which is the whole environment around the vineyard, not just the land, the soil, but also the weather, the exposure, the slope, which direction the slope is facing, all of that can be called terroir. And there’s also a stage in the champagne making process which is called prise de mousse, which is often left in French. Um, again, going back to the pruning techniques, Guyot is left in French as well. But you can find that out yourself by looking at a bit of target language information if you go to winery websites based in California or Australia you can find those terms left in the French or even used in French on those websites.

AH: Oh, that’s interesting. Yeah, I know, obviously a lot of this stuff comes from the French, um, terroir, I feel like a lot of people know, even if you’re not a wine connoisseur, but some of those other terms you mentioned… does it take a bit of a wine connoisseur to know them, or is it really that widespread in English?

RS: That’s a good question, because you have to think about your audience, as well. It’s really when you would be using a word like prise de mousse, you would think, well, is the audience going to understand that. So that would be a case of, well, let’s look exactly at who it’s aimed at, and then we’ll see if it’s people that are supposed to understand those terms, then let’s leave it. But maybe you could add a simple explanation to the sentence, like “prise de mousse-comma-the period in the production process in which the champagne forms its bubbles,” something like that. But, yeah, I think know your audience.

AH: Yeah, now that I think about it, you’re, obviously you’re right. That’s very key. I’m thinking about my mother, who doesn’t know the difference between red and white. [laughter]

RS: Oh, okay! That’s more of a problem [laughter]

AH: And then, you know, a true wine connoisseur, who I’m, you know, they can get pretty pedantic and persnickety sometimes.

RS: [groan] I know, I hate that though. In the beginning, when I do my translation in the wine industry workshops, one of my first slides is a snob, a wine snob, and I put a big red cross through it, and say there’s no wine snobbery. It’s a specialism just like anything else. And just because it has this reputation doesn’t mean it has to be dripping with snobbery. And that’s really—getting back to the objective tasting notes—that’s really the… what you can use as your foundation. Its… You’re not saying it’s good or bad. You’re not saying “You know this” and “I know that,” it’s “Is it high in acid or low in acid?” “Is it… Can you smell cherry, or can you not smell cherry?” And this is how you can eradicate that snobbery that is rife, yeah.

AH: So, I want to go back to this 9:00 a.m. vodka tasting [laughter]. So, your diploma is in wine and spirits. Do you actively translate for the spirits industry, as well?

RS: Yes, yes, yes. It is… It could be said to be a separate field, but, at the end of the day, it’s still fermentation, and then the distillation part. So, it’s just a new… it’s an added extra onto the process. With wine, yes, you’re only dealing with grapes, and with spirits you’re dealing with all manner of raw materials, but there is a lot of cross-over again. Talking about cross-over, there’s a lot of cross-over with wine and spirits. Um, I think there’s probably less focus on the production process when you’re dealing with translating materials for the spirits industry. They tend to be big-brand clients rather than small producers. Like the wine industry… a lot of small producers doing their own websites, whereas spirits tend to be big brands doing their marketing campaigns, so the emphasis is more on their image. Um, spirits translations, I find them to be more creative, more journalistic in style, and they focus on experience around the spirit, rather than how it’s made. When I first started out, I did a lot of translating for Cointreau, the spirits brand, the orange liqueur, and that was a really fascinating mix because they did talk about their production process, but it was always the same thing: sweet and bitter oranges and the distillation and everything. It was a lot of boilerplate text for that. But there were all these different experiences with, like, star mixologists coming in to Paris, and there was a campaign with Dita Von Teese, and there was a lot of really creative opportunities there, which is quite… very different from viticulture in rural Burgandy. [laughter]

AH: Huge generalization here: would you maybe say that wine is for nerdy introverts and spirits is for extroverts?

RS: Oh, no. Definitely not.

AH: Okay

RS: No, [laughter] no, you have to look at the… just think some of the big California brands like Screaming Eagle and some of the Australian… like Penfolds in Australia. These are no shy violets. I mean, they’re big brands with a lot to say. So, yeah, no, definitely not. But there’s probably a little more subtlety in wine, um, than there is in spirits because spirits generally taste the same every year.  Um, probably I’m generalizing there. I think Hennesy and… would disagree with me because that’s the… cognac changes year to year and there’s a lot of difference there, but generally, big brand spirits taste the same every time, every year, and wine is, obviously different each vintage, so that’s a big difference there.

AH: So, um, what are some misconceptions from fellow translators about what you do. I mean, clearly, I have stuck my foot in a couple of them, but, what do people assume about, um, about your job?

RS: I think one of the misconceptions is that there is some of elite group of people that have been born into this wine specialism, and they can’t possi… and other translators can’t possibly permeate into that world, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Um, I know I do have the advantage of my husband being a winemaker, but I really did start out from scratch when I decided to contact WSET, and I was 35 at that point. I was… you know, I wasn’t an enfant du pays as they say around here. Um, I mean, it doesn’t do me any harm, admittedly, that my company, my freelance company has its address in Chablis. I live in Chablis. But it’s really not impossible to learn a specialization from scratch. I mean, doesn’t everyone learn their specializations? Nobody is born specializing in medical, for example. So, I think that’s one of the misconceptions, is that it’s only for this restricted group of people who already know everything about it. That’s really not the case.

AH: That’s comforting. Um, I have another friend who works in wine. She’s a buyer for a major retailer here in the United States, and it seems like the more you get into wine the less snobby you are about it. It’s the people like me who don’t know anything about it who assume that it’s a very highfalutin sort of career, but, um, she’s very ecumenical about it, you know.

RS: But I think when you really love something, then you want everyone to share in it, so you obviously break down all those snobbery barriers when you want to share your passion and your fascination with something. Um, definitely, I don’t know why it’s the case. I think it’s to do with maybe wine waiters or sommeliers in the 1980s perhaps smirking at people when they don’t order the correct wine. I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s a mystery to me, but maybe it’s because it’s being paired with fine food in this sort of rich, elite atmosphere. Maybe that’s why. But it’s a shame.

AH: All right, so my New Years’ resolution is to drink more wine and just enjoy it.

RS: Yeah, exactly! Just enjoy it, which is also a question you can ask yourself. Once… If you are translating or if you’re working in the wine industry, you could do your objective tasting note, but then at the end of the day, is it… do you enjoy it? Is it nice? Is the taste pleasant? And that is where the pleasure comes from, so, I think you should definitely, yeah, try more wines. And, what I don’t like is when people say “Oh, I don’t like red wine,” or “I don’t like white wine.” It’s like, have you tried a selection, because they are so different. You really try all different ones, and then decide. I mean, nobody likes… not everyone needs to like everything in the world, but definitely reds can be heavy and powerful and… heavy, whereas they can also be light and fruity and—crunchy almost—if you’ve got this red cherry kind of strawberry flavors coming through with… it’s perfect with some fruit salad even, which you’d never… a snob would never say that, right?

AH: All right, so, um, a couple final questions: we touched on your translation of cosmetics, but you also translate for personal development, which is very interesting. Are there, just very quickly, so, um, give me a brief overview of that, and then tell me about any overlaps between cosmetics and wine and spirits and personal development.

RS: Um-hmm. Well, personal development got started because I had a contact who was working at Dannon, the yoghurt and dairy, lots and lots of different products, company, and Dannon organized this seminar, which is twice yearly, three times yearly, called Eve, and it’s all about… it’s for women, and they invite a majority of women with some men, so that the men feel like what it’s like to be in the minority, and it’s all to do with daring and taking the first steps and breaking through the glass ceiling, and ways of doing that, and that… they publish lots of different articles on their blog to do with resilience and, uh, well, all different feminist issues, and I’ve been lucky enough to translate for them for several years now. The cross-over there is really… not a lot of overlap between cosmetics and personal development there, but also, the books that I’ve been translating, that started out with a person development book, as well, called Nudge Management, all about how you can make small changes in a business environment to change people’s behavior. So, some would say manipulation, but I like to say nudge. Um, so this is, for example, sticking a little fly on a urinal to keep men’s aim clear and keep mess off the floor. So that’s would be an example of a nudge, and that book was all about bringing those kinds of initiatives into business to improve efficiency and that. And employee satisfaction as well. So, I mean, that’s just a brief overview of my personal development translation. But that varies a lot.

AH: All right, [laughter]. Sorry, I’m still getting over the fly in the urinal.

RS: [laughter]

AH: Maybe we’ll call it incentivization and just working with people…

RS: “Incentivization,” I like that. Yeah [laughter].

AH: That’s hysterical. All right, well, final question: Is there anything else you want people to know about you, about your work, about the world.

RS: I would say, don’t be scared to specialize because it’s really rewarding when you get recommended for a job from someone who has heard about you but you don’t know, that’s a really lovely seal of approval. Um, if you manage to become the translator that springs to people’s minds when they think of an area, then that’s definitely a time that you’re doing something right. Also, I’ve found that sharing knowledge is a wonderful thing, giving workshops to other translators really did set me up as a reference, as I said earlier, in those areas. Um, and, yeah, they brought me more work and, you know, contrary to what you might think, it’s really not about creating competitors because I know a lot of translators would hesitate to give training because they’re like, well, if they know how to specialize in that industry, then I’m going to get overtaken. But it really isn’t the case. I haven’t found that to be the case at all. Quite the opposite. People see you in a more authoritative light when you’ve been a tutor for them. Um, so, yeah, what else would I like people to remember, is, uh, try wine. Try all different kinds of wine and don’t be scared of the wine world.

AH: All right. Words of wisdom from the Queen of Wine herself. Pay attention, guys.

All right, well, thank you so much, Ruth, for your time today, uh, excuse my dog in the background. He’s mad that he’s penned up right now, and…

RS: That’s fine. It’s real life.

AH: Thank you so much for your words.

RS: And thank you for listening to me. Thank you.

AH: This concludes our episode for today. You can subscribe to the continuing education series podcast on Soundcloud or iTunes by searching for continuing education series. You can contact the FLD at divisionFLD [at] atanet.org, visit our website at www.ata-divisions.org/FLD, or get in touch with us on social media. This is Andie Ho signing off. Thanks for listening, and à bientôt.

Ruth Simpson has been translating professionally since 2008 in the fields of wine & spirits, beauty and personal development and holds the MITI certification from the Institute of Translation and Interpreting. She lives on her family’s wine estate in Chablis and is a graduate of the WSET Level 4 Diploma in wines and spirits. Before moving to Chablis, Ruth was an English trainer at L’Oréal’s Luxury Division in Paris, facilitating workshops and tutoring business and marketing professionals. She has a degree from the University of Warwick in the UK, and in addition to studying French, she spent her time there singing with the chamber choir and musical theatre society. Also a keen scuba diver and violinist, Ruth started playing the ukulele in 2019 and has begun to suffer from UAS, ukulele acquisition syndrome. You can follow her on Twitter at @ruthinchablis.

ATA Podcast host Andie Ho is a certified French to English translator specializing in the food industry. She earned her M.A. in translation from Kent State University and is now based in the Houston area. She currently serves as the ATA’s French Language Division administrator. You can follow her on Twitter at @JHawkTranslator or email her at andie [at] andiehotranslations [dot] com.

Transcribed by Joan Wallace. She has been a full-time freelance translator for nearly 30 years. She holds ATA certification from French to English and Spanish to English, and also translates from Thai to English. She works primarily in medical and pharmaceutical translation, although she occasionally wanders further afield, including an ongoing collaboration with a historian involving
French-English translation of 19th-century handwritten documents. She is based in Madison, Wisconsin. You can connect with her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/joanwallace.

[Transcript] ATA Continuing Education Series Podcast – Episode 15 – Translating Toponyms

ATA French Language Division Podcast
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The A Propos LogoTo make our Continuing Education Series Podcast more accessible and searchable for FLD members and the general public, we are now offering transcriptions of our episodes right here on À Propos. Many thanks to our volunteer transcriptionists, who are credited at the bottom of each transcription. If you’re interested in helping us transcribe podcast episodes, email divisionFLD [at] atanet [dot] org.


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Episode 15: Translating Toponyms

Angela Benoit: Hello and welcome to the continuing educational series, a podcast produced by the French Language division of the American Translators Association, produced as a benefit for our members and those interested in joining us. Our series strives to offer educational content about the craft of French to English and English to French translation, and about our division. I am your host, Angela Benoit.

It is my pleasure today to welcome a very special guest, André Racicot. André is a retired English to French translator, editor, terminologist, and trainer for the Translation Bureau of the Government of Canada. He focused on the translation of foreign geographical names. He’s published a List of Names for Countries, Capitals and Inhabitants in 2000 that was integrated into the style guide of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs. You can visit him on Twitter or contact him through his website, and we will publish the links to his Twitter account and website on the blog post that accompanies this episode. André, bonjour et bienvenue. Merci d’avoir accepté notre invitation aujourd’hui pour parler des toponymes.

André Racicot : Bonjour. Oui. Alors ma spécialité, en quelque sorte, lorsque j’ai œuvré au Bureau de la Traduction pendant presque une trentaine d’années, c’était justement de traduire les toponymes. Et j’en ai fait en quelque sorte une vocation.

Angela Benoit : Et quelle est la chose que vous avez constatée par rapport aux toponymes et à leur gestion, à leur prise en charge par les dictionnaires grand public et spécialisés pour les traducteurs que nous connaissons tous.

André Racicot : J’ai constaté assez rapidement que les dictionnaires français comportent de nombreuses insuffisances. Quand vous regardez la partie « Noms communs », habituellement, les dictionnaires essaient de vous ouvrir le chemin, d’aller au-devant des difficultés. Par exemple, « chausse-trappe », on va vous préciser qu’il y a une graphie avec un p et un autre avec un double p. Pour les noms composés, on va généralement indiquer la forme plurielle parce que les règles sont assez difficiles parfois à saisir. Mais quand vous allez dans la partie « Noms propres », et que vous cherchez des noms, d’État, de pays, de ville et tout ça, on entre dans une zone floue. On dirait que les dictionnaires ne veulent pas du tout nous aider et font en quelque sorte un service minimum. Et pourtant, on s’attendrait au même service, si on veut, du côté des noms propres.

Angela Benoit : Et pourtant, nous traducteurs, sommes amenés à chercher des toponymes parfois obscurs, peu connus, dans des endroits reculés que nous connaissons mal. Donc, est-ce que vous pouvez nous parler un petit peu plus de la façon dont nous allons approcher ce problème ?

André Racicot : Oui, c’est ça. Ce qui arrive, c’est qu’il y a des noms très, très connus, évidemment, et ceux-là ne posent pas vraiment de problème. Mais si vous cherchez le nom d’une province mexicaine, d’une région en Afghanistan ou en Suède, qu’importe, très souvent, le genre grammatical n’est pas indiqué et même s’il est indiqué, c’est sous une forme raccourcie, nom masculin, nom féminin. Et le problème, c’est que ça ne dit pas tout : loin de là. Ça laisse beaucoup de choses dans l’ambiguïté. Bien entendu, quand on parle de toponymes très connus, « le » Nicaragua ou « la » Polynésie, il n’y a aucun problème. Mais je me rappelle qu’il y a une trentaine d’années, lorsque je travaillais à Radio-Canada, on cherchait désespérément le genre grammatical d’Iran et d’Israël. Et ça ne se trouvait pas dans les dictionnaires. Et on sait très bien qu’Israël ne prend pas d’article et l’Iran en prend un. Et on trouvait ça assez aberrant que Le Larousse et Le Robert ne soient pas plus explicites à ce sujet-là. Et le fait de préciser qu’un nom est masculin ou féminin, ça règle une partie du problème. L’autre partie du problème, c’est, un, l’article. Est-ce que ça prend l’article ou pas ? Bon, tout le monde sait que pour Cuba et Haïti, ça n’en prend pas.

Mais quand on arrive à des entités plus exotiques, c’est beaucoup moins clair. Et l’autre problème, c’est une petite parenthèse, c’est le gentilé, le nom des habitants. Si vous allez voir la Grèce vous découvrez que le gentilé, c’est les Grecs, évidemment. Or la forme féminine de Grec, tout comme pour la Turquie, les Turques, elle est irrégulière. Avec Grecque, G-r-e-c-q-u-e, tandis que Turque, une Turque, T-u-r-q-u-e. Et ça pose un problème, le féminin, parce qu’il y a des formes qui ne sont pas si claires que ça. Vous avez le Kenya par exemple. Les habitants, c’est des Kényans, Kényanes. Et la question qui se pose est : « est-ce qu’on double le ‘n’ en français  ? Et là encore, ce n’est pas précisé. Il faut se reporter à la section « noms communs ». Allez voir kényan ou grec pour voir enfin la forme féminine. Alors là encore, les dictionnaires ne font rien pour nous aider. Au contraire, ils nous forcent à fouiller à gauche et à droite pour y arriver et réunir tous les renseignements. Et ça ne devrait pas du tout être comme ça.

Angela Benoit : Oui, effectivement, il faut qu’on fasse quatre recherches pour trouver un nom, un nom, ou un adjectif. On perd beaucoup de temps.

André Racicot : Perfectly, oui. Effectivement.

Angela Benoit : Parlez-moi du cas de la Grande Bretagne : on en a discuté en préparant cet épisode. C’est un cas qui illustre beaucoup de points de ce problème. Dites-nous en un petit peu plus.

André Racicot : Ouais, ben, c’est ça la Grande Bretagne, c’est un pays qui est proche de la France. Et quand on parle de traduction des toponymes, je pense qu’on pourrait y revenir tantôt, ce qu’on constate, c’est que les toponymes qui sont le plus souvent traduits sont ceux des régions proches de la France, soit des pays avec qui la France a eu des rapports rapprochés, si on veut. La Grande Bretagne, c’est un pays qui est proche de la France, c’est de l’autre côté de la Manche. Il y a eu la conquête normande en 1066, le français est devenu la langue de la couronne britannique, et il y a eu un mélange des deux langues entre la langue populaire, qui était le vieil anglais, et la langue française, ce qui fait que les deux langues ont beaucoup de points communs.

Il y a énormément de faux-amis entre l’anglais et le français, et l’anglais est une langue germanique qui est extrêmement francisée, beaucoup plus francisée que l’allemand ou le néerlandais. On a même dit que l’anglais, c’était en quelque sorte du néerlandais brodé de français. Il y a eu, on le sait, beaucoup de tensions entre la Grande Bretagne et la France. Il y a eu la guerre de 100 Ans, il y a eu une espèce d’antagonisme entre les deux. Je pense, moi, que les deux peuples français et britannique s’admirent mutuellement mais n’osent pas trop le dire. Et l’un dénigre continuellement l’autre. En tout cas, bon, finalement, il y a eu un rapprochement avec l’Entente Cordiale en 1904. Les deux pays ont lutté côte à côte contre l’Allemagne.

Pourtant, malgré cette évidente complicité historique, il y a très peu de toponymes en Grande Bretagne qui ont été traduits. Et ça, c’est assez curieux. Oui, dans les grandes villes, vous avez Londres et Edimbourg. Mais si vous cherchez dans les autres villes, Manchester, York, Birmingham, Cambridge, Oxford, il n’y a pas de traduction. Il n’y en a aucune en fait. Et en ancien français, Westminster s’appelait Ouestmoutier. Mais évidemment, ça fait très longtemps que ça a disparu. Et quand on regarde les régions, il y en a très peu. Il y a l’Angleterre, l’Écosse, Pays de Galles, la Cornouailles avec un s, et l’Irlande du Nord. Mais quand vous regardez les grandes régions, vous avez les Highlands, les Highlands, parfois appelées Hautes Terres, mais c’est très rare.

Mais le reste, le Yorkshire, le Kent, le Dorset, là encore, il n’y a pas de traduction. Et en fait, c’est plutôt l’anglais qui s’est beaucoup inspiré du français. Je l’ai dit tantôt l’anglais est une langue très, très francisée, et vous avez des appellations à Londres qui sont assez amusantes parce que, en réalité, elles viennent du français. Alors, par exemple, si vous allez dans Hyde Park, vous avez Rotten Row. C’est un non-sens, une route pourrie. À quoi ça rime ? Bien, c’est une déformation du français route du roi, tout simplement parce que Hyde Park était un domaine royal au Moyen-Âge. Vous avez Piccadilly Circus. Piccadilly, à quel mot français ça vous fait penser_00:47:28_ Pas évident ?

Angela Benoit : À la Picardie, peut-être ? Je dis ça complétement en l’air.

André Racicot : Non, des peccadilles, ma chère. Donc, c’est le rond-point des peccadilles parce qu’on vendait toutes sortes de breloques à cette époque.

Angela Benoit : D’accord…

André Racicot : Alors, Picadilly. Pardon ?

Angela Benoit : La ligne a sauté un petit peu, allez-y, je vous écoute

André Racicot : Oui, une autre appellation à Londres, vous avez Elephant and Castle. Et ça, il faut vraiment se gratter la tête. C’est une déformation de Infante de Castille. Alors là, on voit que l’anglais a été beaucoup influencé par le français. Et ce qui est assez amusant de nos jours, c’est qu’on a des mots d’ancien français qui sont passés en anglais et qui reviennent en français. Je vous donne l’exemple du tennis. Le tennis, ce n’est rien d’autre que le jeu de paume français. Donc, on peut dire en forçant un peu que les Français ont inventé le tennis. Et au jeu de paume, quand vous tendiez la balle à l’adversaire, vous disiez tout simplement « tenez. » Et tennis vient du Français tenez. Évidemment, les Britanniques ont développé le sport que l’on connaît aujourd’hui et par rebond, le mot tennis est revenu en français pour désigner un type de chaussure athlétique. Alors vous avez des mots comme ça qui ont voyagé un peu d’une langue à l’autre. ? Mais il n’en demeure pas moins, pour résumer le cas de la Grande Bretagne, qu’il y a finalement en Grande Bretagne au niveau de la toponymie, il y a très, très peu de traductions.

Angela Benoit : Intéressant. J’aurais jamais imaginé pour tennis, mais c’est finalement une petite partie de ping pong que ce mot a fait entre les deux pays.

André Racicot : C’est ça.

Angela Benoit : Passons ensuite au prochain thème, le changement d’aspect en traduisant un toponyme ?

André Racicot : Oui, oui. Le changement d’aspect, oui. Ce qui arrive, c’est qu’il y a des appellations qui sont, qui ont varié un petit peu dans leur traduction, c’est à dire qui ne sont pas tout à fait pareilles en anglais et en français. Je vous donne quelques exemples. Vous allez comprendre assez vite. Si on parle par exemple du Straight of Dover en Angleterre, on ne dirait pas le Détroit de Douvres. Il n’y aura pas une traduction intégrale de l’anglais. On ne suit pas la démarche de l’anglais. Et en français, ça s’appelle le Pas de Calais, et on voit que la façon, le référent, si on veut, en anglais, c’est évidemment Dover, Douvres, et en français, le référent devient un mot français, qui est Calais.

On voit un petit peu le même phénomène avec Bay of Biscaye, qui en français devient le Golfe de Gascogne. Alors on voit que le référent a changé. Le référent est français, tandis que, à l’origine en anglais, le référent est d’Espagne. La notion de Bay devient en français un Golfe parce qu’il y a une certaine différence en français entre une baie et un golfe. Un golfe, c’est beaucoup plus gros. En anglais, on ne semble pas faire la nuance. Un peu comme river, qui peut être un fleuve ou une rivière. On a Bay of Bengal, ça devient en français le Golfe du Bengale. Le même phénomène pour Channel of Corfou, qui devient en français le Détroit de Malte et non plus Corfou. Là, voyez non seulement un Canal; Channel ici, devient un Détroit parce qu’il ne s’agit pas d’une construction humaine, donc, on ne peut pas parler de Canal comme on parle du Canal de Suez ou du Canal de Panama. Mais ici, on aboutit à un détroit.

Angela Benoit : C’est incroyable le nombre de questions qu’on se pose, pourrait se poser ou qu’on ne se pose pas en regardant les cartes d’Europe, que pourtant ’on a tous l’habitude de consulter. Passons ensuite aux noms des pays qui changent, justement. Qu’est-ce que vous pouvez nous dire à ce sujet ?

André Racicot : Ouais, c’est ça. Il y a beaucoup de noms de pays qui ont évolué et souvent c’est à cause de la décolonisation. Dans les empires français et britannique, les empires coloniaux, ce sont des [inaudible] au 20ème siècle, ce qui fait que la Rhodésie, par exemple, a adopté un nom plus authentique, si on veut, qui n’est plus d’origine britannique et s’est appelée Zimbabwe. Il y en a une autre partie qui a pris le nom de Zambie. Le Sud-Ouest Africain, bon, nom très occidental est devenu la Namibie. C’est une ancienne colonie allemande. Le Zaïre, l’ancien Congo Belge, est devenu maintenant La République Démocratique du Congo. Et ce qui est intéressant, c’est que tous ces changements d’appellation sont assimilés en français, sont acceptés. Il n’y a personne qui va se mettre à parler de La Rhodésie à la place du Zimbabwe.

Là où ça devient intéressant, c’est d’observer du côté français une certaine réticence vis à vis de nouvelles appellations. Par exemple, la Macédoine, qui est une région de Grèce mais aussi un ancien État yougoslave, a finalement adopté l’appellation Macédoine du Nord, pour ne pas fâcher les Grecs. Ça va passer sans problème dans les dictionnaires, ça va. Mais un cas patent de résistance, c’est La Biélorussie. Lors de l’effondrement de l’empire soviétique, il y a une quinzaine de républiques qui sont devenues des états souverains. Et La Biélorussie a changé son nom officiellement aux Nations Unies et s’appelle maintenant Le Bélarus, qu’on aime ça ou pas. Ce qui est assez curieux, c’est que les dictionnaires français ne semblent pas avoir pris en compte ce changement de nom. L’entrée principale est toujours Biélorussie, et ils disent en biélorusse /Bjélarus/. C’est comme ça que ça se prononce. Alors c’est assez curieux parce que l’appellation Bélarus n’est pas très, très usitée en français, alors qu’en anglais on accepte plus volontiers les changements de noms et on parle beaucoup plus souvent du Belarus en anglais. Alors il y a une espèce de résistance française devant certaines appellations qui sont traditionnelles et qu’on emploie depuis des siècles.

Et là, je vous amène en Inde : Bombay, qui s’appelle maintenant Mumbai; Calcutta, qui est devenue Kolkata; et Madras, qui est devenue Chennai. Les appellations indiquées par les Indiens, adoptés par les Indiens, et qui sont des changements de nom officiels sont reprises dans les médias anglais. Mais en français, si vous ouvrez un dictionnaire, vous avez encore l’entrée principale à Bombay, Calcutta et Madras. Et ce n’est que récemment que j’ai pu observer dans la presse française, et ça englobe la francophonie, aussi bien le Canada que l’Europe ou l’Afrique, que le terme Mumbai semblait se glisser peu à peu dans les textes français. Alors qu’il s’agit bel et bien d’un changement de nom officiel. Alors ça, c’est un phénomène qui est assez curieux où on voit qu’il y a peut-être un certain traditionalisme en français. On abandonne moins volontiers certaines appellations qu’on est habitué de voir, même si le nom officiel d’un État ou d’une ville a changé.

Angela Benoit : Et vous dîtes, juste pour la petite, juste pour faire l’essai pendant que vous nous présentiez le cas de la Biélorussie, ou de Bélarus, et de Bombay ou Mumbai. J’ai pris la liberté de taper rapidement Larousse et Bombay, Mumbai pour voir ce qu’il en sortait sur internet. Eh bien, je vais vous lire la définition.

André Racicot : Oui.

Angela Benoit : C’est L’Encyclopédie Larousse, qui nous dit ça. Depuis 1976, son nom officiel en langue marathi.

André Racicot : Oui.

Angela Benoit : Je ne sais même pas comment le prononcer, est Mumbai, mais la ville est encore souvent désignée sous son ancien nom de Bombay. Donc, même Le Larousse essaye de faire perdurer l’ancien nom. C’est à se demander pourquoi. J’avoue que je ne m’étais jamais posé la question, mais il faudrait effectivement qu’on se mette à utiliser Mumbai comme tout le monde.

André Racicot : Oui, pour ce qui est du Larousse, je tiens à dire que c’est peut-être le dictionnaire le plus fiable pour l’exactitude des graphies, les bonnes appellations et Le Larousse, généralement, reflète assez bien ce qui se dit dans la francophonie quant aux graphies et aux termes employés. Donc, vous voyez que Le Larousse hésite encore à abandonner Bombay.

Angela Benoit : Oui, et pour le cas précédent, effectivement, l’entrée est sous le nom de Biélorussie.

André Racicot : Hum. Ouais, ça ne me surprend pas du tout. Je ne pense pas que ça va changer demain matin.

Angela Benoit : Et sur cette fiche lui-même, on ne fait même pas mention des deux noms, c’est à dire qu’il précise seulement qu’en Biélorussie et en russe, Bélarus, anciennement Russie Blanche, mais rien de plus. On ne fait pas mention du dit nouveau nom.

André Racicot : Non, c’est incroyable et ça fait quand même depuis 1991, je pense, que le Bélarus a adopté ce nom-là. Et encore, une génération plus tard, on s’en tient à la Biélorussie.

Angela Benoit : Oui, c’est dingue ça. Et bien passons au sujet suivant : l’attribution d’un genre grammatical à des toponymes non traduits. Je vous avoue que c’est un problème auquel j’ai été souvent confrontée parce que j’ai fait beaucoup de traductions dans le tourisme et l’hôtellerie. On parle beaucoup de grandes villes, de petites villes, de petits villages, de petites régions. Et la question du genre grammatical se pose systématiquement.

André Racicot : Oui, j’ai peut-être deux exemples à vous donner. Il y a cette région du Mexique qu’on appelait le Chiapas, qui a été, qui a défrayé les manchettes il y a déjà un bon bout de temps. Quand vous regardiez dans les éditions antérieures des dictionnaires, il n’y avait aucun genre grammatical. Donc, on était laissé dans le vide. Est-ce qu’il faut dire le Chiapas, la Chiapas, est-ce qu’on met un article, est-ce qu’on n’en met pas ? Là encore, le lecteur francophone était dans le flou. Depuis lors, les dictionnaires sont devenus un peu plus précis et on vous indique généreusement maintenant que c’est un nom masculin. Mais encore là, la question de l’article se pose. Et justement, j’ai consulté Le Robert et Le Larousse hier. Et il faut aller dans le corps du texte pour arriver à trouver si effectivement on dit le Chiapas, et dans un paragraphe, on voit qu’on dit le Chiapas. Et ça me ramène à la situation dont je parlais tantôt, de se battre avec ces dictionnaires.

Je vous donne un autre exemple comme ça. Vous avez Bahreïn, qui est un émirat, Bahreïn, on a dit que c’était un nom masculin et on entend souvent le Bahreïn, or Bahreïn ne prend pas d’article, mais ce n’est pas indiqué dans les dictionnaires. Et là encore, comme Chiapas, il faut aller dans le corps du texte pour trouver un endroit où on va dire « Bahreïn est situé à l’est de la péninsule arabique ». Et l’autre problème que ça amène, le fait de ne pas préciser si on met l’article ou pas, c’est que ça a des répercussions sur devinez quoi ? Les prépositions !. Alors, si je vous dis Bahreïn, qu’est-ce qu’on dit, à Bahreïn, au Bahreïn ou en Bahreïn  ? Et vous hésitez probablement, comme tout le monde, parce que ce n’est pas clair.

Angela Benoit : Et j’ai une pensée émue pour nos collègues qui sont interprètes et qui doivent décider dans l’instant sans pouvoir consulter un dictionnaire, sans pouvoir se retourner et demander à un collègue, [??], du coup parce que j’ai hésité et parce qu’on est en train d’enregistrer un épisode, je ne saurai quoi vous répondre.

André Racicot : Eh bien voilà, voilà. Si je vous avais dit Guatemala, vous m’auriez répondu tout de suite au Guatemala, si je vous avais dit la Tasmanie, vous m’auriez dit en Tasmanie. Mais voilà, avec Bahreïn, comme il n’y a pas d’article, on hésite. Et même pour des toponymes connus, comme Cuba, on dit à Cuba, mais quand vous arrivez à Haïti, est-ce qu’on dit à Haïti ou en Haïti ? Et là, c’est un autre problème, on n’est pas sûr et il n’y a pas un dictionnaire qui va vous donner la solution. Et en fait, les Haïtiens disent en Haïti. Pourquoi ? Parce que c’est un h qui n’est pas aspiré. Et à ce moment-là on a tendance à faire la liaison. Mais ce n’est pas évident. C’est pas écrit nulle part. Alors, ce qui n’est pas clair pour Bahreïn, ce qui n’est pas clair pour d’autres toponymes, vous imaginez bien que, quand vous abordez des régions inconnues et qu’on ne précise pas le genre grammatical, la tendance lourde que j’ai pu observer, c’est de mettre le masculin.

Prenons par exemple une région de Suède, le Småland, le dictionnaire, je pense, nous dit que c’est un nom masculin. Mais notre tendance naturelle, c’est de mettre un article, tout simplement. On est porté à ne pas mettre d’article quand il s’agit du nom du Nil par exemple, ce qui est justement le cas de Cuba. En ce moment-là, on ne met pas d’article. Mais là encore, ce n’est pas clair, clair dans les dictionnaires. Allez-vous perdre dans Le Grevisse pour essayer de trouver des règles et Grevisse va observer une certaine tendance pour telle chose, une tendance contraire pour autre chose. Et cela, on est un peu laissé dans l’expectative. Alors là encore, même Le Grevisse ne vient pas vraiment régler la question. En fait, ce n’est pas clair du tout.

Angela Benoit : Ça ne nous facilite pas la vie tout ça. Passons ensuite à la translittération des toponymes venant de langues ne s’écrivant pas en caractères romains. Nous avons notamment parlé, pendant la préparation de cet épisode, du russe ?

André Racicot : Oui bon, la translittération c’est un terme un peu scientifique et probablement que ça ne dit pas grand-chose au lecteur, à moins justement de s’être mesuré à la langue russe, si je peux parler ainsi. La translittération, qu’est-ce que c’est ? En clair, c’est qu’il y a beaucoup de langues qui ne s’écrivent pas en caractères latins. Il y a divers alphabets dans le monde. Le russe a adopté l’alphabet cyrillique et il y a le géorgien, le thaï, le coréen qui ont des alphabets distincts. Le problème, c’est que les noms russes…

Angela Benoit : [inaudible].

André Racicot : Oui.

Angela Benoit : Il faut bien, pourtant, il faut bien qu’on puisse en parler en français de ces endroits. Il faut qu’on puisse les écrire aussi.

André Racicot : Ben c’est justement ça. Alors si vous parlez, c’est parti de la langue russe, évidemment. C’est écrit en cyrillique. Il faut donc écrire des noms russes en français, en anglais, en polonais, en hongrois, et ainsi de suite, en alphabet latin. Et l’exemple le plus évident que je puis vous donner, et qui montre qu’on ne transcrit pas les sons de la même façon d’une langue à l’autre, c’est le cas de Vladimir Poutine. Qui est un cas éclatant, si je peux dire, parce que si vous lisez la presse française, vous allez lire P-o-u-t-i-n-e, ça se dit /Poutine/. On reproduit le son russe, /Poutine/. Mais quand vous arrivez en anglais, si vous lisez la presse anglaise, vous allez être un peu surpris de lire P-u-t-i-n. Alors on voit tout de suite qu’on ne peut pas prendre la graphie à l’anglaise de Poutine et la mettre dans un texte français, on aurait Putin. C’est un cas…

Angela Benoit : C’est un peu gênant.

André Racicot : C’est un peu gênant, oui. Peut-être qu’on aurait une note diplomatique de l’Ambassade de Russie. Mais bon, ce phénomène-là ne touche pas uniquement le président russe. En fait, tous les noms russes s’écrivent d’une manière différente en anglais, en français, en allemand parce que les sons ne sont pas transcrits de la même manière. Je vais me concentrer sur trois sons, le son /ch/, le son /tch/ et le /j/ français. Le son /ch/, si vous avez Chostakovitch, vous allez dans—chez un disquaire francophone et dans l’ordre alphabétique il sera à la lettre C, C-h-o, parce le son /ch/ en français s’écrit c-h-o. Mais si vous allez chez un disquaire anglais, il sera à la lettre H,  parce que le son /ch/ c’écrit sh, ce qui veut dire que Chostakovitch en français et en anglais, ce qui n’est pas tout à fait de la même façon, et le son /tch/ à la fin sera écrit t-c-h en français et c-h en anglais. Et ça c’est un cas qui est assez flagrant. Et ça touche aussi les écrivains, les personnalités. Tolstoï va s’écrire o-ï en français, mais pas o-y comme en anglais parce que, en français, on lirait /Tolstoi/. De la même manière, Dostoïevski, Pouchkine, P-o-u-c-h-k-i-n-e en français, mais en anglais est P-u-s-h-k-i-n. Le e muet en français évite de dire /Pouchkin/ comme on écrit Lénine, Staline et ainsi de suite. Ce qui veut dire finalement que le russe, mais aussi l’ukrainien, le biélorusse et tout ça, et l’ensemble des langues de l’ancien empire de Russie, et plus tard de l’empire soviétique, par tradition, en français, on va les translittérer selon une graphie française. Ce qui veut dire que, ce que vous lisez dans un journal anglais, ce n’est pas écrit de la même façon que dans un journal français.

Pour les traducteurs, ça pose un sacré problème. En Europe, on est très, très conscient de cette question-là. Il y a une tradition francophile en Russie qui fait que, en français, on a toujours mis un certain soin à écrire leurs noms, les noms russes, correctement en français. Mais au Canada français, c’est une problématique qui est largement ignorée. Les rédacteurs, les journalistes ne semblent pas du tout conscients du phénomène, ce qui fait que, bien sûr, ils vont écrire Poutine correctement pour ne pas se ridiculiser. Mais quand c’est des noms plus obscurs, un général russe ou bon un porte-parole de l’ambassade, ils vont souvent reprendre la graphie anglaise sans se poser de questions. C’est d’ailleurs ce qu’a fait Radio-Canada il y a quelques jours avec le président ukrainien Porochenko, qu’on écrit avec un sh à Radio-Canada au lieu d’un ch. C’est des erreurs qui sont très courantes au Canada, mais en France par exemple, ce n’est pas une chose qu’on va faire. Ce n’est pas le genre d’erreur qu’on va commettre, tout simplement.

Alors pour les traducteurs, ça devient compliqué parce qu’on traduit de l’anglais au français. Et ce qui arrive, c’est que les traducteurs vont lire des noms russes écrits à l’anglaise, et il va falloir les retransformer de façon à ce qu’ils aient une graphie française. Or, il n’existe aucun moyen d’y parvenir, sauf une table de translittération que j’ai créée quand j’étais au ministère des Affaires Étrangères du Canada. Et cette table-là part d’une graphie anglaise d’un nom russe et la transforme en graphie française. Cette table-là se trouve maintenant dans le guide du rédacteur de l’administration fédérale au Canada. Et c’est le seul outil, à ce que je sache, qui permette de faire cette conversion. Parce qu’autrement, si vous cherchez des documentations sur la langue russe, on va vous montrer comment Pouchkine s’écrit en cyrillique et comment on doit l’écrire en français. Mais nous, on ne part pas du cyrillique, on part d’une graphie anglaise. C’est un problème très particulier.

Angela Benoit : Oui, effectivement. Passons du russe, passons au cas particulier du chinois, qui présente lui aussi des difficultés auxquelles les traducteurs francophones vont devoir se confronter…

André Racicot : Oui, le chinois, c’est un cas très, très particulier. On sait que c’est une langue écrite, en idéogrammes, donc c’est pas du tout des caractères latins. Pendant longtemps, il y a eu un système de translittération qui s’appelait le Wade-Giles et qui aboutissait en français à certaines graphies et à d’autres graphies en anglais. De sorte que les noms chinois, un peu comme le russe, s’écrivaient de manière différente, que ce soit en anglais, en français, en allemand ou dans d’autres langues à caractères latins. Au début des années 70, je pense que c’est en ’72, les Chinois ont décidé d’adopter le système de transcription pinyin, qui uniformise les graphies dans les langues occidentales, ce qui signifie que dorénavant, par exemple, Mao Tsé Toung doit s’écrire exactement de la même manière en allemand, en français ou en anglais. C’est ce qui fait que le nom du président chinois Xi Jinping s’écrit de la même façon dans toutes les langues.

Évidemment, ça va faciliter la vie des rédacteurs occidentaux, mais ça va entraîner des transformations assez spectaculaires de noms très connus. Et ici, on ne parle pas uniquement des noms de lieux. Vous avez le fameux Pékin, Beijing, qui est apparu justement à cette époque-là. Et on pourrait presque parler d’antagonisme chez les francophones parce que là encore, c’est le même phénomène qu’avec Mumbai ou la Biélorussie. Les francophones ont gardé l’appellation Pékin, alors que du côté anglophone, on a adopté Beijing. Et ce n’est pas une faute en soi de parler de Beijing en français, c’est le nom de la ville, mais là encore, c’est une appellation qui s’étend sur des siècles. Pékin, on veut la conserver. La ville de Nankin devenue Nanjing, et Canton, méconnaissable, qui s’écrit maintenant G-u-a-n-g-z-h-o-u, ça se prononce probablement quelque chose comme /Guanjou/ ou /Guanzou/, je ne sais pas trop. Mais toujours est-il que cette graphie-là a changé, et encore une fois dans les dictionnaires français, les entrées sont toujours à Pékin, Nankin, et Canton.

Ce n’est pas uniquement les toponymes qui sont affectés par ça. Les noms de célébrités, les noms de personnes ont vu leur graphie changer de façon assez radicale : Mao Tsé Toung, qui s’écrivait en trois mots en français, s’écrit maintenant deux mots, et Mao s’étaient toujours de la même façon, mais le Tsé Toung est devenu Z-e-d-o-n-g. Donc moi je lis /Zedong/. Le philosophe Lao Tsu en deux mots devient Laozi, L-a-o-z-i. Et là, le problème aussi, c’est que c’est la prononciation. Je me suis adressé à un spécialiste quand j’étais aux Affaires Étrangères. Il me disait que finalement, les graphies du pinyin ne sont pas vraiment phonétiques, que des lettres peuvent changer de prononciation selon qu’elles sont précédées par une lettre ou une autre. C’est un petit peu comme le français avec le s qui devient z entre deux voyelles. Ces graphies-là finalement sont assez déroutantes, et il faut savoir exactement comment les prononcer. Donc, oui, uniformisation des graphies,  c’est plus sain. Mais pour ce qui est de la prononciation, ça demeure toujours aussi mystérieux malheureusement. Et le chinois ? C’est un cas particulier parce que les autres langues asiatiques, le japonais, par exemple, le thaï, on a tendance à translittérer vers l’anglais.

La translittération ce n’est pas une loi universelle, on l’applique surtout pour les pays de l’ancien empire soviétique. Mais quand on a des noms au Pakistan, en Inde et tout ça, la tendance lourde, c’est de translittérer vers le français. Et même certains noms russes n’y échappent pas. Les vedettes de sport, par exemple, comme Maria Sharapova, si elle avait joué au tennis dans les années 30 ou 40, en France on aurait écrit C-h-a-r-a-p-o-v-a. Or aujourd’hui on l’écrit avec le Sh, qui est évidemment une translittération vers l’anglais. Et vous avez un autre joueur de tennis, Andreï Roublev, écrit à l’anglaise, Andrey, c’est d-r-e-y. Et en français, ça devrait normalement être d-r-e-ï; et Roublev, R-o-u-b-l-e-v, on écrit R-u-b-l-e-v. Alors on voit déjà qu’il y a des petits accrocs comme ça dans le monde du sport. Bon, le cas le plus aberrant, puisqu’on peut poursuivre un peu sur la translittération des noms, c’est évidemment Benjamin Netanyahu. Alors je suppose…

Angela Benoit : Oui, effectivement.

André Racicot : Oui. Alors je suppose que vous l’avez entendu couramment. Benjamin Netanyahu, c’est ce qu’on lit dans beaucoup de journaux, et ce qui est assez curieux, selon les sources que vous lisez, son nom parfois devient Benyamin. Dans Le Petit Larousse, on écrit bel et bien Benyamin. Comment ça se fait qu’on épelle Benjamin ? Alors, c’est un autre cas et c’est peut-être le cas ici le plus aberrant, le Premier Ministre israélien, normalement son nom devrait être translittéré, donc Benyamin parce que c’est comme ça qu’il s’appelle, et Le Larousse donne justement cette graphie-là. Comment ça se fait qu’on écrit Benjamin partout ? C’est parce que Monsieur Netanyahu a étudié aux États-Unis et probablement qu’il a simplifié son nom. Il en avait marre de l’épeler et on aboutit à Benjamin et non pas à une translittération, mais bel et bien à une traduction. Et ça, ça ne se fait pas. On ne traduit pas les prénoms ni les noms de famille des personnalités. Par exemple, Albert Einstein, je ne dirai jamais Albert la Pierre. La chancelière allemande qui porte le très joli nom de Angela, personne ne va l’appeler Angèle Merquel par exemple. Alors comment ça se fait qu’on traduit le nom de Netanyahu ? C’est une aberration. Et comme si cela ne suffisait pas, pour en rajouter, Netanyahu est orthographié de différentes façons, parfois avec le n-é, parfois avec le y-a-h-o-u, donc translittération à la française. Et parfois, c’est une graphie anglaise sans accent aigu, y-a-h-u, qui se prononce /Netanyahu/ en anglais, alors c’est un cas assez déroutant.

Angela Benoit : Effectivement. Et juste pour illustrer votre propos, j’ai essayé de trouver des exemples sur internet pendant que vous expliquiez ce cas, et je vous avoue que c’est un petit peu le bazar. On a un accent du côté du [journal] Monde, ou on ne l’a pas du côté de—qu’est-ce que j’ai fait là—on ne l’a pas du côté de Wikipédia, enfin personne n’arrive à se mettre d’accord, que ce soit au sein de l’Hexagone ou de la Francophonie de manière générale. Passons…

André Racicot : Ben, si vous permettez une petite remarque là-dessus, c’est qu’internet, évidemment, ce n’est pas une source qui est très fiable lorsque tout le monde écrit n’importe quoi. Alors quand vous cherchez une graphie exacte, il faut regarder très exactement quelle est la source parce qu’autrement… Ce qui s’écrit dans Wikipédia, n’importe qui écrit dans Wikipédia, et ce ne sont pas toujours des graphies très fiables. Il y a des fautes de grammaire. Je peux vous donner un exemplaire très très rapide du mur des Lamentations à Jérusalem. Pour ce qui est des majuscules, le français a des règles particulières pour les majuscules, et dans ce cas-ci, il faudrait mettre Lamentations avec la majuscule et mur en minuscule. Si vous cherchez dans internet, vous allez voir toutes les combinaisons possibles : deux majuscules à Mur et à Lamentations; pas de majuscules du tout; majuscule à Mur, minuscule a lamentations. Alors lancer une recherche dans internet, c’est comme regarder dans Paris-Match ou dans la presse populaire, voir comment on écrit tel mot en disant, « Ah oui, tiens bon, celui qui sort gagnant cette semaine, c’est telle graphie. Je vais prendre celle-là, ça doit sûrement être la meilleure », ça veut absolument rien dire. C’est pas fiable.

Angela Benoit : Oui. C’est vrai, c’est vrai. Je continue de regarder d’autres liens. On a vraiment de tout. Que ce soit du côté de la presse française, belge ou canadienne, on a vraiment toutes les graphies que vous avez présentées, comme quoi prendre une décision quand on est traducteur et qu’on est devant ces noms de personnalités, c’est vraiment quelque chose de compliqué.

André Racicot : Effectivement.

Angela Benoit : : Notre dernier sujet pour aujourd’hui, c’est le pluriel des toponymes, avec ou sans s. Qu’est-ce que vous pouvez nous dire à ce sujet et comment est-ce qu’un traducteur peut tenter de commencer à réfléchir à ce problème ?

André Racicot : Je n’ai pas compris la question. Voulez-vous répéter  ?

Angela Benoit : Pardon c’est les toponymes avec ou sans s, le pluriel. C’est le dernier sujet qu’on avait choisi aujourd’hui.

André Racicot : Oui, le pluriel. C’est un problème assez épineux. Ça renvoie au fait que les règles de grammaire en français ne sont pas toujours très claires, et qu’elles ne sont pas appliquées uniformément. Que vous avez des bons auteurs qui vont choisir une graphie, d’autres auteurs vont plutôt choisir telle graphie et que très, très, très souvent, les grammairiens eux-mêmes ne sont pas capables de faire l’unanimité sur une question. Le pluriel des toponymes, c’est justement un cas patent. Et celui qui me vient tout de suite à l’esprit, c’est les Amériques. Il y a un changement d’appellation ici qui est assez intéressant, et donc je pense qu’il vaut la peine d’en parler. Jadis, on disait l’Amérique. L’Amérique, c’était clairement un continent. Et l’appellation, les Amériques, est apparue en français depuis quelques décennies sous l’influence de l’Américain. Pourquoi ? Parce que les Américains appellent leur pays America. C’est une forme raccourcie du United States of America et le terme Amérique, pour désigner les États-Unis, est devenu de plus en plus utilisé en français. Bon, ça date pas d’aujourd’hui, on peut penser à Tocqueville, de la Démocratie en Amérique, et il ne parlait pas du continent, il parlait des États Unis. Toujours est-il que, comme disait Gabriel García Márquez, vous, les Américains, votre pays n’a pas de nom : les États-Unis de quoi ? Qu’est-ce que vous êtes, vous êtes [inaudible] ? Toujours est-il qu’abusivement on a transformé le mot Amérique pour désigner les États Unis, un peu comme si, pour l’Europe, on appelait les Allemands, « les Européens ». Je ne pense pas que les Européens seraient très contents, mais c’est ce qui s’est passé en Amérique.

Alors l’appellation « les Amériques » s’écrit tout naturellement avec un s. Je dis tout naturellement parce qu’il y a une certaine logique. On écrivait les Flandres avec un s, par exemple. Mais quand on veut ajouter un pluriel à d’autres toponymes, on avait les Allemagnes. Aujourd’hui, on a les Corées et les Irlandes. Il y a une certaine logique qui prêche en faveur d’un s au pluriel. L’ennui, c’est que les grammairiens ne s’entendent pas à ce sujet-là. Beaucoup condamnent le s en disant c’est un nom propre et on n’a pas d’affaire à mettre un s.

Ça se défend en partie. Si vous prenez le nom des dynasties, vous allez vous rendre compte que très souvent, on va mettre un s, comme « des Bourbons ». Je pense qu’on met un s par exemple. Alors pourquoi on n’en mettrait pas à Corée ? La question reste à poser. Et là encore, le traducteur est obligé de regarder, de fouiller dans les dictionnaires, dans des ouvrages de difficultés de la langue pour constater, soit qu’on est catégorique d’un côté ou de l’autre et que les ouvrages se contredisent, soit qu’on va faire des nuances. Certains auteurs disent ceci, d’autres font cela et ainsi de suite. Et Le Grevisse est plein de cas comme ça, où des règles de grammaire qui apparaissent bétonnées finalement sont battues en brèche par des membres de l’Académie française qui, dans leurs livres parfois ont même fait des fautes d’accord de participe passé. C’est incroyable ! Alors ça montre que tout ça n’est pas si solide qu’on peut le croire.

Quand on arrive avec les villes, quand on parle des villes, là, c’est beaucoup plus clair, on ne met pas de s. On peut dire par exemple que Jérusalem est divisée en quatre quartiers principaux. On pourrait dire les quatre Jérusalem. On ne mettra pas de s. Jadis, il y avait deux Berlin. On n’a pas mis de s non plus. Alors tout ça reflète une certaine incohérence du français. Et on pense que les règles sont très, très claires. Mais très souvent l’usage, lui, fluctue et c’est très déroutant pour la personne qui traduit, parce qu’elle doit prendre une décision assez rapidement, n’a pas le temps de compulser les encyclopédies, les dictionnaires à n’en plus finir, et que malheureusement, souvent, c’est un peu des choix personnels qu’on finit par faire dans ces cas-là. Personnellement, moi j’écris les noms propres avec des s. Quand je lis les deux Corées, je mets un s et c’est comme ça. Et je suis sûr qu’il y a des gens qui ne seraient pas d’accord avec moi là. Alors souvent le traducteur, il est forcé de faire certains choix qui pourraient être contestés par son réviseur, par le client qui n’aime pas telle graphie et ainsi de suite… Et souvent un client qui en sait beaucoup moins que lui sur la question de la langue.

Alors, tout ça pour dire qu’il est important d’avoir des sources qui sont très fiables. Au risque de me répéter, je pense que Le Larousse donne un bon aperçu de l’usage en français. Il a des graphies beaucoup plus exactes pour les noms étrangers que Le Petit Robert, qui a parfois des graphies un peu déroutantes. Mais quand on va dans internet, c’est [important] d’aller sur des sites qui sont crédibles, par exemple, mon blog, ça peut une très bonne source pour ce genre de problèmes.

Angela Benoit : Des problèmes qui, je pense, ne finiront pas de poser des questions, des difficultés, des interrogations pour les traducteurs. Mais en tout cas,  cet aperçu très, très riche que vous venez de nous donner, je pense, donne à notre public, à nos auditeurs, des pistes pour commencer à se poser plus de questions sur les toponymes, à se demander comment est-ce qu’on les traduit, où trouver les informations et les réponses à leurs questions. Et sur ce, à propos de cela, j’aimerais revenir sur votre, alors je n’ai que le mot anglais, je ne sais pas si vous l’avez traduit, mais la List of names for countries, capitals and inhabitants.

André Racicot : Oui. Oui

Angela Benoit : Si nos auditeurs veulent la consulter, où peuvent-ils la trouver ?

André Racicot : Oui, c’est la Liste des noms de pays, de capitales et d’habitants. Elle est bilingue, évidemment, et elle a été éditée par le gouvernement du Canada en l’an 2000 et elle a été reprise par le ministère des Affaires Étrangères du Canada. On peut la consulter en allant tout simplement faire des recherches dans la base de données Termium, du gouvernement fédéral. C’est très facile à trouver sur Internet. Vous cherchez un nom de pays, un nom de région et vous allez avoir le contenu de la liste, qui contient des prépositions, qui précise si on met l’article ou pas. Quand il y a élision de l’article, par exemple Afghanistan, on va préciser que c’est « nom masculin », et il n’y a aucun dictionnaire qui vous donne les prépositions comme je l’ai dit tantôt. Et il y a des appellations que l’on voit parfois dans la presse française, la République Tchèque par exemple et le Centrafrique. Il n’y a pas d’entrées dans les dictionnaires, c’est incroyable. Ce sont des surnoms, mais ils sont employés régulièrement. Alors vous devez savoir que la Tchéquie, c’est la République Tchèque et que le Centrafrique, c’est la République Centrafricaine. Dans cette liste-là, il y a des renvois vers les appellations plus officielles, évidemment.

Angela Benoit : Eh bien, juste pour s’amuser, j’ai tapé très rapidement Mumbai dans Termium et contrairement au Larousse, j’imagine que vous savez avant même que je dise quoi que ce soit, comment est organisée la fiche, à votre avis, qu’est-ce qui sort quand je tape Mumbai dans Termium ?

André Racicot : Oui, c’est ça [inaudible]. Dans Termium, justement, on a intégré un certain nombre de renseignements, un certain nombre de recherches, mais il y a aussi des terminologues qui ont alimenté cette liste-là. Souvent, les terminologues ont une approche assez rigoureuse en disant, bon,  qu’est-ce qu’on dit officiellement ? Qu’est-ce que j’ai vu à gauche et à droite ? Personnellement, je pense qu’on devrait dire Mumbai, puisque c’est comme ça que la ville s’appelle. Alors, j’ai fait un autre ouvrage qui s’appelait Le Lexique des noms géographiques, qui malheureusement n’a jamais été édité, mais qui comprend 5 000 entrées de toponymes qui se traduit de l’anglais au français. Cette base-là, ce lexique-là, il a été en grande partie intégré dans Termium. Alors, pour des appellations plus ésotériques, on peut trouver également des informations dans Termium.

Angela Benoit : Et là, vu que je l’ai sous les yeux,  la fiche Mumbai de Termium précise et est beaucoup plus conforme à la réalité. Elle précise que Mumbai est le nom correcte et officiel, que Bombay est une ancienne désignation et que malheureusement…. puisque, qu’est-ce qui s’est passé là ? « Bombay : nom remplacé par «Mumbai» en 1995; par contre, le nom «Mumbai» est encore fréquemment utilisé en français »». J’aurais cru qu’ils disent le contraire. Mais bon, il est justement beaucoup plus proche de la réalité, en fait.

André Racicot : Oui, c’est ça.

Angela Benoit : Cet exercice de comparaison que je voulais faire avec Le Larousse, vu qu’on en avait parlé tout à l’heure.

André Racicot : Oui, l’ensemble des recherches que j’ai faites sur les toponymes, souvent ça décrivait un peu la réalité, et je pense que c’est dans cet esprit-là qu’il faut faire des recherches. Dans mon blog, justement, je traite de ce genre de questions, de traductions, de toponymes, le fait que beaucoup de noms de villes, par exemple aux États-Unis, ont été défrancisés. Par exemple, des villes comme Détroit portaient l’accent aigu dans Le Larousse 1934 de ma mère. Aujourd’hui, il y a plus d’accent aigu, et Le Larousse, il y a quelques années, a rétabli les graphies françaises de villes bel et bien fondées par des Français comme Bâton-Rouge, par exemple; Saint-Louis, on écrit maintenant dans Le Larousse avec le trait d’union; Bâton-Rouge qui a reçu son accent circonflexe et le trait d’union alors que ces graphies-là avaient disparu des ouvrages français, ce qui est vraiment triste parce que ce sont des appellations françaises. Et même New York, qui est anglais, oui, portait un trait d’union jadis et n’en prend plus. Et cette anglicisation, elle touche aussi bien d’autres toponymes. Par exemple, on écrivait Nouvelle Dehli dans le Larousse de ma mère.

Aujourd’hui, on dit New Delhi. La ville de Vilnius était i-o-u-s. Dans la graphie francisée aujourd’hui, ça s’écrit Vilnius, et il y a beaucoup d’autres appellations comme ça. Et dans les recherches que j’ai faites, je fais des liens avec des anciennes graphies françaises. Alors tout ça peut être trouvé dans internet, tout le fruit de mes recherches et également dans mon blog. Et ceux qui choisiront de me suivre dans Twitter c’est aussi le genre de problème dont je traite, et avec des références aux derniers articles publiés dans mon blog. Alors ça permet de suivre facilement mes réflexions sur la langue française.

Angela Benoit : Et on précisera les liens de votre blog et de votre compte Twitter dans la publication qui accompagnera cet épisode d’ailleurs. C’est sur Twitter que nous nous sommes rencontrés, un outil que je trouve fantastique pour les traducteurs. On trouve plein de trucs et de conseils, d’astuces, de questions, d’interrogations qu’on se pose, on essaie de s’entraider et de trouver des réponses. Et je suis vraiment ravie d’avoir fait votre connaissance sur cette plateforme et d’avoir pu enregistrer avec vous cet épisode aujourd’hui.

André Racicot : Mais je vous remercie beaucoup de m’avoir invité. Ça a été un plaisir et un honneur de participer à cette conversation.

Angela Benoit : Merci beaucoup, André.

André Racicot : Au revoir.

André Racicot : J’ai la petite conclusion à faire, j’ai oublié de vous prévenir, la conclusion.

André Racicot : D’accord.

Angela Benoit : De la FLD, parlons en langue anglaise parce que nous sommes rattachés à la American Translators Association.

André Racicot : Bien sûr, bien sûr.

Angela Benoit : Donc, nous allons conclure en disant que this podcast is produced by the French Language Division of the American Translators Association. Our current Administrator is Jenn Mercer. Our Current Assistant Administrator is Andie Ho. You can subscribe to the continuing education series podcast on Soundcloud at Soundcloud.com/ATA/FLD or on iTunes by searching for the words continuing education series in the iTunes Store. You can contact the FLD at dividisionfld@atanet.org or you may visit our website at www.ata/divisions.org/FLD, and make sure to capitalize those three letters at the end, FLD. You may also get in touch with us on social media. This is Angela Benoit, signing off. Thank you for listening. À bientôt.

Angela Benoit is an interpreter and translator based in Ottawa, Canada. You can find her on her website, LinkedIn, and on Twitter.

André Racicot is a retired English to French translator, editor, terminologist, and trainer from the Translation Bureau of the Government of Canada. He holds a master’s degree in political science and a certificate in German studies. He focused on translation of foreign geographical names. He published a List of Names for Countries, Capitals and Inhabitants in 2000. This list was integrated into the style guide of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs. You can find him on Twitter at @AndrRacicot or contact him through his website.

Transcribed by Charlotte Schwennsen and edited by Anne Vincent.

[Transcript] ATA Continuing Education Series Podcast – Episode 19 – ATA Certification Study Group

Close-up of a microphone against a purple background
ATA FLD Podcast. Photo Credit: Unsplash

The A Propos LogoTo make our Continuing Education Series Podcast more accessible and searchable for FLD members and the general public, we are now offering transcriptions of our episodes right here on À Propos. Many thanks to our volunteer transcriptionists, who are credited at the bottom of each transcription. If you’re interested in helping us transcribe podcast episodes, email divisionFLD [at] atanet [dot] org.


SOUNDCLOUD: You can listen to or download Episode 19 and all previous episodes on Soundcloud here.

ITUNES: This episode and all previous episodes are available on iTunes here. You can subscribe or listen online. Like what you hear? Rate us and review us! It really helps get the word out.

Episode 19: FLD’s ATA Certification Study Group

Andie: This is Andie Ho, your new host of the Continuing Education Series, a podcast we produce as a benefit to the members of the French Language Division of the American Translators Association, and for anyone interested becoming members. This series strives to offer educational content about the craft of French-to-English and English-to-French translation, and about our division. For today’s episode, it is my pleasure to welcome Emily Moorlach. Emily is an ATA-certified French-to-English translator who began her career in 2016 as the Translation and Interpretation Program Manager and freelance official document translator for a nonprofit organization. In 2019, after a whirlwind trip through 45 cities in Europe, Emily returned to the US, and started her freelance translation business, Langue Vivante LLC. She holds a BA in French and a BS in Accounting from Iowa State University.

Emily also studied at La Sorbonne in Paris and has held positions as a high school French teacher and a luxury travel advisor. I need to hear more about that sometime. Her main specializations include official documents, business communications, tourism, gastronomy, and marketing. Welcome, Emily, to our podcast today.

Emily: Thanks, Andie. It’s awesome to be here.

Andie: So today, we’re going to talk about the FLD’s ATA Exam Certification Study Group. We need a better title for that group, I think, Emily.

Emily: It’s very long,

Andie: So, start from the beginning. How did you get started as the study group’s coordinator?

Emily: Well, I think you know better than anyone, but I’ll let you know for the listeners here. So, I actually started my exam studying journey back in 2019, at the end of 2019, and I reached out to Corinne McKay via email and said: “Hey, do you know anyone else who’s studying for the exam? Can you kind of hook me up with someone?” Because I wanted someone to work with. She actually sent me your email and Beth’s. And I remember just reaching out, and kind of seeing what was available then. And we didn’t have a program like we do now. So, I just kind of started studying on my own. And then, in 2021, in January, you started this, the FLD study group. And I saw that as a great opportunity to really get serious about my studying after having to put it on hold in 2020. I saw 2021 as my year, and this new program was amazing. So, I jumped on and started doing it each month. Doing big passages each month. And I think over time, you saw that I was very serious about the study program and participated each of the months from January through September, before taking the exam myself. And, yeah, then at the end of the year, you asked me to come on as the new coordinator. And, because I had found the group so helpful, and probably because I was a previous teacher and I love the nerdy aspects of studying and constantly improving, I decided to take it over. So, I did that in January 2022, and it’s been great so far.

Andie: So, for those people listening who don’t know what the study group is like, exactly how it operates and what it does, can you describe it for us?

Emily: Yeah, so I have kept kind of the same structure that you instituted in 2021 with sending out a passage, the first business day of each month in each direction. So, French to English and one for English to French. I select those passages on new sites like the New York Times, National Geographic, The MOON, etc. the first business day of each month. I send out the new passage in each direction and participants can decide whether or not they even want to participate that month. If they do, they just translate it on their own time and send me an email by the third Monday of the month to let me know that they have completed it.

Then, I pair them up with another person who has completed it in the same direction, and then they have the rest of the month, which is usually a week or two, to exchange passages via email and kind of give each other feedback either via track changes in Word or phone call, video call, any of the above. Let’s see, then, what else? Yeah, I think that’s pretty much it. I send out the passage, then I pair participants up and then they kind of work together in groups of two or three to provide feedback.

Andie: So, you say that you mostly kept the model that I had used while you were a “student” in the group, quote unquote, student participants in the group. Do you foresee making any updates in the future?

Emily: Potentially, yes. I participated in a panel with the Spanish Language Division and also the Slavic Language Division, and they both have some great ideas that they use for their study groups, that I would kind of like to see how they would fit within ours as well. Potentially using Google Docs to compare all of the translations that have been completed for a language pair for that month. I think that would be great to see nine different translations side by side in a spreadsheet as the Spanish Language Division does. So even if you’re paired with a partner and having a deeper conversation one-on-one, you can see how many different ways a word can be translated and it kind of reveals the creativity of our craft. And it helps, yeah, I think, just gain different perspectives on how to approach a text.

Andie: I like it. I wish I had thought of that. So, when you were a participant, how, in what ways was the study group helpful for you as someone looking to take the exam in the future?

Emily: I think it was super helpful just to know that there are other people out there, kind of going through the same thing and finding other colleagues who are as serious about not only studying but actually taking the exam. So, I think that was great to find kind of a group of people to do that with. And I loved the fact that our study group is very low commitment. It’s kind of open-ended, so you can get on our email list, and then you can participate in January and then not participate again until May, if you know, your schedule gets crazy, like we all know it does, being freelance translators. So, it’s really low commitment. I love that. And then, I just loved being able to collaborate with other colleagues and meet people within my language pairing.

Andie: What about the… So, the ATA offers official practice exams that you can spend money on. Did you ever do any of those?

Emily: Yes. Being kind of the nerd, like I said that I am. I did my first one at the end of 2019 when I just wasn’t even a full-time translator yet. Just kind of thinking that was the first step of getting in and getting clients. And I thought, naively, I’ll just take the practice test and then I’ll be ready to go. Well, I took the first one and did fairly decent. I think it’s 17 points you need to be able to pass the exam. I think that’s the maximum, and points are bad. For our listeners out there, who haven’t looked into it yet. You don’t want points. I think I got in the 20ish range, and they said, okay, you could probably pass if you study a little bit more.

Well, then I took the second. There are three in each direction, three French to English and three English to French official practice exams. So, I took the second one just to kind of see where I was at on that, and I didn’t do as well, so that kind of changed my perspective, and I decided to study a little bit longer. So, I think taking at least one official practice exam is really essential to not just jumping into the real thing. And then, if possible, taking two or all three is great because they’re different passages you’ll do differently from one to the other, potentially passing one, potentially failing the next one, and that gives you more data points to know if you’re ready for the real thing.

Andie: Now, you wrote an article for the ATA’s Savvy Newcomer blog, is that correct?

Emily: Yes, I’m a volunteer blog author and editor, so that been fun.

Andie: All right. So, I see you’ve written an article called “Taking and Preparing for ATA Online Certification Exam.” And in that article, you mentioned using DeepL, which is a machine translation, to check your translations. Can you tell us more about this?

Emily: Yeah, I think it’s kind of, some people might think it’s, what would you say, a controversial thing to say because obviously we don’t want to train ourselves to translate like a machine. But in my study journey, I found that not only did I participate in the FLD study group, but I studied outside of the study group on my own. And, not everybody is going to have the time to study as much as you may need to study or have the same schedule to match up and review passages together outside of the study group. And so, when I studied on my own, I wanted a way to kind of see, something to compare my translations. And so, it was a free option. I used the free version.

I think with news articles and different types of text, more technical, more straightforward text, I think machine translation has gotten pretty good. And so, yeah, I would just throw my source text that I translated on my phone into DeepL, and just see what it said. And surprisingly, sometimes it shows better words than I did, especially given the time crunch when you’re sitting there trying to stick within the 90 minutes of what you’re allotted for the passage on the real exam. When studying on my own, I stuck to those same things. And yeah, I found DeepL to be helpful, to just get some sort of feedback when I didn’t have a human to do that with.

Andie: Interesting, that’s not something I would have thought of. Machine translation is very controversial, as you say. I will say that a lot of it comes from human translations. So that’s why sometimes it does choose a good word. That’s my opinion exactly.

Emily: Exactly, I like the feature on DeepL that you can click on a word, and it will show you synonyms and things like that. So, yeah, I think it can be helpful.

Andie: Did you use it to check for style or just meaning or both?

Emily: Kind of both, because every now and then, there would be a meaning situation that I was like, oh, I thought that meant something slightly different. Or word choice. Yeah, a lot of word choice, because I am actually fairly new to the profession. Just started full time in 2020, so, and I actually didn’t have any formal training. I just have my bachelor’s degree in French and as you mentioned, I was a French high school teacher and luxury travel consultant before this. So, yeah, for me it was just a great way to choose my words and see, not really style, but make sure I’m getting everything correct in terms of meaning, too.

Andie: Going back to something you mentioned, you were talking about time management during the exam. Can you talk to us about that a little bit?

Emily: Yeah. One of my study partners that I ended up working with through the study group, Amber Combaud, she mentioned that she was only taking 75 minutes out of the total 90 offered for each passage, to do both her translation and her editing. And I thought that was crazy at first when she said that, I thought, oh my gosh, I’m pushing myself all the way through the 90 minutes and leaving myself about six minutes to do the editing. And that was not working well for me because the editing step, I think, is so crucial, both the bilingual editing to make sure you’ve got everything from the source, but also the monolingual editing for those commas, periods, and things like that, because each one of those can get you a point deduction out of those 17 points.

So, when she mentioned that, I thought, okay, I’m going to make myself a schedule. And so, I actually did make myself a schedule, and it was that I was only using 75 minutes per passage, and then the other 30 minutes of time was kind of at the beginning, choosing which of the three passages to translate on the exam. So, I took some time to do that and then whatever was left over at the end. I also took some time to do some stretching in between passages on the real exam, the three-hour exam. So, I wanted to build in time for stretching, time for restroom breaks, time to just stare at the wall if I needed to give my eyes a break. So, yeah, I made myself a little scheduled.

That is actually in the Savvy article that I wrote, which maybe we can post a link to with this recording. But it detailed everything I plan to do in terms of time management on the actual exam, and that helped me to feel more comfortable and less stressed about time.

Andie: Those are all good tips. Going back to what you said about editing being crucial, I just had to laugh because I always tell my husband, if you read my translation before I go back and edit it would look like I don’t speak French or English.

Emily: Editing is so vital, so important. And one of the other colleagues that I work with in the study group, he also was doing Italian to English and French to English exam preparations. And we found out how important it is to really have a great grasp of the target language, even almost more so than the source language sometimes, because it’s all the grammatical things and the situation and word choice and making it sound good and making it flow. Yeah, the editing stage is super important.

Andie: Now, since I took the exam in 2018, the ATA has come out with an online exam. Did you do the online version?

Emily: I did, yeah.

Andie: Okay, can you tell us about the online version and in person version?

Emily: Yeah, so the online version, I took it in September 2021, so a little less than a year ago. And what’s really exciting is even since then, they’ve now come out with an on-demand version of the online exam. So, you can sign up and take it at a time that works for you, which I think is really great for any of our members who live outside of the US. Because one of my study partners actually ended up having to take the exam. She’s in France, ended up having to take the exam from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., her time, whereas it was 9:00 a.m. to noon for my time on the Pacific Coast here. So, having that on demand version is amazing.

But yeah, in terms of the differences between the online and in person, I would say obviously I didn’t take the in person, but I read up on it and actually contacted Caron Bailey as well as, the certification manager, to kind of ask some questions at one point. And I think what’s really great about the online exam is the fact that you don’t have to pay any travel expenses, whether that just be gas, which is really expensive right now, whether that be gas or hotel or flights. Back, before they offered the online exam, you had to physically go to the location. And for people who live outside of the US, it was even more expensive. So, I love that fact that there’s no travel expense. And another benefit is lack of stress. There’s just not the stress of having to drive anywhere.

Even if you’re in the same city, you’ve got a drive to the exam, find parking, for me, I just like to have everything as smooth and stress-free as possible. So, my closest exam location was going to be an hour away. And so, no hotel, but I’m just driving the hour and thinking, am I going to get in traffic? Or something like that? So, eliminating that was helpful and then being able to do it from the comfort of your own home, your ergonomic desk and chair, you can control, your lighting, your heating, those things are tiny, but for me, as kind of a control freak, I really found comfort in that.

And then the cons, I guess, would be, of the online exam would be just the fact that you have to make sure that your computer has all of the correct configuration prior to the exam, and then the onboarding process for the exam on the day of the exam. You need to be there about 20 minutes early, and sometimes it can take even longer. So, I know that some people get a little bit nervous while they’re kind of going through that onboarding process. Am I going to be late for my exam? But I think knowing that your exam time doesn’t start until you get into the passages themselves is very helpful. So even if your onboarding takes 30 minutes and your ten minutes over from what your start time was supposed to be for the exam, your exam time doesn’t start until you’re in seeing those passages.

So, I think that’s helpful to know. Yeah, I could go on and on.

Andie: Yeah, I feel so like I very much took the old version. I had to drive down into Houston and that was already considered very close to me. I guess ATA has come to the 21st century.

Emily: Yeah, very convenient now with the on demand. I mean, for me, the time was perfect, nine to noon. I couldn’t ask for a better time, but I’m sure that my colleague who did it at night, during dinner time and such, was wishing that they had that even just six months ago.

Andie: So, if you had to do it all over again, or if you were to give advice to someone who is starting to study for the exam now, what would you say?

Emily: I would say, kind of like first steps first, read up about it as much as you can. If you’re going into English, there’s an amazing 61-page guide on into English. What is it called? The Into English [Grading] Standards or something like that. But it’s a guide that’s 61 pages into English grading standards, and that’s a really great document to start kind of seeing what the exam graders are looking for in terms of grammar punctuation, what you should do with acronyms, style guides, things like that. So, any language into English. So, if you’re one of those amazing people who has two source languages or more, the guide is still great because it’s for all languages into English.

So, yeah, starting there, looking at all of the framework for standardized error markings, the explanation of error categories, the flow chart for error point decisions, all of those documents, reading through them so you understand how you will be graded. It is super important, I would say. And then, kind of taking that, the official practice exam, to see where you’re at and get feedback that way is a great next step. They do take sometimes eight weeks to come back. So, like I said, that’s a good early step just to gauge where you’re at before taking the exam and then joining a study group, of course, especially if you’re in our FLD. Now that we have that in place, I think that’s a great thing to do. I would definitely do that again if I were to have to study. But kind of one of the biggest things for me, I had no idea that people study for the exam for so long. Like I mentioned earlier, when I got started on my exam journey in 2019, I thought I’ll take one practice exam and then I’ll be good to go.

I’ll sign up for an exam and in three months I’ll be certified. But really, after participating in several panels, I’ve learned that the study window is basically six months to a year for a lot of people; especially a lot of people who are working full time in the profession and have a lot of clients already, keeping up with studying kind of is an extra thing to do. So, when you start thinking about getting certified, I would say setting aside those six to twelve months is a good idea.

Andie: All right, and then final question: if people want to join your study group, what do they do?

Emily: Yeah, they just email me. So, we can hopefully, maybe, wherever you post the podcast, include my email address as well. But, for those listening, it’s emily [at] langue-vivante [dot] com.

Andie: Alright. And you can also email divisionfld [at] atanet [dot] org or if you can find me online somewhere, Andie Ho, A-N-D-I-E H-O, it’s a very unique name, so you’ll find me somehow and I’ll point you in the right direction.

Well, thank you so much, Emily, for sharing your experience and for leading the new study group. You’re doing a great job. I’ve heard great things and we very much appreciate all that you do.

Emily: Thank you for picking me to do it and I have, yeah, I’ve really enjoyed it and interacting with all of the people who are studying and kind of encouraging them on their journey because, yeah, I really enjoy the group as well.

Andie: Well, thank you very much.

Emily: Thank you.

Andie: This concludes our episode for today. You can subscribe to the Continuing Education Series podcast on SoundCloud at soundcloud@soundcloud.com/ata-fld) or on iTunes, by searching for Continuing Education Series in the iTunes store. You can contact the FLD at divisionfld [at] atanet [dot] org, visit our website at www.ata-divisions.org/fld or get in touch with us on social media.

This is Andie Ho, signing off. Thanks for listening and à bientôt!

Emily Moorlach is an ATA-certified French to English translator who began her career in 2016 as the Translation and Interpretation Program Manager and freelance official document translator for a nonprofit organization. In 2019, after a whirlwind trip through 45 cities in Europe, Emily returned to the U.S. to start her freelance translation business, Langue Vivante LLC. She holds a B.A. in French and a B.S. in Accounting from Iowa State University. Emily also studied at La Sorbonne in Paris and has held positions as a high school French teacher and luxury travel advisor. Her main specializations include official documents, corporate communications, and tourism industry materials. For more information, visit www.langue-vivante.com.

ATA Podcast host Andie Ho is a certified French to English translator specializing in the food industry. She earned her M.A. in translation from Kent State University and is now based in the Houston area. She currently serves as the ATA’s French Language Division administrator. You can follow her on Twitter at @JHawkTranslator or email her at andie [at] andiehotranslations [dot] com.

Transcribed by Olga Koloko. She is a French-to-English and English-to-French translator, editor, and transcriptionist who specializes in international development, business communications, marketing, IT, finance, internet policies, and digital rights. She is the founder and CEO of OK Translation and Communications Services LLC. You can find her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/olgakoloko/ or check her out on Twitter here: @OlgaKoloko.

Le français est-il une langue libre ?

Où je démontre que l’on peut être une traductrice indépendante depuis 20 ans ET posséder une DeLorean virtuelle. Cet exposé vous emmène voyager dans le passé. Pour tenter de répondre à la question du titre, nous allons interroger une dizaine de personnalités historiques et contemporaines offrant divers points de vue. Et en fin de voyage, nous accueillerons deux invités surprise.

The A Propos Logo

Par Isabelle Meurville

Nous allons programmer la DeLorean sur votre année de cours élémentaire deuxième année (CE2), lorsque vous aviez 7 ou 8 ans. Vous savez l’année du_00:46:29_ sourire édenté ? Parce qu’en France, c’est en CE2 que les enfants apprennent que le masculin l’emporte sur le féminin, c’est-à-dire que l’on nomme au masculin les groupes mixtes, composés de femmes et d’hommes. Et à ce moment-là souvent, dans la classe, jaillit une série de questions : « Mais même s’il y a un milliard de femmes et un seul homme, on doit dire “ils” ?! » et le couperet de la réponse tombe. « Oui ! Même s’il y a un milliard de femmes et un seul homme, on doit dire “ils”. »

Une fillette aux cheveux bruns lit un livre par terre avec un énoncé qui explique pour le masculin emporte toujours sur le féminin en français

Quand ma fille est rentrée à la maison avec cette question du chat qui l’emporte sur les petites filles, elle exprimait le même sentiment d’injustice. Et ce sentiment d’injustice ne date pas d’hier.

Nous allons programmer notre DeLorean sur l’hiver 1676 et nous atterrissons sur la terrasse du château de Grignan où réside Mme de Sévigné, notre première invitée en direct du XVIIe siècle. Mme de Sévigné pousse la porte-fenêtre et arpente la terrasse pour admirer le coucher de soleil qui embrase la campagne. Mais il fait frais, elle grelotte, frissonne et finit par rentrer. La suite, c’est son correspondant qui la relate :

– Madame de Sévigné s’informant de ma santé, je lui dis : Madame, je suis enrhumé.

– Je LA suis aussi, me dit-elle.

– Il me semble, Madame, que selon les règles de notre langue, il faudrait dire je LE suis.

– Vous direz comme il vous plaira, ajouta-t-elle, mais pour moi, je croirais avoir de la barbe au menton si je disais autrement.

De deux choses l’une. Soit Mme de Sévigné était une dangereuse islamogauchiste adepte du wokisme. Soit, la volonté de nommer les femmes au féminin s’inscrit dans une longue tradition française.

L’objection sur l’assassinat de Molière

Il arrive que l’on reproche à l’écriture inclusive d’assassiner Molière. Rappelons que les auteurs et autrices de l’époque avant le XVIIIe siècle appliquaient aussi la règle de proximité.

Extrait d'un texte d'Iphigénie pour démonter l'utilisation de la règle de proximité chez Jean Racine

Que remarque-t-on dans cet extrait d’Iphigénie ? L’accord se fait en genre et en nombre avec le substantif le plus proche.

L’expression « est toute prête » se rapporte en fait non seulement à la flamme, mais au bandeau et au fer. Cet accord de proximité permettait de dire « les hommes et les femmes sont belles » ou « les femmes et les hommes sont beaux ». On accorde au nom le plus proche.

Que s’est-il passé en 1735 ? Louis XIII demande au cardinal de Richelieu de créer l’Académie française pour régir la langue. L’opération va créer un entre soi, un critère qui permettra de distinguer l’élite (la noblesse) du peuple et de garder la main sur le savoir, d’entraver toute réflexion (pouvant être séditieuse) que permet la langue. Puisque la langue donne accès au savoir et à la réflexion, elle est un outil politique puissant. Il existe bien sûr une volonté d’unifier le royaume de France, aussi, car 80 % de la population du royaume parlait à l’époque quantité de langues régionales.

Mais pourquoi accorde-t-on au masculin ?

Parmi les décisions régentant la langue, dans la grammaire publiée par Nicolas Beauzée dans son édition de 1767, le grammairien explique que l’argument pour choisir cette règle aux dépens d’autres est que : « l’homme est plus noble que la femme ». L’argument n’a rien à voir avec la grammaire, il ne vient pas du latin ni d’ailleurs. Il aurait été possible de choisir l’accord de majorité, ou d’appliquer l’accord de proximité qui côtoyait les autres règles avant que l’Académie française et les grammairiens de l’époque ne prennent cette décision unilatérale. L’argument de son confrère, Napoléon Landais, 67 ans plus tard, varie peu : « le genre masculin est le plus noble, on doit lui donner la préférence ».

La noblesse, aujourd’hui, ne serait-elle pas d’appliquer des règles équitables ?

L’objection du masculin neutre

En français, il n’existe pas de genre grammatical neutre. Concernant les êtres humains, les hommes sont nommés au masculin et les femmes au féminin. Il existe quelques très rares exemples inverses : vigie, recrue, victime, témoin… qui s’explique souvent par le fait que le mot désignait un objet avant de désigner un être humain, mais sexe et genre grammatical sont étroitement liés. D’ailleurs comme en latin où le neutre ne désignait pas des êtres humains à l’exception du nourrisson et de l’esclave, qu’à l’époque on ne considérait pas véritablement comme des humains.

Le mirage du masculin qui inclurait les femmes

Une étude de 2007, menée par Markus Brauer et Michaël Landry chiffre l’importance de nommer au féminin. L’équipe de recherches a interrogé aléatoirement des personnes en leur demandant de citer leur héros ou leur musicien préféré (générique masculin). Dans la deuxième expérience, leur héros préféré ou leur héroïne préférée (générique épicène). « Dans la condition générique masculin 38,8 % des enfants et 20,6 % des adultes imaginent une femme, alors que la même chose est vraie pour 54,4 % des enfants et 40,4 % des adultes dans la condition générique épicène ». On voit que la présence des mots au féminin fait grimper la présence des femmes dans les réponses.

Prenons un autre exemple de recherche en neurolinguistique. Pascal Gygax et Sandrine Zufferey de l’université de Fribourg en Suisse ont donné les 2 phrases « Les musiciens sont sortis de la salle de concert sous la pluie. Un homme a sorti un parapluie » et ont demandé aux volontaires si les 2 phrases avaient un lien. La réponse était oui instantanément.

Mais avec la phrase : « Les musiciens sont sortis de la salle de concert sous la pluie. Une femme a sorti un parapluie ». La même question est posée aux volontaires de l’étude « Est-ce que ces deux phrases ont un lien ? ». Et le cerveau met plus de temps avant de répondre, parce que nous hésitons.

La femme pourrait faire partie des musiciens, puisque le masculin l’emporte, mais, peut-être pas. C’est ce doute qui est troublant pour notre cerveau, le doute entre ce masculin dit générique et le masculin qui désigne des hommes. Les conclusions de l’étude montrent que nous mettons un moment à comprendre que la femme peut être une musicienne, parce que l’on a projeté sur notre écran mental un film ou une image d’un groupe d’hommes. Les musiciens sont des hommes. La femme qui sort son parapluie vient d’ailleurs.

Ces recherches concluent que nous interprétons le masculin non pas comme générique, mais comme se référant aux hommes. Nous n’interprétons pas, ou très difficilement, le masculin comme incluant les femmes.

Nommer fait exister

La question qui vient en regard de ces objections, c’est : « Mais pour quoi faire ? Pourquoi adopter l’écriture inclusive ? » En quoi parler des femmes au masculin est-il dommageable ? Il y a plusieurs réponses à cette question.

  • Toutes les discriminations sont dommageables, qu’elles reposent sur la race, le sexe, l’âge ou le handicap.
  • Le sexisme génère des écarts de salaires et de retraite.
  • Le masculin générique entrave la reconnaissance des femmes, en général.
  • En se privant de certaines personnes, la société tout entière se prive de talents. Les collégiennes et lycéennes ne se projettent pas dans des professions dont l’image est masculine et vice-versa.
  • Parler des femmes au masculin est dommageable parce que l’humanité est composée pour moitié de femmes et d’hommes, c’est une réalité mathématique.
  • Une dernière raison encore, nommer fait exister, ce qui n’est pas nommé n’existe pas.

Cette liste n’est pas exhaustive.

Une fillette aux cheveux bruns lit un livre par terre avec un texte qui reformule une phrase où le masculin n'emporte plus sur le féminin.

Il est possible de communiquer la même information sans nommer les trois petites filles au masculin.

Et maintenant ?

Reprenons notre DeLorean pour entrer dans l’histoire récente avec deux autres invitées. À la fin des années 1980, le gouvernement français crée une commission de néologie à qui est confiée la mission de travailler sur la féminisation des noms de métiers, titres, grades et fonctions. Notez qu’il ne confie pas la tâche à l’Académie française. Nos deux invitées contemporaines sont : la ministre des Droits de la femme Yvette Roudy, qui s’occupe du dossier et confie la présidence à Benoîte Groult. La commission produit un document qui fait toujours référence « Femme, j’écris ton nom ». Ce document dresse la liste exhaustive des noms de métiers féminins pour nommer les femmes et explique la manière de former le ou les féminins nécessaires.

En préface de ce document, on lit sous la plume de Lionel Jospin : « Qu’une femme exerçant les fonctions de directeur d’école porte depuis plus d’un siècle le titre de directrice alors que la femme directrice d’administration centrale était encore, il y a un an, appelée “madame le directeur” atteste, s’il en était besoin, que la question de la féminisation des titres est symbolique et non linguistique ».

Illisible ou elle-lisible ?

La multiplication du point médian peut rendre un texte difficile à lire au début, mais s’il est utilisé avec mesure et parcimonie, il n’est pas plus difficile à lire qu’une URL. Or, a-t-on cessé de développer et d’utiliser Internet parce qu’une URL, c’est difficile à lire ? Non. Utiliser des hashtags, arobases, etc. est devenu une habitude. Certes, le changement est difficile. Souvenez-vous comment dans les années 2000, on parlait d’arobasque, d’arobaste, on ne savait pas nommer le signe, ni le tracer. Aujourd’hui, ça n’est plus un sujet.

Quels critères pour évaluer la joliesse des mots ?

Certains noms de métiers féminins peu usités semblent bizarres au début. Par exemple, sapeuse-pompière a du mal à s’installer. Parce que la profession est très masculinisée, je dirais même qu’elle joue avec des codes de virilité. Mais nous comprenons très bien ce que veut dire le mot. Or la langue n’a pas d’autre objectif. Faire comprendre. En les utilisant, en s’y habituant, les nouveaux mots perdent leur bizarrerie.

Deux invités surprise

Je vous avais promis deux invités surprise… voici le premier. Il peut vous aider à accomplir votre mission. C’est le point médian. Sa carte d’identité nous apprend qu’il s’obtient avec la combinaison de touches Alt 0183. C’est un outil efficace, mais terriblement jaloux des autres signes que j’ai mentionnés plus haut (arobase, hashtag, etc.) parce que ces signes-là ont été adoptés sans qu’on en fasse toute une histoire. Le point médian (ou tout autre marqueur typographique : trait d’union ou barre de fraction) vous aidera à nommer les femmes et les hommes quand le texte doit obéir à des contraintes d’espace. Ne lui demandez rien d’autre. Que fait-il ? Il marque une abréviation. L’abréviation du doublet : les linguistes engagé·es.

Notre deuxième invité surprise est l’usage. L’usage, c’est vous, c’est nous. Or l’usage évolue. La langue est la nôtre, c’est à nous de décider ce que l’on en fait. À chaque époque, la langue évolue. Le français évolue. Comme toutes les langues vivantes. Aucune langue n’est figée. Le français a une histoire, que je vous invite à découvrir et qui continue à s’écrire, ici aujourd’hui. La langue sert à communiquer, à communiquer des idées, des concepts, elle est un dispositif de maintien de l’ordre social, elle est une construction politique qu’il est possible de se réapproprier. Faisons-le !

On peut à la fois aimer le français, sa richesse, sa complexité et son histoire, et  « avoir confiance dans sa vitalité, sans se complaire dans la nostalgie d’un passé mythique », je cite là Candéa et Véron. L’adaptation aux besoins de l’époque n’est pas un péril. Ayez de l’ambition et emparez-vous de la langue. Elle est à vous, elle est à nous.

Pour conclure, Mme de Sévigné n’était pas une femme à barbe, ni barbante d’ailleurs, l’écriture inclusive n’assassine ni Molière ni Racine, le féminin existe en français, ce qui rend votre mission possible.

110 portraits avec la citation « avoir confiance dans sa vitalité, sans se complaire dans la nostalgie d’un passé mythique » de Candéa et Véron.

Isabelle Meurville est traductrice indépendante depuis 2001. Elle traduit de l’anglais vers le français inclusif dans les domaines des droits fondamentaux et de la transition énergétique. Isabelle applique les règles du français inclusif pour éliminer les stéréotypes de la communication écrite et orale. Elle accompagne les entreprises et organisations qui partagent des valeurs de respect et d’égalité : rédaction, révision, formation. Consultez son profil LinkedIn ici.

Clarity in Carats: Navigating the Murky Waters of French Jewelry Translation

Tweezers holding a cut diamond against a gray background
Photo: Unsplash

The A Propos Logo

By Liza Tripp and Denise Jacobs

Why jewelry translation? For starters, jewelry houses are businesses like any other and require a broad range of services. It should thus not come as a shock that translators in unrelated fields may well come across jewelry-related text at one point or another in documents running the gamut from financial reports to corporate social responsibility plans to lengthy litigation documents. In fact, one of your authors’ first run-ins with the topic was as a legal translator on an intellectual property case involving counterfeit designs. Another recent “legal” assignment centered around diamond mining. Jewelry, much like the broader sector of fashion to which it belongs, has a funny way of popping up in different places.

The expansive reach of the jewelry sector is now more apparent than ever. Indeed, high-end jewelry sales exploded during the pandemic. The financially savvy sought “hard assets” with tangible value as a sound investment in the face of uncertain markets. With travel halted, high-end buyers saw value in timeless, “forever” pieces. In the short-term, jewelry was perfect for waist-up Zoom calls. Online retail platforms, already developing pre-pandemic, further expanded to meet the need during this period, reaching a broad range of buyers who might previously have only purchased such expensive items in person.[i]

Translation facilitates all of these business processes. And knowing the difference between “bijouterie” (most often “fashion jewelry” or “costume jewelry,” “joaillerie” (fine jewelry), and “haute joaillerie” (high jewelry) is essential. What’s the difference between fine jewelry and high jewelry? Depending on the piece, millions of dollars (quite an expensive translation error).

Jewels might seem a frivolity to some, yet the process of producing jewelry requires a high-degree of precision and craftspersonship. The cuts and grading of precious stones are precise and technical, the metalsmithing techniques used to set them complex and nuanced. Especially now, buyers also want to know where materials have been sourced, and companies are trying hard to create transparency in their process. The result for a translator is that you might find yourself translating diamond cuts on one line, metalsmithing terms on another, and mining terms in the next.

Translation of this kind also entails a distinct localization process, and UK and US English are not always equivalent for this purpose. Aside from differing spellings, such as jewelry (US) vs. jewellery (UK), US English uses “carat” for stones and “karat” for metals, while UK English uses “carat” for both metals and stones. Clients seeking product descriptions and press materials will often want separate UK and US versions to best market their products.

Jewelry houses and designers are also incredibly purposeful in developing their concepts and branding. A given collection may be devised to evoke a certain historical era (say Egyptian hieroglyphs, or 18th century Versailles). A house might refer back to its own historical archives, as in Chanel’s “1932” and “Allure Céleste” high jewelry collections, both of which allude to Chanel’s first “Bijoux de Diamants” collection of constellation-themed jewels. Dior’s “Dior à Versailles” collection brought back the concept of Victorian secret jewelry, with its hidden boxes and drawers. Designer Elie Top’s pieces often use blackened silver to lessen the pieces’ “jeweled effect” [ii] and feature a mixture of round and sharp objects to suggest the idea of jewelry worn as armor. Collections might feature symbolic use of animals like the lion (Chanel), serpents (Bulgari), or panthers (Cartier).

The symbolic nature of the pieces themselves is sometimes rendered more difficult to translate by the carefully chosen language used to describe them. Indeed, a designer develops a certain vocabulary for a given collection, with its specific themes and symbols. So as jewelry translators, we are often translating language that is already a translation of those themes and symbols—the serpent bracelet crafted to signify sensuality and metamorphosis for example, or Cartier’s use of the panther as a symbol of power and ferocity.[iii] Since that imagery and symbolism play a large part in how jewelry collections are designed, crafted, and ultimately marketed, it is important to ensure that the target language echoes the tone and register of the source.

Figures of speech, such as synecdoche and metonymy, present further challenges, not least because they can be so easy to miss when translating. For example, the stylish “parure en platine et diamants” below would be best rendered as “a platinum and diamond set,” or “platinum diamond ring and bracelet”—but not as a “platinum and diamond parure.” That is because French mainly uses “parure” synecdochally to merely refer to individual “pieces” or “jewels.”

Illustrated silhouette of a woman's hand with a diamond ring on the ring finger and a diamond bracelet on the wrist

Platinum and diamond set, from Vogue Japan, 2003.[iv]

Conversely, use of the English “parure” ends up evoking something of a different register entirely. That is because “parure” in English does not function synecdochally, but quite specifically and definitively refers to a historical set of up to seven jewels (and always featuring a tiara!).

Similarly, while “un brillant” technically refers to a brilliant-cut diamond, a cut serving to best highlight the sparkle of the stone, it appears most often in French as a metonym when referring to diamond accents on a given piece:

“Quelques grammes de platine orné d’une pincée de brillants continuent de condenser l’un des axes stylistiques majeurs de la griffe.”

“A few grams of platinum embellished with a sprinkling of diamonds continue to embody one of the brand’s major approaches to style.”[v]

Knowing the difference demands a proper analysis of context and register, and ideally a decent amount of background knowledge about the house’s style and pieces, including the materials they most often use.

It may prove tricky, but really understanding the use of metonymy and synecdoche in the source and target languages can often unlock a sentence that sounds “off.” In the case of parure, if we were to incorrectly translate “parure” as “parure” in English, we would add too much information, not to mention shift its historical context. If we fail to identify “brillants” as a metonym and translate them as “brilliant-cut diamonds,” we would again be overtranslating, shifting the focus of a piece from elegant minimalism to showy extravagance.

Nevertheless, such language is easy to mistranslate. This is perhaps because such words “present” as tangible objects, which we are more likely to accept as having a single definition. We think, “it’s an object,” and decide it can only map to one other equal object! Yet in fact, language often functions more figuratively.

Similarly, the use of English in French (and French in English) can further hinder clarity, even when the words themselves seem to have clear, objective equivalents. “Maison” in jewelry texts is most times best rendered as “maison” in English (but sometimes, too, as “house”). The jewels are crafted in these “maisons”—“ateliers” in English. We rarely see the English word “workshops,” and certainly never “factory floor” or “production area.” The selected register can either further reinforce the status and cachet of a given jewelry designer, or if wrong, can completely undermine them.

Sometimes a failure to recast the English can lead the text (and the description of the piece) into a completely bizarre (and unintentional) direction. Consider the term “rock’n’roll” in the French below:

“…sa ligne en circonvolution, inspirée du Colisée romain, s’agrémente aujourd’hui de picots qui rendent les bagues plus rock’n’roll (à partir de 2 700 euros en or rose et céramique).

Copper-colored Bulgari ring
Screenshot from the Bulgari online store taken on November 23, 2022

“The spiral lines, inspired by the Roman Colosseum, were enlivened by studs, giving the rings an edgier look (starting at €2,700 in rose gold and ceramic).”[vi]

The term in French connotes how the studs create dimension and lend “edge” to the style. This is certainly not a piece meant to be paired with a 1950s poodle skirt. While it can be tempting to leave English source words in the translation, if you consider the look of the piece, the design influences, the trends of the collection and maison to which it belongs, more often than not, different English is required to properly translate the source description.

Similarly, consider the French “adorables” in the example below:

“Les fins anneaux en or texturé par un serti poinçon et relevé d’un micro-brillant de 0,03 carat sont adorables (990 euros)…”

A gold and diamond ring
Screenshot from the De Beers online store taken on November 23, 2022

“Fine rings made of textured gold, hand-set using the serti poinçon technique and embellished with a 0.03-carat microdiamond, are lovely ($1,000)…”[vii]

Here, these $1,000 rings are anything but “adorable.” Conversely, using “lovely” allows us to maintain the source text’s sophisticated, refined feel—one commensurate with both the overall design sensibility of the collection and the corresponding expenditure.

It is often what we might call the designer’s idiolect that translators must learn to seek out and respect. For example, consider the French “vanités” in two very different examples below.

“ne s’embarrasse guère des vanités de son temps,” simply translated to “that is unconcerned with the vagaries of trends.”[viii]

Yet elsewhere in the same text, the word serves to evoke a whole concept and jewelry philosophy:

“Prônant un certain humanisme joaillier, Attilio Codognato est l’un des derniers seigneurs de Venise dont les vanités baroques, les serpents tentateurs et les croix byzantines composent un univers précieux auquel les initiés vouent un culte.”

A gold skull embedded with jewels and a golden snake curled around it
Screenshot from the Codognato website taken on November 23, 2022

“Extolling a certain jewelry humanism, Attilio Codognato is one of the last masters of Venice, and his baroque vanitas objects, tempting serpents and Byzantine crosses form a precious world that insiders worship.”[ix]

Here, vanitas is the key word to evoking Codognato’s particular brand of “Memento Mori” jewelry, a genre that features skulls, bones, snakes—morbid references intended to remind the wearer by juxtaposition of the importance of living. Thus, in one example, the word serves to indicate a carefree disregard, while in the other, it is the linchpin around which a jewelry designer’s entire body of work centers.

As translators, our work begins with knowing the differences between the two and reflecting the intention behind the words (as we can best determine it), through our language choices. While the result is naturally words, the best translators in this field often start with a picture. If none is provided, it is essential to find similar examples from the same house or designer.

Auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christies have a broad array of pieces with descriptions and detailed photos. Many of the jewelry houses have detailed, often multilingual websites that you can consult to see how certain pieces and collections are referred to in English. It can also be helpful to look at a designer’s past collections to get a feel for their style influences, as well as recurring looks and techniques used. Fashion magazines like Vogue and Town & Country frequently cover jewelry lines and designers, as does the New York Times. International versions of Vogue are not translations of American Vogue but can often be mined for target language terms.

Lastly, seemingly unlikely sources like Pinterest and Instagram can also be of help, if for no other reason than the plethora of photos. A Google search set to “images only” can provide similar results. It can also be helpful to create and gradually modify an Instagram feed that covers the areas in which you work most frequently. This allows you to build a vocabulary over time and get used to the tone and feel of different houses.

Anything not to be a fashion (or a jewelry) translation victim!

Liza Tripp has been a translator of French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese to English for over 15 years, specializing in the luxury fashion and legal sectors. She most recently translated Fabienne Reybaud’s Jewelry Guide: The Ultimate Compendium with Denise Jacobs and Barbara Mellor. (Assouline, publication pending for December 2022.) She holds a BA in French translation from Barnard College, an M.Phil. from the Graduate School and University Center of the City of New York, and a French to English Certificate in Translation from NYU SCPS. She is ATA-certified from French to English. Websites: www.lizatripp.com, www.fashionabletranslation.com

Denise Jacobs is a French to English translator focusing on illustrated books about fashion, jewelry, art, travel, and the French lifestyle. She has an MA and M.Phil. in French literature from Columbia University. She has translated more than 40 published books, in addition to providing translations for several biographies, documentaries, and television news program segments. Websites: www.deniserjacobs.com, www.fashionabletranslation.com

[i] Victoria Gomelsky, “Even in a Pandemic, Fine Jewelry is Selling,” New York Times, December 3, 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/12/03/fashion/jewelry-rising-sales-pandemic-.html.

[ii] Fabienne Reybaud, Jewelry Guide: The Ultimate Compendium, trans. Jacobs, Denise, Barbara Mellor, and Liza Tripp. (New York: Assouline, 2022), 176.

[iii] Anahita Moussavian and Carrie Seim, Cartier’s iconic panther jewelry seduces a new generation, New York Post, May 6, 2022. https://nypost.com/2022/05/06/cartiers-iconic-panther-jewelry-seduces-a-new-generation/.

[iv] Fabienne Reybaud, Jewelry Guide: The Ultimate Compendium, trans. Jacobs, Mellor, and Tripp. (New York: Assouline, 2022), 244.

[v] Fabienne Reybaud, Jewelry Guide: The Ultimate Compendium, trans. Jacobs, Mellor, and Tripp. (New York: Assouline, 2022), 135.

[vi] Fabienne Reybaud, Jewelry Guide: The Ultimate Compendium, trans. Jacobs, Mellor, and Tripp. (New York: Assouline, 2022), 125.

[vii] Fabienne Reybaud, Jewelry Guide: The Ultimate Compendium, trans. Jacobs, Mellor, and Tripp. (New York: Assouline, 2022), 165.

[viii] Fabienne Reybaud, Jewelry Guide: The Ultimate Compendium, trans. Jacobs, Mellor, and Tripp. (New York: Assouline, 2022), 135.

[ix] Fabienne Reybaud, Jewelry Guide: The Ultimate Compendium, trans. Jacobs, Mellor, and Tripp. (New York: Assouline, 2022), 148.

[Transcript] ATA Continuing Education Series Podcast – Episode 20 – Interview with Edward Gauvin

ATA French Language Division Podcast
The FLD Podcast. Photo Credit: Unsplash

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To make our Continuing Education Series Podcast more accessible and searchable for FLD members and the general public, we are now offering transcriptions of our episodes right here on À Propos. Many thanks to our volunteer transcriptionists, who are credited at the bottom of each transcription. If you’re interested in helping us transcribe podcast episodes, email divisionFLD [at] atanet [dot] org.


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Episode 20 — Interview with Edward Gauvin, FLD’s Distinguished Speaker at ATA63

Andie Ho: This is Andy Ho, host of the continuing education series, a podcast we produce as a benefit for the members of the French Language Division of the American Translators Association, and those interested in becoming members. This series strives to offer educational content about the craft of French to English and English to French translation, and about our division. In today’s episode, it is my pleasure to welcome Edward Gauvin, our special guest and distinguished speaker for #ATA63, the conference in Los Angeles this fall. Edward is a writer, translator, and independent scholar. His work has been shortlisted and nominated for a multitude of prizes, and he has received grants and fellowships from around the world. Most relevant to the FLD and ATA, he has contributed over 100 translations to various journals, anthologies and collections and translated over 400 graphic novels. He also publishes his own original fiction, some of which he has translated in French. Welcome, Edward! It’s a pleasure having you here today.

Edward Gauvin: Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here, Andy, and I’m really looking forward to the October conference.

Andie Ho: So, you have a very wide-ranging career. Can you tell us how you got started and branched out into all those different fields?

Edward Gauvin: Well, I got my start as a translator in the mid-2000s. I had come back from teaching as a lecturer as a freshman and sophomore in college in France. And for some reason, I thought translation was something one could do. I don’t think I had a particularly timely notion of that. I think for some reason I was thinking that you could translate pulp novels and other things that don’t get published in the US. I’m not sure, I had those very outdated notions…

However, I was hanging around Comic Cons. And in the New York Comic Con, I believe it was in 2005 or 2006, the very first one, and there were smaller fairs as well… I was hanging around those and trying to interest editors and publishers in comics/graphic novels that I had liked in France. And so, none of those pitches ever worked. But I think I sort of just got my face in their face, so that was how I wound up with my first few jobs.

Around the same time, in 2005, Words Without Borders published my first short fiction translation by Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud. And I wound up working on his stories for the next couple of years, and then putting out my first full-length prose fiction translation in 2010, which is a volume of his selected stories. So, I think my career has pretty much proceeded along those twin tracks right from the beginning and ever since.

Andie Ho: Well, I had never heard of Words Without Borders and so I was looking into your background… Can you tell me more about what they do?

Edward Gauvin: So, when I first published with them in 2005, they’d only been around for two years, and … they were the first—and I would say now still the biggest—periodical that is devoted entirely to international literature in English translation. Now, the translation scene has changed so much and literary translation has become a lot hipper than it used to be. But Words Without Borders was into translation before translation was cool!

But seriously. They recently went through a major site revamp. So that’s been overhauled, and the look has been greatly streamlined. They’re still adding the archives in. But I think they’ve published from almost 150 countries, just as many languages. And I think… I’ve sort of watched from distance as their editorial priorities have shifted over time as well.

Among the founding members were a former editor for foreign literature from Northwestern, another from Norton [W.W. Norton & Co.] and another who worked with Zoetrope, the American fiction magazine. And one of their neatest programs, one of the coolest things that they sort of grew into over the years is something called WWB campus, or Words Without Borders Campus. It actively designs classroom modules and teaching aids for people who want to… It provides educator support and supplemental curricular resources, and it also tries to get even virtual events or in-person events where translators and authors can visit classrooms at any level from college and younger.

I think more recently, a lot of their claim to fame has been publishing as well, authors that have gone into major, major awards, like Elena Ferrante, or Han Kang, or Olga Tokarczuk. These are people who were first featured in their pages before they won Bookers and Nobels and things. So, I think it’s been a really big force for international literature in the US. I think the reason that they went online, they were a little ahead of the curve in that way, but also it has allowed them to keep overhead down in a way that print magazines aren’t able to. This is perhaps of the most interest to people who are looking to get into literary translation. Most of the time, the periodical scene is so small—if you’re talking about lib mags and university journals, etc.—that the onus of clearing rights is pushed onto the translator, which isn’t completely fair. When you’re actually publishing, it’s an editor agent’s job, or a foreign rights department’s job. But Words Without Borders has always taken that onto themselves. And right from the start, they have always paid the translator AND the author. And this isn’t something that a lot of periodicals, even now, can claim.

Andie Ho: Wow, alright! You’re talking about Elena Ferrante and Olga (I don’t know how to say her last name), but we can also go back to, say, Steve Larsen. So, the number that gets quoted a lot is 3%, right, that only 3% of literature gets translated into English. I forget what exactly it is. Do you think that has changed in recent years?

Edward Gauvin: OK, just to clarify… It’s not 3% of the world’s literature that gets translated into English. It’s that of the books published yearly in English every year, only 3% are devoted to translated literature. I am not plugged into BookScan enough to tell you what it is now and Chad Post has started his Three Percent blog post out of Rochester in 2008 or 2009. I will tell you that my sense is that it has fluctuated and it has grown and remains on the side of growth, but that I would be surprised if it has doubled. I would say that it stayed somewhere between three and six—and that’s a completely off-the-cuff thing—if it had doubled, I would be surprised if it had doubled and stayed there for more than a year. Because, as I have mentioned, there are a lot of fluctuations.

And I would say, for me there are a couple different parts to that. Yes, the literary translation scene has massively diversified in terms of the numbers of publishers. But these are mostly small presses, not even imprints of large presses. That’s how art moves forward, really, historically. But I think that there has been a shift in the kinds of things we look to foreign literature for, and there’s still a raging debate as to whether it actually sells. And there are always going to be exceptions that sell extremely well, but then become unfortunately sort of synecdochic of the entire phenomenon, which doesn’t sell as well.

I think I’ve wandered off a little bit at the end, but there’s definitely not progress in the numbers. Far greater than progress in actual numbers is greater cultural awareness. I think that has risen in a way that’s faster than the economic side of things.

Andie Ho: So, in recent years, there’s been a lot of interest in foreign media, with K-pop, Parasite and other Korean movies… I think just a lot more interest in Lupin, the TV series on Netflix… Do you think that there is, in general, some sort of expansion of interest into foreign media that will, in a sense, like “rising tides lift all boats,” that will affect translation of books, or not so much?

Edward Gauvin: I think for me there’s a couple issues all knotted up in there, so please catch me out if I start to prattle on. One is that interest in translated books does not necessarily equate to better pay or living conditions for translators. And so, I think the same thing applies here. The interest in foreign media also may not directly improve the translators’ or subtitlers’ lot. And I think that’s because … people have a very dated idea of what translation is, does, or should do, or can get away with, or the degree to which it can transform something. That’s something that I think about a lot.

I think the other difference is just [that] books are such a small part financially of media as a whole that foreign media becoming more popular or not… Things operate differently at different scales of how much money is involved. I guess this is what I’m trying to get around to. So, for instance, the recent Brad Pit’s Bullet Train is based on a Japanese novel that I remember reading articles about when the Japanese novel was first snatched up (it was probably in Hollywood Reporter or something) by Pitt’s production company. There hasn’t actually been a whole lot of discourse concerning Bullet Train about how the entire cast is now while, pretty much, and that’s fine. That’s one issue. But the other issue I remember reading in Hollywood Reporter, when the novel was first snatched up, [is] that the novel was one of the properties that a newly founded firm in Japan had shopped around, and this firm was dedicated toward getting more Japanese properties sold abroad. Whether it be for remakes or adaptations or anything, they just wanted to push it… And I don’t think of Japan as a country that is massively underrepresented in terms of international media presence. And yet, when you hear the founders of the company speak, they were talking of untold troves of material in Japan that they were sure would interest other people, but not enough people read Japanese to access it. It just wasn’t known. And so, I wonder to some extent how many places feel like that. If Japan, which I think of as having a major media presence already, feels like that, then, how much are other places going to feel like that?

My third sort of related point is that I actually find the subtitling scene really, really, really interesting for its crossover with literary translation and mostly from an underrepresentation of labor point of view. Subtitles have been popping up more and more into the news lately. And every time it does, it really just perks up my ears, because one of my ongoing thoughts of experiments is to see how many other disciplines under some disciplines have some kind of labor or historical or metaphorical overlap with translation. The most recent subtitling story I remember seeing was about Stranger Things, and how the subtitles are really kind of “juicy” and reach for the not obvious adjectives and how that enhanced the experience. And that’s all fascinating to me. How can that happen in translation? The other one, of course, was with the Korean property… I’m going to blank on the name now, the one with the game show where they kill people…

Andie Ho: Squid Game?

Edward Gauvin: Yes, thank you. Well, I did see it and there was a little brouhaha… There was a New York-based Korean American writer who was tweeting about how the subtitles were off, and how there actually turned out to be two sets of subtitles: one for the closed captioning, and one that actually looks more sort of human translated. But I remember one of the things that this person said was, “If you watch the show with this set of subtitles, you’re not getting the same show.” And like, this was sort of the foundation of some kind of notion of betrayal, right? And this is something that I think translators might be working to push, if not entirely overthrow, because for me that’s a given. That’s kind of like “Duh!” That’s where literary translators start right now. Yes, of course, it’s not the same. You shouldn’t think of them as the same. You shouldn’t think that you’re able to get the same out of this transaction. That’s just my bringing it around to translators versus translation again.

Andie Ho: You bring up some really good points about the devaluation, I think, of translators. Do you have the same problem in literary translation, that there is a sense that anybody who speaks a second language can translate it? Is that prevalent in publishing?

Edward Gauvin: I do think a lot of translators—because I’ve heard variations on this—think of editors as having a tin ear, or that editors do think of translators as interchangeable. Or that editors are kind of like this tone-deaf conductor that the translator has to teach how to… Or rather, if the translator’s a conductor, that as a conductor, we have to educate the editor in how to appreciate the difference between one conductor and another.

It’s hard for me to assess literary translations, the attitude of literary translators as a whole. I don’t feel that connected with the scene anymore, and… What I’m judging it on these days is based on things I read, and things I read can be all over the map. Like, sometimes translators will say things that sound the same as what translators said 60 years ago, and other times translators will have fairly progressive views, deeply informed by translation studies or comparative literature or some background in academic theory, so it’s really hard for me to say as a whole what the community thinks. I do think that by and large, it’s moved beyond the issues of authorial fidelity, which is not something the world has moved out from. Because, you know, translators will say one thing at a convention, and then when one of them gets profiled in the New York Times, what emerges in the article at the end of whatever process goes on is pretty tame compared to what goes on at say, a convention or a conference or a round table.

Andie Ho: [Laughter] So, for the real deal, you have to go to a translation conference and see what translators are talking about.

Edward Gauvin: Yes, well, the literature is out there, you know. Do some digging. But even in, like, a literary translation Facebook group, especially if you are getting people who are translating out of English… I would say that how translators feel about what it is they should or shouldn’t do runs a pretty broad gamut. I should also contextualize almost everything I’m saying as coming out of specifically an into-English scene.

Andie Ho: Yeah, which… I don’t want to presuppose anything. Do you feel like the into-English scene translations are sort of watered down a bit, or not watered down … made more palatable for local audiences?

Edward Gauvin: Yeah, well, that actually is the crux of Lawrence Venuti’s original Translator’s Invisibility diatribe, right? I mean, he wasn’t blaming the translators in that case, he was blaming the publishing industry as a whole. But I think the translator’s invisibility as a phrase has kind of gotten dislocated from his originally coinage and is sort of just generally used to apply to… It applies probably more often to lack of cultural capital or lack of actual economical capital. But originally, his argument was rooted in a fairly specific reading of how certain marks of foreignness would get ironed out into a more standardized English. I don’t honestly have the time to read widely enough to assess that right now. I don’t know. Yeah, honestly, I can’t.

I also do think that the old binary that sets up, right, because that’s the other bastardization of Venuti’s idea, is that, “Oh, it’s either about foreignization or about domesticization, and if we’re going to foreignize things, we’re going to leave weird turns of phrase and foreign things in there,” and that’s definitely not what you’re saying. But that’s an easy straw man to attack him, but also to attack schools of translation. A lot of translators also use it. They say, “I don’t foreignize. I’ve never foreignized. Foreignizing is stupid.” But it’s only stupid if you define it very narrowly like that. I do think that binary is maybe also something that needs to be gotten out of…

Maybe this will segue back to comics. For me, with comics, someone asked me that at an event that I did in Pittsburgh at the City of Asylum… and I really fumbled the answer because it was at the end of the night. But… I do think that issues of reception in general have been neglected in translation. Which is to say that in translation, you’re talking about how it’s usually, “Are you close to the author?” or “Are you close to the original language?” or something like that. But are you making something for a specific readership in the US, and what does that entail? And in that case, this is something that comics speaks to very much, right? If I do a French Western, they’re never going to have a “howdy” in. But I’m going to put a howdy in the English version. There’s a way “Westerns” sound. There is a way “noir” sounds. And also, there is a way “noir” sounds, in fact, that is informed both by American pulp writers and French new wave directors who loved American pulp writers, and then American pulp writers who loved French new wave movies. There’s already a dialogue going. There is no purity. So, when I talk about audience reception and expectations deservedly going into the translation, it’s not just the author speaking through you, it’s not the language speaking through you, it’s also the genre speaking through you, the affectations speaking through you and informing your work.

Andie Ho: Fair enough! I don’t want to spoil too much of your sessions, so I’m going to cut you off here. But is there anything else you would like to say for our audiences?

Edward Gauvin: Yeah, I think one of the original questions was just about some practical advice on trying to break into translating comics. This is a question I get a lot from literary translators. People should just remember that comics is still an artist’s medium and not a writer’s, such that if you’re pitching a comic, I think you should be aware that it will be bought primarily on art and perhaps before even stories. Art is going to edge out subject matter, even. So, yeah, I think that’s something people don’t think of, especially as translators, since they’re focused on the words.

Andie Ho: Well, thank you very much for your time today, Edward. I can’t wait to meet you in person in LA.

Edward Gauvin: Yeah, I’m looking forward to it! I hope [the] BA.5 [subvariant] allows it nevertheless to be a safer event for all concerned.

Andie Ho: All fingers, toes, limbs, everything crossed. For sure. Alright, well, thank you very much!

This concludes our episode for today. You can subscribe to the continuing education series podcast on SoundCloud at soundcloud.com/ATA/FLD or on iTunes by searching for “continuing education series” in the iTunes store. You can contact the FLD at divisionfld [at] atanet [dot] org, visit our website at ata-divisions.org/FLD or get in touch with us on social media. This is handy Andy Ho, signing off. Thanks for listening and à bientôt!

Edward Gauvin is a 2021 Guggenheim fellow and award-winning translator. He has received grants and residencies from the National Endowment for the Arts, PEN America, the Fulbright program, Ledig House, the Lannan Foundation, the Banff Centre, and the French and Belgian governments. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s, The Guardian, and World Literature Today. As a translation advocate, he has written widely, spoken at universities and festivals, and taught at the Bread Loaf Translation Conference. The translator of over 400 graphic novels, he is a contributing editor for comics at Words Without Borders.

ATA Podcast host Andie Ho is a certified French to English translator specializing in the food industry. She earned her M.A. in translation from Kent State University and is now based in the Houston area. She currently serves as the ATA’s French Language Division administrator. You can follow her on Twitter at @JHawkTranslator or email her at andie [at] andiehotranslations [dot] com.

Transcribed by Isabelle Berquin, PhD, CT. She is an ATA-certified English <> French freelance translator specializing in the life sciences and medicine. A native speaker of French from Belgium, she has a BS in biology and a PhD in cancer biology. Her favorite translation projects are those that allow her to leverage her 20-year experience in biomedical research. She has been living in the USA since 1990. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, going on nature walks, gardening, painting, printmaking, cooking and singing. Find her online here.

[Transcript] ATA Continuing Education Series Podcast – Episode 16 – State of the FLD June 2020

Close-up of a microphone against a purple background
ATA FLD Podcast. Photo Credit: Unsplash

The A Propos Logo

To make our Continuing Education Series Podcast more accessible and searchable for FLD members and the general public, we are now offering transcriptions of our episodes right here on À Propos. Many thanks to our volunteer transcriptionists, who are credited at the bottom of each transcription. If you’re interested in helping us transcribe podcast episodes, email divisionFLD [at] atanet [dot] org.


SOUNDCLOUD: You can listen to or download Episode 16 and all previous episodes on Soundcloud here.

ITUNES: This episode and all previous episodes are available on iTunes here. You can subscribe or listen online. Like what you hear? Rate us and review us! It really helps get the word out.

Episode 16: State of the FLD June 2020

Cathy-Eitel Nzume: Hello and welcome. This is Cathy-Eitel Nzume, host of the Continuing Education Series, a podcast we produce as a benefit for the members of the French Language Division of the American Translators Association. This series tries to offer educational content about the craft of French to English and English to French translation and, of course, about our division.

For today’s episode, it is my pleasure to welcome our wonderful administrator, Jenn Mercer, and Andie Ho, our dedicated assistant administrator, for our state of the French Language Division session.

Jenn Mercer: Thanks for having us.

Andie Ho: Thank you for having us.

Cathy-Eitel Nzume: You’re welcome! We have so many things to talk about today, I’m not sure where to start. Jenn, would you like to start off by telling our members about the highlights of the year?

Jenn Mercer: This is not a year that is bursting with highlights, but one big change that I think everyone has heard is that we have a new podcast host. Thanks, Cathy-Eitel; welcome to the team. Otherwise, I think we have all been adjusting to the new normal in many cases. Some of us have less work, some of us are maybe doing a different variety of work. Interpreters are being forced to adjust to either a lot of remote work or going onto the front lines with healthcare workers. Hats off to all of them!

Cathy-Eitel Nzume: Jenn, I recently joined the Discord platform. Can you tell us about FLD’s online presence, social media, websites, and new platforms, such as Discord? As a reminder, this is all managed by the volunteers of our Leadership Council. Can you tell us what the Council has been up to, or can you tell us what are the rules and the purpose of the new platforms? I know these are a lot of questions at the same time, but could you please tell us a little bit about our online presence?

Andie Ho: I’m going to jump in here and talk about our website, and that is at www.ata-divisions.org/FLD/. There you will find information about the Leadership Council, upcoming events, and our blog/newsletter, which is being run by Ben Karl; he is doing a great job at that. We have our Twitter account, which is @ATA_FLD. We have our Facebook group, which is ATA French Language Division. That one you have to be an FLD member for, so if you just click to join the group, you will be let into it once it is confirmed that you are a member. We have our LinkedIn page, and that one is called French Language Division of the American Translators Association. And then we have our listserv, our email list, which has moved. It is now under Groups.io, instead of the Yahoo group that we used to be under. If you are not subscribed, and you would like to subscribe, contact me or Jenn, at divisionfld [at] atanet [dot] org and we will get you all set up.

Jenn has news about our new social media options.

Jenn Mercer: This is a very isolating time because of the coronavirus. Myself, I work in an office all alone, what would be different? But somehow it still is. Because of that isolation and because it sounded like fun, we started a monthly zoom meeting. We have established a regular schedule now; it’s going to be on the second Thursday of each month. It’s hosted by Eve Bodeux, who is our former French Language Division administrator. You can find information for that on the FLD mailing list, the listserv we mentioned before. It is on Facebook, and you can also find it on our new Discord server. The Zoom meeting is once a month, but Discord is available anytime you feel like chatting. If you are familiar with Slack, Discord is a lot like that, but it is just a smaller, simpler server. You can get an invite link for that in the monthly announcements for our social networking, or, again, you can email divisionfld [at] atanet [dot] org and we will get you connected. Both this and the Zoom sessions are FLD member benefits, so just for us. There are rules posted in the Discord chat, but if you are familiar at all with FLD and the ATA, you probably know a lot of these already: be respectful, be professional, and never, ever discuss specific rates in any form.

Cathy-Eitel Nzume: Thank you so much, Jenn. Andie, sadly we are all aware of what is going on around the world right now, namely, the world is facing the challenging COVID-19 virus. Have you been keeping busy during the quarantine?

Andie Ho: Keeping busy hasn’t been the problem, the issue for me has been staying sane! A friend of mine put it really well yesterday. He said, “no matter what your situation is at home, there is some aspect of your life that makes quarantine and the pandemic especially hard for you.” Whether you have kids or you don’t have kids, you are living with someone or you don’t live with someone, somehow you have some sort of exacerbating circumstance. Personally, to be completely honest, I spent March in denial about Covid, and then I spent April hyperventilating. Like many, though not all, translators, and especially interpreters, my business is at an all-time low. But now that I have had some time to collect myself and my thoughts, I have reached the acceptance phase, as I call it, of this crisis. Now I am focusing on improving my business, whether that is through continuing education and webinars, or redesigning my website. I am also thinking about the future, about what things I can do now so that I can pull the trigger on them once the economy comes back and once things become somewhat normal again. I’m not going to lie, the pandemic has been pretty hard on me; but I am an optimist by nature—I continue to hold out hope that we will come out of this better than before. That said, I would be remiss not to mention that we have FLD members and ATA members who have been personally hit by COVID-19, or who have had family members come down with it, and even die from it. I am confident that I speak for everyone when I say that our hearts go to those colleagues of ours. Stay strong, stay healthy everybody.

Cathy-Eitel Nzume: Absolutely, thank you. Our hearts go out to all of the people who have been affected by this disease. Jenn, I have heard from many fellow translators that the corona crisis has also had a big impact on their workload. I know I share the same issue. Can you tell us how it has been for you, how you think it will affect the ATA convention in Boston—any word on that? Do you have any suggestions for our fellow colleagues?

Jenn Mercer: My situation, Andy said it really well. She mentioned she is in the acceptance phase. I started off in the denial phase. I said, lockdown, seriously, how is that different from my normal life? I work from home already…. Until I realized that no one was contacting me. No. One. So, I have absolutely seen a decline. I have started to see some tiny signs of life in different corners than I usually work, but I’m not complaining. I think none of us can really say for sure what things will be like in October. Personally, I have not made plans, I am just waiting to see what happens. I have a couple of quotes from a recent ATA board meeting. I don’t speak for ATA, but these are some things to keep in mind. This is from the treasurer:

Our initial estimates of potential losses for the Boston conference indicate that cancelling at this time would result in the greatest loss; holding an in-person event would result in a smaller loss, and holding a hybrid event would result in the smallest loss. At this time, we assume we will have a loss for all 2020 models.

I think we all feel that deeply. Also:

Although the situation is changing really fast, it has been determined that there will be an online component for the 2020 annual conference.

That is information I have. I think we can all understand that is only some information. As admin, I saw a lot of exciting ideas for the French track coming through. I’m actually starting to hear from people who have received acceptances. It sounds great. I just don’t know what form it will take. Also, of course, we all need to be concerned about our own health and risk factors, as well as, some of us, our finances might not be as robust, and you always have to take a look at your own situation, and your own health, in anything, I think.

Cathy-Eitel Nzume: Thank you. As a reminder of what we have accomplished so far, the Continuing Education Series aired fantastic episodes about legal translation, sustainable development, genealogy, and even a translation slam. As for the upcoming ATA annual conference, we are accepting suggestions from all members and non-members who would like to share their knowledge with the division and other colleagues during the conference. Don’t be scared! No public speaking experience is necessary. If you are interested, please email us at divisionfld [at] atanet [dot] org. We are interested in all topics, all subjects. Speaking of topics, we have one English to French topic about poorly written source content that needs a guest speaker. If you are interested in discussing terrible source content, or anything else, please get in touch.

Thank you, Jenn. Andie, thank you so much for joining me today. Have a great summer and, hopefully, see you soon in Boston.

Jenn Mercer: Thanks.

Andie Ho: Hope to see you there!

Cathy-Eitel Nzume: This concludes our episode for today. You can subscribe to the Continuing Education Series podcasts on SoundCloud at soundcloud.com/ata-fld or on iTunes by searching for Continuing Education Series in the iTunes store. You can contact the FLD at divisionfld [at] atanet [dot] org. Visit our website at www.ata-divisions.org/fld or get in touch with us on social media. This is Cathy-Eitel Nzume signing off. Thanks for listening, et à bientôt.

ATA Podcast host Cathy-Eitel Nzume is a certified French to English and English to French Court Interpreter, translator, Department of State Certified Linguist and legal professional. She specializes in legal and conference interpreting as well as legal and financial translation. You can find her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/cathyeitelnzume/ or on Twitter at @CathyENzume.

Andie Ho is a certified French to English translator specializing in the food industry. She earned her M.A. in translation from Kent State University and is now based in the Houston area. She currently serves as the ATA’s French Language Division administrator. You can follow her on Twitter at @JHawkTranslator or email her at andie [at] andiehotranslations [dot] com.

Jenn Mercer is a certified French to English translator.

Transcribed by Virginia (Ginny) Layton-Leal. She is a French and Spanish to English translator specialized in wellness and evidence-based complimentary medicine, and a French and Spanish medical interpreter with experience in medical examiner and medical weight loss interpreting. She holds a Certificate in Professional Translation and Interpreting (Spanish) from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a BA in Romance Languages (French/Spanish) from Mount Holyoke College. She is a member of ATA and NETA. When Ginny is not working with words, you will find her at an East Coast swing dance.

[Transcript] ATA Continuing Education Series Podcast – Episode 17 – State of the FLD November 2020

ATA French Language Division Podcast
The FLD Podcast. Photo Credit: Unsplash

The A Propos Logo

To make our Continuing Education Series Podcast more accessible and searchable for FLD members and the general public, we are now offering transcriptions of our episodes right here on À Propos. Many thanks to our volunteer transcriptionists, who are credited at the bottom of each transcription. If you’re interested in helping us transcribe podcast episodes, email divisionFLD [at] atanet [dot] org.


SOUNDCLOUD: You can listen to or download Episode 17 and all previous episodes on Soundcloud here.

ITUNES: This episode and all previous episodes are available on iTunes here. You can subscribe or listen online. Like what you hear? Rate us and review us! It really helps get the word out.

Episode 17: State of the FLD November 2020

Cathy-Eitel: Bonjour ! Bienvenue chez l’éditeur. This is Cathy-Eitel Nzume, host of the Continuing Education Series, a podcast we produce as a benefit for members of the French Language Division of the American Translators Association and those interested in becoming members. This series tries to offer educational content about the craft of French-to-English and English-to-French translation, interpretation, and about our division.

For today’s episode, it is my pleasure to welcome Andie Ho, our newly installed administrator, for our State of the FLD Session. Some of you may be familiar with Andie, as she previously served as FLD Assistant Administrator.

Andie Ho: Hi, Cathy-Eitel. Hello FLD listeners. It’s nice to be on the podcast again. Thank you for the wonderful welcome. I am honored to be the FLD’s new administrator. I’ll be working together with our new assistant administrator, Beth Smith, who many of you already know from being around, and, working together, we’ll attempt to fill the giant shoes that Jen Mercer left behind for us.

Cathy-Eitel: Congratulations, again, Andie! Could you tell us a little bit about you, and what can we expect from the FLD for the upcoming year?

Andie Ho: Well, even though we just had the Annual Conference, we are already working next year’s conference, looking for a distinguished speaker for the FLD. We have to complete the paperwork pretty soon, in January, I believe, so it’s really important that we start looking for somebody now, so if anybody has ideas or suggestions for our distinguished speaker, please let us know. In other news, we hope to kick off the certification exam study group sometime next year since it looks like the ATA exams are going to resume soon. Our current plan is for people to do practice translations at home, and then pair up with a partner and give each other feedback. We will be starting a new round each month, with a new package to translate each month and a new partner to work with, so people can jump on the train any time and join the group, and the practice exams will be available in both language directions, English to French and French to English.

Cathy-Eitel: Thank you, Andie. Now let’s dive into another important topic. So, the 2020 ATA Annual Conference. The Conference was certainly different this year. It went virtual! Nevertheless, I personally think it was a success. Thanks to the organizers, everything went so smoothly, and attendees were still able to learn, network, and have fun. Could you share your thoughts on the 2020 ATA Conference?

Andie Ho: I thought the conference was a wild success, given everything that had to happen to pivot into an online event, turn it suddenly into an online event. I know lots of people were worried that there wouldn’t be opportunities to socialize and network with other people, but the organizers did a fantastic job of making sure we still had opportunities for that. The speakers did a great job, and I definitely want to congratulate the FLD speakers that represented us and made us proud of them. The conference organizers, I know, are actively seeking feedback right now on the conference because, apparently, they expect to have a hybrid version of the conference next year. So, if any of you who attended have opinions, either positive or negative, please email the ATA board, the officers, and let them know what you think.

Cathy-Eitel: Oh, wow. I didn’t know that. A hybrid version will be awesome, but do you have any recommendations for the next conference? What about advice for fellow translators and interpreters as to how to proceed now that the conference is over?

Andie Ho: Well, whether the conference is in-person or online, what you want to do afterwards is make sure you follow up, follow through with the things that you learned in the sessions and follow up with the people you met. Make time to try out the new software you heard about. Check out the new resource you heard about. Reach out and stay in touch with the people that you met. You can do like I have done, which is set yourself a reminder each week or every so often to email the people that you met, say, three months from now, see how they’re doing, or you can work together to brainstorm new business ideas that you came up with at the conference. These are all really important things, because the conference works best if you do something with the information that you got out of it, otherwise, you know, you’re not really getting the full benefit.

Cathy-Eitel: Okay, well, last time we spoke, Covid-19 was sort of at its peak. We are not out of the woods yet, and it’s difficult to meet in person; therefore, I think it is important to find a way to connect virtually. Andie, please, would you remind our fellow FLD members of the various ways to stay in touch or find out about FLD events?

Andie Ho: Oh, wow. FLD has more ways than ever to stay in touch. We are on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and have been for a long time, of course. Also, we still have the website. We have a newsletter and email discussion list, and, of course, this podcast, and we are now on Discord, which is another kind of messaging forum where people can chat. You should have, if you are an FLD member, you should have received an email recently, just last week I believe, detailing all of these different ways to stay in touch, with links, you can find us. And, new and improved, we’ve also started doing monthly Zoom meetups so that people can talk about their challengers or just enjoy each other’s company since we can’t see each other in person right now, but make sure you subscribe to at least one of the communications channels I mentioned so that you hear about the monthly Zoom meetings and get the announcements. We only post the actual link in the closed forum, for instance, listserv or the Facebook group, and that’s to make sure that our meetings don’t get hacked. Unfortunately, that is a thing that happens in this world, but, also, [laughter], yeah. You can also always just reach out to us to get the link. The main thing is that you need to subscribe to at least one method of communication, just so you get the announcements, the dates and times for the monthly Zoom meetups.

Cathy-Eitel: Thank you so much, Andie, for all the reminders. Now, your continuing education series is fantastic episodes about legal translations, sustainable development, genealogy, and even a translation slam. And for the future episodes, we are accepting suggestions from all members and nonmembers who would like to share their knowledge with the division and other colleagues. No public speaking experience necessary. If you are interested, please email us at divisionfld [at] atanet [dot] org. We’re interested in all topics and subjects. Speaking of topics, we have one English-to-French topic about poorly written source content and need a guest speaker. If you’re interested in discussing terrible source content, or anything else, please get in touch.

Andie Ho: Yeah, and I’d like to add to that that the FLD is run by volunteers, so anyone can step up and contribute at any time no matter in how small a way, otherwise, Cathy-Eitel, you and I have to do everything by ourselves.

Cathy-Eitel: Well, Andie, thank you so much for joining me today. Have a great Thanksgiving.

Andie Ho: Thank you Cathy-Eitel. Thank you for having me.

Cathy-Eitel: Thank you. Bye-bye.

Cathy-Eitel Nzume is a certified French to English and English to French Court Interpreter, translator, Department of State Certified Linguist and legal professional. She specializes in legal and conference interpreting as well as legal and financial translation. You can find her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/cathyeitelnzume/ or on Twitter at @CathyENzume.

Andie Ho is a certified French to English translator specializing in the food industry. She earned her M.A. in translation from Kent State University and is now based in the Houston area. She currently serves as the ATA’s French Language Division administrator. You can follow her on Twitter at @JHawkTranslator or email her at andie [at] andiehotranslations [dot] com.

Transcribed by Joan Wallace. She has been a full-time freelance translator for nearly 30 years. She holds ATA certification from French to English and Spanish to English, and also translates from Thai to English. She works primarily in medical and pharmaceutical translation, although she occasionally wanders further afield, including an ongoing collaboration with a historian involving
French-English translation of 19th-century handwritten documents. She is based in Madison, Wisconsin. You can connect with her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/joanwallace.

[Transcript] ATA Continuing Education Series Podcast – Episode 13 – Financial Translation Tips and Tricks

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Episode 13: Financial Translation Tips and Tricks with Amanda Williams

Angela Benoit: Hello, and welcome to the continuing education series, a podcast produced by the French Language Division of the American Translators Association as a benefit for our members and those interested in joining us. Our series strives to offer educational content about the craft of French-to-English and English-to-French translation and about our division. I’m your host, Angela Benoit, and it is my pleasure today to welcome Amanda Williams of Mirror Image Translations. Amanda is an ATA-certified French-to-English translator. She specializes in corporate communications, accounting, finance, and international trade. And, as a bonus, Amanda and I are recording this podcast together over a cup of tea in beautiful Annecy. Amanda, welcome!

Amanda Williams: Thank you so much for having me!

AB: Thank you so much for being here! So, we are going to discuss this series of financial terms that all have one thing in common. Their translation is not what a lay person would have expected it to be, and I believe we are going to see just incollable Amanda is at financial terminology. Now, before we get started, would you like to tell us a little bit about the universe of a financial translator?

AW: Yeah, so, when Angela first reached out to me to ask me to do this podcast, I started thinking about what I wanted to talk about, and it turns out what I originally had put together was not what you talk about on this podcast.

AB: Uh oh! [laughter].

AW: But Angela was super nice and said, “Hey! Why don’t we just throw that into the introduction? So, we’re going to start by going over something a little different, and it’s really what I like to call “How to Do Financial Translation Right.” Instead of pitfalls and tricks, I want to going to talk about how to do it right.

AB: And that is super important. You do want to do it right. [laughter]

AW: How to be better, okay?

AB: Yes, yes.

AW: So, just so I don’t waste all that original work I put together.

AB: Oh, no, no, no! It was great! We just had to bring the nerdiness back, but we’ll get there.

AW: Alright, so, I want to talk about some tips. Consistency, as a financial translator, is essential. Sometimes we get so focused on the section we’re doing, and sometimes, you know, if you’re translating a document de référence or a document de base, or shareholder meeting notices, CSR reports, you know these huge reports that can be five or six hundred pages long, and you’re working on a 50,000-word section, it might seem like you’re doing the whole thing, but you’re not. You’re only doing a small section, and you might be consistent in that one section you’re doing, but you’ve got to think about the whole big picture. So, consistency, both in what you’re working on and the big picture, is just key. And then, also, client terminology is more important than you think. We all have our favorite words, words that we like more than others, but what we like isn’t important. What the client likes is what is important.

AB: Mmhmm.

AW: So, we have to make sure that, as translators, we understand what our client’s corporate voice and corporate culture is, and that we are accurately transmitting that into what we’re writing. And then, this seems basic, but I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen the opposite in, you know, reviewing, revising, and just looking at other reports over time. Little things like dialects, not being consistent through a report, not only with spelling but tiny little things like the UK says “as at” with the date, and we say “as of” instead of “as at,” things like that.

AB: Which I tripped over in the preparation of this podcast. I thought it was a typo.

AW: Yeah, you know, I didn’t like it when I first saw it, but I had to get over it. “As at 31 December,” they just say that, okay.

AB: There you go.

AW: But you’ve got to keep those things consistent and keep them in mind, not just for your section, but the entire report, right?

AB: Mmhmm.

AW: And, not getting caught up in translating everything exactly how it is in the French. Yes, we’re crunching through a lot of volume, but you still have to translate things like they’re supposed to be translated. You know, we put verbs with the rest of the clause. We don’t break things up as much as they do in French. You know, you rearrange sentences, as needed.

AB: Mmhmm.

AW: So, it’s important to remember to do those type things even if you’re crunching out 3,000-plus words a day, and, if you don’t have any experience in business, accounting, or finance, then don’t translate about business, accounting, or finance. And we’ll go over that in a little bit more detail later on. [laughter]

AB: We’re going to find out exactly how it’s possible to trip up and make mistakes, just for lack of knowledge and lack of experience, and, you know, it’s… we need great financial translators, but we need those financial translators to go out and gain that experience, I think.

AW: Yes, yes.

AB: In the real world, before they attempt to do the very difficult exercise that we’re going to be doing now. And I get the easy job. I’m so lucky. I’m going to throw out some financial terms, which I did not find. Amanda found them for me. I’m going to throw them into the air, and Amanda’s going to tell us what they mean, and how we translate them, and also how we do not translate them. So, I think our first one is relatively easy. Are we ready to get started?

AW: Yeah, let’s do it.

AB: Okay, here we go. Let’s talk about “les procédures de contrôle interne.”

AW: It’s funny, because you’d think that the knee-jerk translation would be to translate it as it looks, but it’s not. What I see all the time is that people translate this as “internal audit procedures,” but you really actually should translate this as “internal control procedures.” Sarbanes–Oxley is the reason why. And what that means is the SEC started requiring small companies to document their internal control procedures over financial reporting back in 2007. And, so, companies are required now to put together internal control procedures showing that they have control over their financial reporting, and the term “internal control procedures,” in fact, has kind of leaped over into other domains as well. Back in my prior career as a trade compliance manager, I had to create and implement internal control procedures for customs compliance as well.

AB: Wow.

AW: So, it is a term that you use in industry, and it’s not, nine times out of ten, it’s not going to be audit, it’s going to be internal control.

AB: Okay.

AW: But we think of “contrôle” being “audit,” and, generally speaking, it’s not.

AB: No. Is this because the “contrôle,” the control procedures happen inside the company and the audit would be from an external party coming in and auditing?

AW: Yeah, and sometimes companies do internal audits as well, but in this context, they’re talking about control. Like, do you know what’s going on in your company. Do you have procedures in place that show and document how you handle and manage risk, how you handle and manage your reporting, you know, and your finances, things like that.

AB: And, as translators, we’re told so many times that “control” is not “contrôle” and “contrôle” is not “control.”

AW: Right.

AB: You’re almost tempted to go and find something else just to not use it, and this is the one time.

AW: Right.

AB: This is the one time.

AW: Tricky!

AB: Yup, very tricky. Alright, next up. We actually have a small family of terms that go together. Now in preparing for this episode, Amanda mentioned to me the IFRS. And I had to sheepishly go look it up, because I had no idea what she meant. I didn’t want to admit that to her. It stands for “International Financial Reporting Standards,” and we’ll put that up on the website for those of you who are interested and going to look it up so you don’t have to scramble for a pen just right now. So, let’s take a look at a few IFRS terms. We’re going to start with “secteur opérationnel.” What is this, and what do we do with it?

AW: So, this is just one of those terms, you know, you’re not going to use the word “sector,” you’re going to call this an “operating segment.”

AB: Okay then. I would have had no idea.

AW: It’s what it is.

AB: I would not have known to look at the IFRS for lack of knowing of their existence. Okay, next up we have “participation ne donnant pas de contrôle.”

AW: That’s called a “noncontrolling interest.” It used to be called a “minority interest,” but a few years ago the IFRS said, “Nope, we’ve changed our mind. We don’t want to call it minority interest anymore, we’re going to start calling it “noncontrolling interest,” so, over the past few years, we’ve had to start pushing clients who have been reluctant to change from “minority interest” to “noncontrolling interest,” and say, “Alright, guys, IFRS doesn’t want us to use this word anymore. We’re going to have to start using “noncontrolling interest.” So, little by little, we have to get customers on board with the correct terminology.

AB: And this is the translator pushing the client to use their own industry-specific terminology.

AW: Yeah.

AB: That’s amazing.

AW: If you want to be a good translator, you go, you go…

AB: …the extra mileage. You have to know that before your client even knows it.

AW: Right.

AB: That’s outstanding. The next one, it sounds simple, but wait until you hear the proper way to translate it: “immobilisation corporelle.” What happens here?

AW: So, I see this a fair amount of time. The term in translation for “immobilisation incorporelle” is “intangible asset.”

AB: Okay.

AW: So, one would think that “immobilisation corporelle” is “tangible asset.”

AB: Mmhmm.

AW: But, the good old IFRS says that this should really be “property, plant, and equipment.” That’s the proper accounting term for this word in French.

AB: And if you are not intimately familiar with the IFRS, you would completely… that one would fly over my head. I would have not gotten that right in a million years.

AW: Yeah.

AB: And then, you take an English–French translator, and… “propriété, plante et équipement…”? Euh, pardon, “propriété, usine et équipement.” [laughter] You have to be able to figure that one out in either direction. That one’s amazing. I can’t believe I just said “propriété et plante.” And we can’t go back and erase that. It’s immortalized. It’s not immobilized, but it’s immortalized.

AW: Okay.

AB: Our next term is right up there with the “contrôlé/control” question. We hear it everywhere, to say everything, but in the financial universe, “activité” means something very specific.

AW: Yeah, this one’s fun. And it doesn’t help that French clients really love this word, and I think they prefer just a straight, literal translation into English, but it drives me crazy because we do not use this word in English much. We just don’t. If you go and you look at the annual reports of Facebook, of Pfizer, of Amazon, of Google, of Proctor & Gamble, you’re not going to see the word “activity” hardly at all because it’s just not something we say. Yet, if you go to the annual reports of a French company that’s been translated into English, you’re going to see it 5,000 times.

AB: Mmhmm.

AW: This word is usually going to be “business.”

AB: Yes.

AW: Sometimes, it can be “operations,” especially in an industrial context, if you’re talking about a company that has manufacturing processes or industrial services, like logistics or something like that, then you very well in some contexts say “operations,” but “business” a lot of times can replace “activity.” I urge all of you, every time you see “activité” to think, “Could ‘business’ or ‘operations’ go here?” And if your client argues about it, try to fight it.

AB: Yeah, yeah. Provide some examples.

AW: Yeah.

AB: With texts written directly in English, there’s no “activities” in them at all.

AW: Yeah, I’ve had this fight before, and I have won. It can be done, you guys, I promise.

AB: Amazing. We’ve got another one that sounds simple. What should be aware of when we run into “conformité”?

AW: I see “conformity” all the time, and I don’t get it, you guys, I just don’t. It’s going to be “compliance.”

AB: Okay.

AW: “Compliance,” “noncompliance,” and then, sometimes “en conformité avec” or whatever, that’s going to be “in accordance with,” too, not “in conformity with.”

AB: Interesting.

AW” Or “pursuant to.”

AB: Mmhmm.

AW: You know, but yeah. Let’s stay away from the “conformity.”

AB: Okay, no “conformity.” Interestingly, in the other direction, because I translate in the other direction, “compliance” naturally becomes “conformité,” we’d never think twice about it.

AW: Yeah.

AB: But that’s because we don’t have the option of another strange word hanging out there, like the “conformity” you just mentioned, but yeah, a pitfall in one direction. Great one.

AW: Yeah.

AB: Okay, so that was part 1 of our episode. Now we’re going to do, we’re going to segue to part 2, and we’re going to turn our attention to some full sentences, as opposed to just terms or expressions. We’re going to look at a French text or French sentence. We’re going to look at how to make a complete mess of the translation, and then we’re going to do things the right way, with Amanda’s help. So, I’m going to start with the first French sentence. Here it is: “Le 31 décembre 2014, elles sont essentiellement composées de créances de TVA, 3,4 million d’euros, de charges constatées d’avance, 2,7 million d’ euros, et d’avances et acomptes fournisseurs, 6,3 million euros.” Now, would you like to read the problematic English, or should I go for it?

AW: I’ll do it.

AB: Okay.

AW: Let me preface by saying that this was UK English, so we’ve got that lovely little starter “As at…” “As at 31 December 2014, they essentially consist of VAT receivables, 3.4 million, charges recorded in advance 2.7 million, and supplier prepayments 6.3 million.”

AB: Now, before I got into that, I just want to say that that sounds perfectly fine ot me. [laughter] I don’t see the problem. But I’m a lay person, so I’m going to let Amanda take this one home and tell me exactly how I’m wrong.

AW: Okay, “the charges recorded in advance” is a literal translation that should not be there, basically. So, the correct way to say this would be, “As at 31 December 2014, they essentially consist of VAT receivables, 3.4 million, prepaid expenses for 2.7 million, and supplier prepayments for 6.3 million.”

AB: I think this a perfect example of how the expert eye can pick up the problem, and everybody else…

AW: Yeah.

AB: …is just, I would have never seen that. That’s a great example. Thank you, Amanda.

AW: You’re welcome.

AB: On to the next one! The French version is, “toute re…” oh, excuse me, “toutes les autres dépenses sont comptabilisées directement en charges dès qu’encourues,” and the terrible English—I’ll go for it this time—“All other expenditure is recorded directly as a charge as soon as incurred.” Okay, what’s wrong here?

AW: “Charge,” basically.

AB: Okay.

AW: We have two ways of fixing this. We could either say “All other expenditure is reported directly as an expense as soon as incurred,” or, you could make it even easier and say “All other expenditure is expensed as soon as it’s incurred.”

AB: Okay. And do you mind me asking what the problem with “charge” is?

AW: So…

AB: I’m just curious

AW: Yeah, this is an income statement thing. So, when you’re in accounting, and you’re running a company’s accounting, every action that the company does is going to be either recorded as income or as an expense.

AB: Okay.

AW: So, basically, they’re not using the correct terminology. So, if you take a company, and you sell it, …

AB: Mmhmm.

AW: You’ve just made income. So, you would record the sale of that business as income on your income statement. But then let’s say you were sued by a company for a million dollars because you did something terrible.

AB: Oh, no.

AW: Alright. That would be an expense.

AB: Okay. And you know what, the minute I asked you that question I… something came to mind. You charge your customers.

AW: Right.

AB: That’s where that word goes.

AW: Right.

AB: I was charged this morning when I went shopping.

AW: Right.

AB: But I’m an individual not a company with an income statement.

AW: Right.

AB: That makes a lot of sense.

AW: Yeah.

AB: Alright. Next one. “Les opérations entre l’entité et une participation ne donnant pas de contrôle sont traitées comme des opérations portant sur les capitaux propres.” I’m not sure what I just read. [laughter] Do you want to give us the bad English?

AW: Sure. “Transactions between an entity and equity interest that do not provide control are considered equity transactions.”

AB: Okay. And what is wrong, and what should we say?

AW: The problem is “that do not provide control.” That’s just a very long, roundabout way of saying what you need to say.

AB: Mmhmm.

AW: The correct way would be “Transactions between an entity and noncontrolling interests are considered equity transactions.”

AB: Okay. I just noticed something with this one. Obviously, the “do not provide control” came from “ne donnant pas…

AW: Yeah.

AB: …for to give,” and, in the corrected English, we got rid of the verb, which is so unusual, like, we usually add verbs in English, and this time, we whisked him away with very elegant “noncontrolling interests,” which I’ve actually heard before. I think I know what it means.

AW: Yeah.

AB: And strangely, the correct version starts to make sense to me, even as a nonfinancial person.

AW: Sometimes you don’t need more verbs and words.

AB: Yeah, you just need more clarity.

AW: Exactly.

AB: Amazing. [laughter] Okay, next one. “En application de la norme IAS 19R, la société comptabilise les écarts actuariels, en moins des capitaux propres, en autres éléments du résultat global, net d’impôts différés.” Okay, let’s take a sip of tea [laughter], while Amanda reads us the bad one. Or would you like me to read the bad English?

AW: I can do it.

AB: Okay.

AW: “In application of IAS 19R, the company recorded actuarial differences as a reduction of equity under ‘other overall income’, net of differed taxes.” Alright.

AB: Mmhmm.

AW: So, we’ve got a couple issues here. The “application” drives me a little bit bonkers, and it’s not “overall income.” We call that “comprehensive income.”

AB: Okay.

AW: So, my sense is, “In accordance with IAS 19R, the company recorded actuarial differences as a reduction of equity under ‘other comprehensive income,’ net of differed taxes.”

AB: Wow. I was not sure what happened to this company? What did happen to this company? But this is another perfect illustration of “you need to know what you’re talking about” because, even in, like, general life, the difference between “overall” and “comprehensive,” I mean, they sound like two great synonyms, but they’re not.

AW: Yeah, “comprehensive income” is just, it’s a term that’s widely recognized, and you want to make sure that you use the term that all accountants are going to know…

AB: Yes.

AW: …and understand.

AB: Absolutely. You don’t want to send them on a journey to try to figure out what you would have said, what you should have said.

AW: Right. With translation, that’s what you’re supposed to do, is make it to where they understand what you’re saying, you know, they’re not supposed to have to interpret what you wrote.

AB: Exactly. Okay, next one. “Autorisation à donner au directoire en vue de l’achat par la société de ses propres actions (27ème résolution). The incorrect version: “Authorization to be given to the executive board in view of the company’s purchase of its own shares (27th resolution),” and I’m kind of excited to say that when I originally read that, without reading the correction, I sort of sensed what was wrong with “of its own shares,” but I will let Amanda tell us more.

AW: What I did is—“purchase of its own shares,” that’s just a mouthful, right?

AB: Mmhmm.

AW: In English, we have share buybacks, so the correct translation would be “Authorization to be given to the executive board for the company’s share buyback.” And you’ll notice, I got rid of “in view of.” “For” is good enough. You don’t have to be fancy.

AB: Nope, this is more straightforward.

AW: Yeah.

AB: And you’re not attracting attention to the wrong things.

AW: Exactly.

AB: “Share buyback.” I’ve read about that in the news, and it kind of jumped at me. I was mildly proud, for two minutes.

AW: Yay! [laughter] Hurray!

AB: And, we have one more. It’s the last one for today. “Opérations avec apparentés.” First of all, what is an “apparenté”?

AW: It’s a “related party.”

AB: [laughter] I had no idea!

AW: Yeah, when a company has subsidiaries

AB: Okay.

AW: Yeah, those subsidiaries are “apparentés.”

AB: Oh, okay.

AW: Alright, so, this is the incorrect version, it’s called “Operations with related parties.”

AB: Okay.

AW: And, the correct is “Related-party transactions.”

AB: Nice.

AW: A lot of times, “operations” should be translated as “transactions” in financial translation.

AB: Mmhmm.

AW: Not all the time, but definitely, you know, look at the context. If you’re talking about a purchase, a disposal, any kind of…

AB: Money’s changing hands?

AW: Yes, yeah, any time money’s changing hands, it’s going to be transaction, not operation.

AB: Yes. “Operation” almost sounds surgical.

AW: Yeah.

AB: We don’t want that. “Transactions.” Which, why do we even use “opérations” in French? We have “transactions,” but “opérations” is better.

AW: They always use “opérations.”

AB: Yup. For some reason. Amanda, we did it!

AW: Yay!

AB: We survived financial terminology. Well, I survived, you did awesome. [laughter]

AW: Thank you.

AB: Thank you for these examples. Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with me today, on this beautiful afternoon.

AW: Yeah.

AB: It was a pleasure to have you.

AW: Thank you so much! It was a pleasure to be here!

AB: This concludes our episode for today. Our podcast is produced by the French Language Division of the American Translators Association. Our current administrator is Eve Bodeux. Our current assistant administrator is Jen Mercer. You can subscribe to the continuing education series podcast on Soundcloud at soundcloud.com/ata-fld, or on iTunes by searching for the words “continuing education series” in the iTunes store. You can contact the FLD at divisionfld [at] atanet [dot] org, or visit our website at www.ata-divisions.org/FLD, and make sure to put those last three letters in capital. In uppercase. You can also get in touch with us on social media. This is Angela Benoit signing off. Thanks for listening, and à bientôt !

Amanda N. Williams is an ATA-certified French to English translator specialized in business, international trade and financial translation. Prior to becoming a translator, she had a career in international trade where she held roles in sales, operations and trade compliance management.

Amanda currently serves as assistant administrator for the ATA’s Literary Division. She also served six years on the Board of Directors of the Atlanta Association of Interpreters and Translators (the Georgia Chapter of the ATA). You can find her on Twitter as the Adorkable Translator (@Adorkable_Trans), on her website at www.mirrorimagetranslations.com or you can reach her via email at amanda@mirrorimagetranslations.com.

Transcribed by Joan Wallace. She has been a full-time freelance translator for nearly 30 years. She holds ATA certification from French to English and Spanish to English, and also translates from Thai to English. She works primarily in medical and pharmaceutical translation, although she occasionally wanders further afield, including an ongoing collaboration with a historian involving French-English translation of 19th-century handwritten documents. She is based in Madison, Wisconsin. You can connect with her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/joanwallace

FLD Continuing Education Series – Episode 19 – ATA Certification Study Group

ATA French Language Division Podcast
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Welcome to the 19th episode of the French Language Division’s Continuing Education Series. In this episode, podcast host Andie Ho and certified FLD member Emily Moorlach talk about Emily’s experience participating in the FLD’s ATA certification exam study group and her experience taking the online certification exam.

Emily also recently wrote about her experience for the Savvy Newcomer. Check out her post, Taking and Preparing for ATA’s Online Certification Exam.

Did you know the FLD has two study groups, one for French to English and one for English to French, to help its members ace the certification exam? If certification is one of your professional goals, you could participate. These groups are a free benefit for FLD members.

Emily Moorlach is an ATA-certified French to English translator who began her career in 2016 as the Translation and Interpretation Program Manager and freelance official document translator for a non-profit organization. In 2019, after a whirlwind trip through 45 cities in Europe, Emily returned to the U.S. to start her freelance translation business, Langue Vivante LLC. She holds a B.A. in French and a B.S. in Accounting from Iowa State University. Emily also studied at La Sorbonne in Paris and has held positions as a high school French teacher and luxury travel advisor. Her main specializations include official documents, corporate communications, and tourism industry materials. For more information, visit www.langue-vivante.com.

ATA Podcast host Andie Ho is a certified French to English translator specializing in the food industry. She earned her M.A. in translation from Kent State University and is now based in the Houston area. She currently serves as the ATA’s French Language Division administrator. You can follow her on Twitter at @JHawkTranslator or email her at andie@andiehotranslations.com.


SOUNDCLOUD: You can listen to or download Episode 19 and all previous episodes on Soundcloud here.

ITUNES: This episode and all previous episodes are available on iTunes here. You can subscribe or listen online. Like what you hear? Rate us and review us! It really helps get the word out.