Volunteering My Translation Skills In a Local French School


Photo Credit: Element5 Digital via Unspash

By Andie Ho

A few years ago, I began lending my translation skills to a local, volunteer-run school that holds Saturday French classes for K-12 students. The classes are aimed at both francophone children of French expats in the Houston area to help them maintain their French while living in the U.S. as well as students learning French as a foreign language.

My role as the school’s official translator came about gradually. Through a separate organization for French expats, I became friendly with several of the school’s board members. One day, one of them called me and asked if I’d be willing to do a short volunteer translation for the school. I replied that I’d be happy to help. Since then, I have been receiving sporadic translation requests, on the order of a handful of times a year. The texts are easy enough and frequently repetitive and mostly consist of job postings and either translating or proofreading the English version of the quarterly newsletter. The staff are gracious and respectful of my time, and the deadlines are usually long compared to my paid work, so helping out is never a burden.

Though I initially agreed to volunteer for purely selfless reasons, one side benefit of being involved with the local expat community has been the opportunity to advertise my services. As a translator for the school, I am considered a staff member and attend school celebrations for events like la Galette des rois and la rentrée. At these gatherings, I meet many French expats and am usually introduced to an auditorium full of people not just as the school’s translator, but as a professional translator in my own right. As a result, I have had people approach me for my language skills.

My experience has also made me rethink how I network. A number of years ago, I attended a networking event where I received the name of a prospective client, a French expat who had started a small business in Houston helping other French expats settle in the U.S. She was reportedly often in need of translations for her clients. I contacted her several times by email and phone, citing our mutual acquaintance and hoping to speak with her, but I never heard back. A couple of years later, when I began volunteering for the school, I discovered the same woman was one of the school’s board members. She didn’t remember my attempts to contact her, but we became well acquainted, and just last month, she referred me to a friend in need of a translation for his business. People prefer to do business with people they know—and from what I understand, that goes double for the French. Volunteering has allowed me to serve a good cause while simultaneously giving me a foot in door to the sizable French expat community in the fourth largest city in the United States.

I no longer attend networking events where I’m not likely to ever cross paths with the people I meet there again. In fact, anything that bills itself as a networking event generally tends to be unfruitful for me. Instead, I focus on recurring activities where I see the same people over and over and have an opportunity to build relationships, an approach that happens to suit my personality. After all, it’s much more pleasant to make a friend and then have her call you for a translation than it is to try to foist your services on a stranger.

On a personal level, I believe that everyone should strive to make the world a better place in whatever way they can, and volunteer work is certainly a major way for people to do their part. If you’re able to draw professional gains at the same time, then all the better.

Andie Ho is a Houston-based, ATA-certified French to English translator. She specializes in the areas of food and cosmetics. Find her at www.andiehotranslations.com or follow her on Twitter at @JHawkTranslator.

Editor’s Note: Have you had a positive experience volunteering? Please share it with us! Also, did you know that volunteering your translation services is a great way to earn continuing education credits for your ATA certification? Keep track of the time you spend volunteering and include it on your CE points report.


French is Alive and Well and (Even) Living in English

By Jacques Saleh

For all the relentless drumbeat, if not frenzied alarm, in the French-speaking world (as often witnessed on numerous French-speaking talk shows), to counter or curtail the seemingly inexorable onward and forward march of English worldwide, and for all the alarmed French and Francophile luminaries, grandees and pundits who feel that the French language is under siege by the Anglo-Saxon (or Anglo-American) linguistic onslaught, it behooves us to reassure those rearguard French and Francophonie defenders that all is not lost, and that in the spirit of cross-cultural comity and cross-linguistic camaraderie, French is still alive and well and living in English.

Perhaps it hasn’t seeped into the foundational structure of English as much as Frisian and other Germanic offshoots such as Dutch, Scandinavian or German, but English still seems to have more clearly recognizable Gallic terms in its lexicon than other Germanic languages, which over the years have morphed away—in often unrecognizable fashion—from their Teutonic roots. If, for instance, you join the British or U.S. military (militaires) or army (armée), at whichever echelon (echelon), from the humble soldier (soldat) to the sergeant, colonel, general, or admiral, you may think you have joined the ranks of the French military.

And to add a bit of bonhomie to the whole competitive linguistic shebang, the French and Germanic or Proto-Germanic languages have peacefully coexisted in an ongoing détente within English, with English providing the basis for this ideal and idyllic rapprochement. In other words, English may have accomplished the near-utopian feat of making the French and Teutons gentle bedfellows, at least linguistically.

By italicizing French-rooted or French-influenced words in English below, we will notice more vividly how French is intrinsically ingrained in the English language. And if we review the text above, a French-speaking sleuth a bit versed in etymology (NB: while Greek, the word “etymology” took this form through the French “étymologie”) could easily count more than a few dozen words with French ancestry, influence or affinity. Some (including frenzied, counter, curtail, march, vigorously, defend, languages, rearguard, competitive, peacefully, accomplished, feat, gentle, instance, and join) represent different alteration degrees of the French words frénésie, contrer, tailler, marche, vigoureusement, défendre, langues, arrière-garde (itself an alteration of the Old French rereguarde), compétitif, fait, gentil, instance, and joindre. Others are plucked wholesale and with seemingly little compunction from French, e.g., words like détente, camaraderie, bonhomie, rapprochement and the like.

This article is not meant to give a statistical or scientific representation of French within English, especially with a limited textual sample (Old French “essample”), but to show that one can write English using a copious dose of French-influenced or French-originated words, even if their semantic and formal iterations have deviated from current or even Old French. But this would be no different from Canadian French using French terms that are uncommon in France, or modern French in France being quite different from Old French but still influenced by, or derived from, it. Languages do not remain static, and whether the French words that seeped into English were quite different semantically and formally from their modern configuration does not negate the fact that their origin is French and that English has a solid French linguistic identity in conjunction with its Teutonic one.

If the Anglo-Saxons resent this “foreign” influence, they would then be using a French-rooted word (“ressentiment”) to express their feelings, or they could hate it, in which case they would be using a German-rooted or Dutch-rooted term (“hassen” or “haten”). It will be up to them to express any xenophobic or perhaps bigoted sentiments against this reality, but if their resentment pushes them to extirpate only French-rooted words from the English language, English would become so different as to become another language and would no longer qualify as English. As things stand, it won’t be an easy task to extricate English from French encroachment, or for that matter, from its Teutonic manifestations. If it were, English would have a major identity crisis and would cease to exist. To prune the Teutonic-Gallic branches and roots from the English tree will be akin to uprooting and killing that tree. Ergo, RIP English.

While the nuts and bolts of English are infused with Teutonic-originated terms, which permeate its building blocks of prepositions, adverbs, conjunctions and pronouns, French suffuses its superstructure, so to speak, including many terms used in the military, law, economy, finance, religion, and politics, among others.

And speaking of the military, the Brits conquered a good chunk of global real estate and built their empire with plenty of help from the French—that is, French words. They had these French-rooted terms to help advance their colonizing or expansionist ambitions: the army and navy, along with their assortment of generals, colonels, admirals, lieutenants, sergeants, corporals, and soldiers. And to this end they used troops, the infantry, and cavalry, in addition to the artillery. They also used battalions, brigades, and squadrons. 

And to advance their objectives and promote and consolidate their newly established regime, the occupiers did not hesitate to use search and destroy missions to tame any recalcitrant elements of the populace, nor did they fail to use surveillance, reconnaissance missions, espionage intrigues, spies, guards, sieges, and logistics, all the way down to the lowly latrine.

After setting their expansionist designs on a region, they applied or established their laws and rules, again with much help from the French language, introducing in the process French-rooted terms like contracts, felonies, crimes, courts, tribunals, judges, jury, bailiffs, plaintiffs, defendants, attorneys, cases, bails, paroles, summons, claims, complaints, pleas, pleadings, petitions, motions, briefs, requests, appeals, jails, and prisons, among many terms that could almost fill an English legal dictionary. This gave the illegitimate presence of the colonizers a semblance of normalcy and legality that might have helped them further subdue and control the local populace by instilling a whiff of legitimacy, accompanied by a firm dose of law and order, to their conquest.

Naturally, for further appeasement and other self-serving purposes, the new victors probably wanted their newly vanquished communities and societies to enjoy a humming economy. Such economy would assist those victors in better managing their own affairs while profiting even more from the existing spoils by rendering the latter more productive than from the simple plunder of limited or unsustainable resources. 

With such a symbiotic or collaborative arrangement with the indigenous peoples, the victors’ ruling classes and elites, along with their acolytes, would theoretically enjoy a greater level of prosperity and riches, some of which is allowed to trickle down to appease the oppressed masses by easing their economic and financial burdens, hence inducing them into continuing collaborative comportment. In this instance, the reasoning of the conquerors might be that the robust economy should serve as the opium of the politically oppressed people in the way religion played that role for those who championed the cause of the proletariat.

The above examples should suffice for now to give sufficient credence to the present thesis and, by extrapolation, should point to the clear etymological and historical evidence that seems overlooked by all those alarmist French language Cassandras and other linguistic doomsayers who think that languages, especially theirs, are or should be immutable.

Instead, the Gallic doomsters might as well stop panicking and stressing over this issue, and for that matter they might as well vicariously enjoy the English language (French-Teutonic to a large extent) triumphs without undue compunction, mindful of the fact that the English language’s French ancestry is well-established. They should also be mindful of the humbling fact that, for all intents and purposes, all present living languages will eventually sink into Latin-like or ancient Greek obsolescence and will succumb to the inevitable and dire fate of linguistic extinction.

Thus, the Gallic doom and gloom merchants and sundry linguistic fearmongers could join the ranks of those who take a grander and more relativistic and historical view regarding the transience of languages, or of life for that matter, and they could in particular tone down a notch their strident anti-Albion protests once they realize that French will be riding on the coattails of the English juggernaut for the foreseeable future.

In this case, it bears repeating that those with French predilection who are still contesting the current linguistic status quo might as well vicariously enjoy the English language advances, as they should be comforted by the fact that English has historically and to a large degree embraced, assimilated and absorbed French, which played, along with Teutonic linguistic offshoots and to some extent Latin, a predominant role in its inception.

Therefore, once we consider that English has a distinct, significant, recognizable, and manifest French identity, the relationship between the two languages should no longer be regarded as a zero-sum game, as some alarmist Francophile pundits would like us to think, but rather one of lineage and pedigree, or of parentage and identity, which in turn entails that French is not only alive and well for the French-speaking people, but also living in English. Thus, French can legitimately share in the successes of English and celebrate its triumphs.    

[Editor’s Note: What are your thoughts on the influence of English on the French language, and vice versa? Any amateur (or professional!) etymologists out there? Please join the conversation by liking or sharing this article along with your comments on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.]


Jacques Saleh, PhD is an ATA-certified Arabic-to-English translator with more than 20 years of experience translating from Arabic to English and French to English. He holds a doctorate degree in philosophy from the City University of New York and a BS and MBA from New York University. He has taught translation, philosophy, and humanities courses both in the United States and abroad. You can find him on Twitter at @textoubli or contact him through his website.

Traduction rédactionnelle : repenser les partis-pris, oser le naturel

« Challenging Assumptions: Avoid a Stilted Style »

Invité à endosser un rôle de rédacteur, le traducteur ne saurait se cantonner dans la littéralité. C’est l’appel à l’action qu’a lancé Marc Lambert, traducteur-réviseur à CPA Canada (Montréal) aux congressistes de l’ATA, réunis à La Nouvelle-Orléans en octobre 2018. 

Par Marc Lambert

Rester traducteur, prudemment, ou devenir rédacteur ? Voilà la question que j’ai posée au dernier rendez-vous de l’ATA à La Nouvelle-Orléans, en octobre 2018. J’y proposais de jeter aux orties la méthode classique, qui veut qu’on se plie aux contraintes d’un suivi attentif – voire maniaque – de la syntaxe de départ, de l’ordre des idées, des moindres détails de l’original. Je nous invitais tous à plutôt prendre du recul afin d’aborder le travail sous l’angle de l’adaptation notionnelle, conceptuelle, en situation de communication.

Bref, là où le contexte l’autorise, repensons la démarche et osons l’optique rédactionnelle. Un geste qui passe par une prise de risque. Il faut s’approprier le texte, se dire : si j’avais moi-même eu à formuler ce message, dans ma propre langue, dans ce contexte, qu’aurais-je écrit? Quels éléments aurais-je ajoutés, retranchés? Comment m’y serais-je pris pour exprimer l’essentiel, sans tourner autour du mot, pour convaincre, renseigner, mobiliser?

Je vous propose ici de passer en revue trois exemples. Je vous soumets un fragment anglais, suivi d’une traduction correcte et fidèle. C’est déjà quelque chose, direz-vous. Quoique. Et le rythme, la fluidité, la vigueur? J’ai donc remanié la version d’origine pour viser la concision, l’allégement, la fonctionnalité.

Voyons le premier cas problème. Pour « New Study Shows Entrepreneurs Are at Risk of Fraud », on lisait : « Une nouvelle étude montre que les entrepreneurs risquent d’être victimes de fraude ». Traduction impeccable, qui saura réjouir les insomniaques, charmés par sa verbosité soporifique. C’est un titre d’article ! Tout de même. Alors, plongeons : « Fraude : l’entrepreneur, proie facile ». Et de un.

Aventurons-nous dans un autre registre : « During your stay in Boston, we will be here to help you with any needs, concerns or questions you might have. » Vite, sortons nos dictionnaires. Appliquons-nous, crispés sur notre clavier : « Pendant votre séjour à Boston, nous serons là pour vous aider en cas de besoin ou pour répondre à vos préoccupations ou questions. » Soupir. Entre superflu et superfétatoire, mon cœur balance. Faut-il vraiment en dire autant? Proposons : « Pendant votre séjour, nous serons à votre entière disposition. » C’est largement suffisant. Et de deux.

Pour conclure : « Out of a job? Job seekers need to learn how to be innovative and creative, and think outside the box. » Derechef, pusillanimes, on colle, on courbe l’échine, on s’asservit : « Vous êtes à la recherche d’un travail? Les demandeurs d’emploi doivent apprendre à faire preuve d’innovation et de créativité, et savoir sortir des sentiers battus. » Il faut de l’inspiration, du talent, que dis-je, du génie pour réussir à délayer autant. Biffons, raturons sans merci : « En recherche d’emploi? Innovez, sortez des sentiers battus. » Et de trois.

En conclusion, je suis convaincu que vous aurez trouvé l’exercice salutaire, pour redécouvrir la rédactrice – le rédacteur – qui sommeille en vous, histoire de mieux vous outiller. Arrêtez, je sais, nous n’aurons pas toujours la latitude voulue pour prendre un libre envol, bridés sous le carcan de mille et une nécessités. Mais je nous invite quand même à oser. Et à repartir, la plume légère, pour éviter lourdeurs et maladresses.


Marc Lambert est traducteur-réviseur à CPA Canada (Comptables professionnels agréés du Canada) à Montréal (Québec). Il enseigne à l’école Magistrad et a participé aux congrès « On traduit à… » (Canada, France, Royaume-Uni).

Les avantages insoupçonnés des glossaires

ata-fld-newsletter-logoBy Audrey Pouligny

[Editor’s note: This article was originally published at Le mot juste en anglais.]

Traducteurs : Quelques réflexions sur la manière dont les glossaires peuvent nous aider à éviter certains écueils avec nos clients, voire même améliorer et renforcer nos relations avec ces derniers.

Avez-vous peur de la critique ? Avez-vous déjà reçu un e-mail de la part d’un client, quelque peu embarrassant, vous expliquant que votre traduction ne s’avérait pas entièrement satisfaisante ? Cela peut nous arriver à tous, traducteurs débutants comme expérimentés. Mais ne soyons pas pessimistes ! Posons-nous plutôt la question suivante : comment pouvons-nous transformer une expérience quelque peu difficile, à savoir la peur de la critique et la critique elle-même, en une expérience positive ? Soyons honnêtes avec nous-mêmes. II est beaucoup plus facile de progresser quand nous parvenons à changer notre perspective. Observer les problématiques rencontrées par nos clients avec curiosité et enthousiasme, au lieu de ressasser nos frustrations, peut en effet nous permettre de nous donner cette impulsion.

Offrir un glossaire à nos clients est une stratégie qui nous permet de mieux gérer la critique. Le glossaire dans un tel cas se transforme en un véritable outil pour développer un style de travail collaboratif avec nos clients, tout en offrant l’opportunité de découvrir des bénéfices supplémentaires et inattendus.

Les glossaires ont leur rôle à jouer, dès lors qu’ils clarifient et matérialisent un accord sur la terminologie à retenir. Ils permettent de faire évoluer une relation stressante vers une relation de travail apaisée et collaborative.

Partager un glossaire à mi-chemin d’un projet peut ainsi créer un système préventif de validation de la terminologie avec vos clients. Par exemple, si vous traduisez un rapport d’entretien annuel d’évaluation pour une société caractérisée par  un domaine d’activité très spécialisé et technique, le glossaire pourrait se révéler un précieux allié. Proposer à votre client de revoir votre glossaire une fois arrivé à mi-chemin du projet vous permettra de vous assurer, d’une part, de la pertinence de la terminologie choisie par vos soins, et d’autre part, que cette dernière correspond effectivement aux préférences de votre client pour des raisons, notamment, d’uniformisation.

Vous pouvez également commencer à entrevoir comment cette stratégie peut constituer une excellente manière de développer une nouvelle spécialisation en tant que traducteur. Il faut bien commencer un jour, n’est-ce pas ? C’est en forgeant qu’on devient  forgeron. C’est dans cette optique que les glossaires peuvent nous offrir l’expérience tant nécessaire au développement d’une nouvelle spécialisation. Un glossaire envoyé à mi-chemin d’un projet s’inscrit dès lors dans une stratégie gagnant-gagnant, s’il nous permet de réduire notre niveau de stress, de renforcer notre tranquillité d’esprit et de développer avec nos clients des relations basées sur la confiance.

Un glossaire envoyé à la fin de votre projet de traduction peut également offrir à vos clients l’opportunité de réduire le temps passé par ces derniers en interne à effectuer leur contrôle qualité. Si je reprends mon exemple du rapport d’entretien annuel d’évaluation, au lieu  de se plonger directement dans votre traduction et de l’examiner à la loupe, votre client (probablement un directeur RH) pourra dans un premier temps consulter votre glossaire et sera immédiatement en mesure de déterminer si certains termes diffèrent  de ses préférences ou de la terminologie utilisée au sein de la société. Cette étape pourra ainsi permettre à vos clients de réduire le temps passé à relire votre traduction finale. Vous avez ainsi un argument de taille pour vos clients en faveur des glossaires : réduire le temps passé par ces derniers en interne à effectuer leur contrôle qualité. Et pour vous, quels sont les avantages ? Essentiellement les mêmes que ceux qui peuvent être retirés de l’envoi d’un glossaire à mi-chemin d’un projet : vous développez vos connaissances, vous réduisez votre niveau de stress et vous gagnez en tranquillité d’esprit, tout en renforçant vos relations avec vos clients.

Plusieurs avantages inattendus peuvent également être découverts dans le cadre de ce processus. En plus d’apprendre de votre client et d’être ainsi en mesure de diversifier vos domaines de compétences, partager des glossaires pourrait vous aider à offrir des services hauts de gamme et à vous positionner sur le marché comme un prestataire soucieux d’aider véritablement ses clients. Et par véritablement aider ses clients, je fais référence à quelque chose de tangible et non à de simples promesses. Grâce à vos glossaires, vous avez quelque chose de tangible à proposer à vos clients afin de vraiment les aider.

Cela étant, en procédant de la sorte, il demeure légitime de s’interroger sur le risque qu’un client puisse ensuite recourir à un service de traduction moins cher axé sur le volume et non la qualité. Au bout du compte, la question à se poser est de savoir si nous avons vraiment envie de travailler avec ce type de clients. Si la réponse est non, alors travailler avec des glossaires vous permettra de vous débarrasser des clients avec qui vous ne souhaitez pas travailler. L’utilisation des glossaires peut ainsi être envisagée comme une manière de créer votre propre style où vous pouvez consacrer votre temps et votre énergie au service de clients qui partagent vos valeurs et votre vision : le travail collaboratif, le savoir-faire, la minutie, le développement, etc. Le choix vous appartient. Vous pouvez choisir et définir la façon dont vous voulez travailler.

Et en pratique, comment pouvez-vous « vendre » vos services de glossaires ? La prochaine fois qu’un client retient vos services pour un projet dans lequel vous avez envie d’établir un dialogue, commencez à créer un glossaire, envoyez-le à votre client et n’oubliez pas d’ajouter la mention « glossaire offert à titre gracieux » sur votre facture. Par la suite, vous serez peut-être en mesure d’ajouter les glossaires à vos différents services, tout en défendant leurs multiples avantages.

Est-ce que cette stratégie vous permettra de vous positionner en tant que prestataire de services haut de gamme ? Est-ce que cela vous permettra de définir l’éventail de services que vous souhaitez offrir en tant que traducteur ? Pourquoi ne pas essayer ? Je serais ravie d’échanger avec vous et de recueillir vos observations et commentaires.

Audrey Pouligny is an English-French legal translator. She can be reached at audrey@quidlingua.com and www.quidlingua.com.

Review of Trilingual Swiss Law Dictionary


Review of Trilingual Swiss Law Dictionary
Thomas L. West III, JD

Review by Anne Goff

Mr. West’s new dictionary is the first trilingual dictionary focused solely on Swiss legal terms. This dictionary includes Swiss civil law, criminal law, constitutional law, debt collection, bankruptcy, and corporate law. It is divided into two parts:

  • Swiss French – Swiss German –American English translations, followed by a list of 108 French abbreviations commonly found in Swiss legal texts,
  • Swiss German – Swiss French – American English translations, followed by a list of 144 German abbreviations commonly found in Swiss legal texts.

Both lists of abbreviations include many one- and two-letter abbreviations. What frustrated translator has not learned to loathe these abbreviations after multiple fruitless Internet searches?

The approximately 5,750 entries in each section are laid out in columns with all three languages side by side as pictured below.

Where terms differ from their non-Swiss French or German counterparts, the corresponding term is noted after the Swiss term. For example:

  • actions liées (F : actions à cessibilité restreinte) / restricted shares, shares with restricted transferability
  • boiler (F : chauffe-eau) / hot water heater
  • case postale (F : boîte postale) / post office box
  • corps de chauffe (F : radiateur) / radiator
  • décharge (F : quitus) / “discharge” of the board of directors
  • droit dispositif (F : droit supplétif) / non-mandatory legal rule (one that can be contracted out of)
  • écolage (F : frais de scolarité) / tuition fees
  • place de travail (F : emploi) / job
  • servitude foncière (art. 730-744 CC) ( F : servitude prédiale) / easement that runs with the land
  • soustraction d’impôts (F : évasion fiscale) / tax evasion

As exemplified in the entries above, this dictionary includes quite a few non-legal terms that often appear in legal texts.

Trickier terms include a brief note of explanation. For example:

  • postulat / parliamentary motion asking the government to legislate (as opposed to a motion requiring the government to legislate, cf. motion)
  • poursuite / debt collection (legal action to enforce payment in cash or the provision of cash coverage by a debtor who fails to meet his payment obligations)
  • préfet / Chancellor of State (representative of the Cantonal Government responsible for the administration of the district)

I particularly appreciate that many terms include the precise section number of the relevant Swiss Code or Act in which they can be found. Context is key, and in legal texts, having the appropriate context is extremely important. For example:

  • prélèvement sur les biens de l’enfant (art. 320 CC)
  • présentation d’une lettre de change (art. 1011 CO)
  • divorce (art. 111 CC)
  • divorce pour rupture du lien conjugal (art. 115 CC)
  • comptabilité commerciale (art. 957 CO)
  • concentraction d’entreprises (art. 4 LCart)
  • circonstances personnelles (art. 27 CP)

The Swiss government has published unofficial English translations of major Swiss codes. Some of these translations may differ from those in this Swiss law dictionary. The unofficial Swiss government translation uses British legal language instead of American. Those translating into British English should be aware of this difference, but those translating into American English will appreciate this detail as it is often difficult to find non-EU resources for European language source texts. Some differences include:

  • court of appeals (instead of court of appeal)
  • railroad (instead of railway)
  • plaintiff (instead of claimant)
  • disability (instead of invalidity)
  • labor (instead of labour)

This focus on American English is not surprising since Mr. West earned a BA in French and English from the University of Mississippi summa cum laude and an MA in German from Vanderbilt University. After earning his JD at the University of Virginia School of Law, he was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia in 1990. Having practiced law for five years, he began his own translation firm, Intermark Language Services Corporation, specializing in legal and financial translation. This background is important in a field so full of potential pitfalls.

According to Mr. West, much of the terminology in TERMDAT appears to come from a French-to-German legal dictionary published in 1950 and compiled in the 1940s, and is thus very outdated. Mr. West’s law dictionary includes language from the new uniform civil and criminal procedure codes that took effect in 2011.

This is particularly significant since prior to 2011, there was no uniform legal code for Switzerland as a whole, and terminology varied greatly between cantons. It is important to note that the old terminology is not included in this dictionary. In the wake of the 2011 linguistic uniformization, Mr. West has published a translation dictionary that applies to contemporary legal language across all of Switzerland.

I believe this Swiss law dictionary will be a beneficial resource for translators working with French-language legal texts.


Trilingual Swiss Law Dictionary

By Thomas L. West III, JD
Intermark Language Publications

ISBN: 9781929570034
© 2017

Available at: https://www.createspace.com/7087174


510 pages

≈5,725 entries

6 x 1.2 x 9 inches

1.9 lbs.

Reviewed by Anne Goff

Anne Goff is a French-to-English translator and professor at California State University Sacramento.

The Role of the Genealogical Translator


My response to the question “what do you do?” tends to be a conversation stopper. I’m a professional genealogist and genealogical translator. Most people don’t have an idea of what either field entails. A professional genealogist or a professional translator might have some idea, but they’re usually missing part of the picture.

I usually begin by clearing up a few of the typical misconceptions. First of all, genealogy (the study of family history) isn’t a hobby for me, although I do trace my own family tree on occasion. In my professional genealogy career, I primarily do two kinds of work: research, in the form of tracing a client’s family tree, and teaching. While my post-secondary education in history gave me some background in genealogy, I’ve had to pursue extensive additional study to meet my clients’ and students’ needs. I current hold a Certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University’s Center for Professional Education and expect to complete a Certificate in Canadian Records from the National Institute for Genealogical Studies (Toronto, Canada) this Spring.  I’ve also completed a number of non-certificate granting courses, including the Daughters of the American Revolution Genealogical Education Program. Genealogy is a tremendous amount of fun, but my business also represents a great deal of study and knowledge. Second, translation isn’t a hobby for me either! As the professional genealogy field is still developing its “rules” and “structure,” it is fairly easy for someone to call themselves a genealogist or a genealogical translator. This, unfortunately, has led to some people claiming to be professional translators who have had nothing beyond a high school study of the language. Thankfully, such individuals are rare – but they have impacted the reputation of the genealogical translator. Most, like me, have a mixture of exposure through daily life and formal education. I hold a BA in French Literature and have completed K-12 World Language teacher training.

If my listener has accepted my professionalism, their next question is often about genealogical translation and how it differs from typical translation. At first glance, genealogical translation seems simple. In most cases, all you’re doing is translating civil registration (what Americans call vital records) from French to English. Most employ standard sentence structure, so a translator is not faced with the literary complexity of a novel. But that understanding has missed a few important factors.

The first of these factors is the handwriting. Can you read the document below? This is actually on the easier side, as most of the document was printed. Whether you’re aware of it or not, handwriting and spelling have shifted dramatically over the centuries. An “ff” recorded in an older document is now read as “s.” A circonflexe in French word indicates the word originally contained an s — île was once isle. In fact, there’s a field dedicated to the study of the changes in writing, called paleography. To understand these changes, a genealogical translator either has to have read a number of historical documents or had formal training. Having both, as I have, is more typical.


For those of you who were struggling, a transcription follows:

“Luxembourg, Civil Registration, 1662-1941,” images, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org: accessed 5 February 2015), birth entry for Anne Marie Reuter, image 562; citing Niederanven, “Naissances 1796-1829.”

[Second entry on left side of the page. The entry is in two columns; the first is to the left of the body of the entry. Words in bold are preprinted]










No. 11

L’ AN [L is oversized] mil huit cent vingt-six, le Dix-Sept du mois de Février

à onze heures du matin par-devant nous Jacques Funck, Bourgmestre

officier de l’état civil de la commune de Niederanven, canton de Betzdorff,

Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, est comparu Jean Reuter

âgé de trente ans, Manouvrier

domicilié en cette commune, Lequel    nous a présenté un

Enfant du sexe féminin__, dont son épouse Catherine Danckhoff,

est accouchée Aujourd’hui à dix heures du matin à Senningen,

et auquel il a déclaré vouloir donner le prénom de Anne Marie

Lesdites déclaration et présentation faites en présence de Mathais

Schmit âgé de vingt huit ans, Clerc de Notaire

et de Etienne Noÿs âgé de trente quatre ans,

                     Huilier                        domiciliés en cette commune, et

                     ont les témoins ______ signé avec nous le présent

                     acte de naissance, après qu’il leur en a été fait lecture. Le comparant a

déclaré ne pas savoir signer de ce enquis.

[ ?] Noÿs

Schmit [appears to be signature]

Funck [appears to be signature]


After the handwriting, the next factor to consider is the language. Words are added and dropped from a language as new things are developed and older things disappear. Did “email” exist even thirty years ago? The above document is largely written in language a modern French speaker would recognize, but there is one exception: “huilier.” Most would be able to translate the word as “oiler” or “oil maker,” but do you know what it entails? Georgette Roussel indicates in the “Vieux Métiers“ section of the blog Familles de nos villages (http://famillesdenosvillages.chez-alice.fr/les_vieux_metiers_026.htm) that the huilier was responsible for taking the harvest to the mill and returning the oil to the village. Today, the person who controls the mill would have the title. A genealogical translator is responsible for recognizing and communicating the difference if it at all impacts the nature of the document.

Third, one must consider the document’s structure. While typical translation allows some fluidity in wording so that the document “reads naturally” in the target language, genealogical translation tends to be much more rigid in keeping the original structure. Why? Because the original structure can tell us something about the circumstances under which a document was created and offer details about your ancestor’s life. The format of the above cited document, a civil registration from Luxembourg, was regulated by law. A failure to use the word “épouse” can indicate that the couple was not married and may require additional research into their background.

In most circumstances, the genealogical translator would produce the following translation and stop, as their clients are controlling the direction of future research.










No. 11

The year one thousand eight hundred twenty-six, the seventeenth of the month of   February

at eleven in the morning before us Jacques Funck, Burgomaster

officer of the civil state of the commune of Niederanven, canton of Betzdorff,

Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg, appeared Jean Reuter

aged thirty years, laborer

domiciled in this commune, who presented to us a

Child of the feminine sex, to whom his spouse Catherine Danckhoff,

gave birth Today at ten in the morning at Senningen,

and to which he declared to want to give the first name of Anne Marie

The said declaration and presentation made in presence of Mathais

Schmit aged twenty-eight years, Notary’s Clerk

and of Etienne Noÿs aged thirty four years,

oil manufacturer domiciled in this commune, and

the witnesses signed with us the present

certificate of birth, after he had been read it. The appearing

declared to not know how to sign this inquiry.

[ ?] Noÿs

Schmit [appears to be signature]

Funck [appears to be signature]


Schmit [appears to be signature]

Funck [appears to be signature]


Yet, in other cases, in which they are acting as genealogical translator and genealogist, they would use the information contained within the document to pursue further research. In this case, we know Anne Marie Reuter’s parents were Catherine Danckhoff and Jean Reuter, aged 30, and that they were married. Finding their marriage certificate is a logical next step.

The role of the genealogical translator is often considered to be  either confusing or deceptively simple. The reality is that my occupation is neither. It simply uses different set of rules than typical translation, requiring a greater awareness first, of the history behind the creation of the document and second, of the nuances of the document that must be conveyed in the target language. For a history lover fluent in a second language, genealogical translation can be a perfect fit.

Bryna O’Sullivan

Bryna O’Sullivan is a Connecticut based French to English genealogical translator and professional genealogist.


À Propos: FLD Member Updates – Third Quarter 2016

Members provide updates to share with the French Language Division. If you have a professional update you would like to share, please email it to us at divisionfld@atanet.org.

  • Angela Benoit is teaching Transcreation, a language-neutral online class offered by the NYU School of Professional studies. Prospective students interested in this class may contact the school at 212-998-7200 or sps.info@nyu.edu for information about enrollment for the next term (Spring 2017).
  • Eve Bodeux published a new book called Maintaining Your Second Language for translators and interpreters and other language lovers who need ideas on how to stay fluent in their first or second language for professional or personal reasons.
  • Bryna O’Sullivan presented a successful poster session on genealogical translation to the Association of Professional Genealogists 2016 Professional Management Conference.
  • Bruce Popp took the written and oral exams in June 2016 for the Diplôme approfondi de langue française. After passing, he received the Diplôme approfondi de langue française – niveau C2 from the French Ministère de l’éducation nationale in September 2016.
  • Kathleen Stein-Smith’s book, The U.S. Foreign Language Deficit: Strategies for Maintaining a Competitive Edge in a Globalized World (Palgrave Macmillan), is now available. In addition, she was invited to join the CSCTFL (Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) Advisory Council.
  • Karen Tkaczyk was admitted in August 2016 as a Fellow of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting. For more information on what it takes to become a fellow, visit the ITI site.

L’arabe du futur : une jeunesse au Moyen-Orient (1978-1984) – Riad Sattouf

ata-fld-newsletter-logoI am not someone who has a natural inclination to read graphic novels. The first one I read, at the urging of a book group, was Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. I thought it was a fascinating peek into what it was like to grow up in Iran and it made me realize that graphic novels can indeed be literary endeavors. This particular genre is a revered form of expression within Francophone culture so I am in good company. My most recent foray into the world of graphic novels was to read Riad Sattouf’s L’arabe du futur : une jeunesse au Moyen-Orient (1978-1984) by Allary Éditions, the subject of this article.

Sattouf, who has published various autobiographical and fictional works to acclaim and worked as a cartoonist for both Charlie Hebdo and Le Nouvel Observateur, was born to a French mother and Syrian father. His graphic memoir covers, as the title notes, Sattouf’s first years of life, from 1978-1984 when the family lived very briefly in Paris as well as their time in Libya and Syria, his father’s homeland.

Sattouf’s mother comes across as a sympathetic figure but is not as fully developed as the character of his father. I often marveled at her ability to put up with the rudimentary conditions in which they were forced to live and while she seemed to do so without complaint for the most part, this is not to say that Sattouf portrays her as a pushover. She is surely a product of her era and her experiences living in lands so different from France, her country of origin. At times we see her stand up for herself, her family and her European values while still being mindful of the cultures in which finds herself (Libyan and Syrian). The author’s admiration for his mother and her ability to adapt is evident in his work. Her steadfast respect for herself and her children from a European perspective make me curious to read Sattouf’s next volumes in the series (there are three in total) to see how her relationship with her strong-minded husband evolves.

This first volume of Sattouf’s memoir is as much about his father as about himself. His father is always in search of a “better” life for himself, where he will receive the “recognition he deserves.” As the story begins, Abdel, Sattouf’s father, has recently received his doctorate in history from the Sorbonne. To put it to good use, he uproots the family, leaving France to accept a low-paying, low-prestige teaching position in Libya. He is a pan-Arabist whose sometimes inconsistent philosophy of life revolves around what Sattouf portrays as Abdel’s obsession with the Arab way of life getting the respect it deserves.

While Sattouf approaches his story with humor and makes us laugh at times, his frankness about the harshness to which he was sometimes subjected as a child can make us cringe. We learn about his bicultural experience through his personal perspective. As someone who is the product of a very different bicultural lifestyle, I found this fascinating and I am anxious to read the next two volumes in his autobiographical series.

Eve Lindemuth Bodeux

Eve Lindemuth Bodeux is a French to English translator and independent project manager who lives in Denver, CO.

Getting Certified: The Canadian Experience

ata-fld-newsletter-logo“You either have it or you don’t.” That’s what a lot of language professionals think about our profession. It’s what I thought when I was a university student studying abroad in France and I would listen to other American students speaking French, trying to determine if I was as good as they were. Ten years later, I decided for myself that I had a gift for languages—without anyone ever telling me so—and I decided to give freelance translation a try while living in Quebec City, Canada. It was only recently when I obtained the title of Certified Translator from the Corporation of Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters of New Brunswick (CTINB), however, that I felt that my opinion of myself was justified. While the road to certification was a bumpy one for me, it has turned out to be a positive and fulfilling experience that I would recommend to all translators, regardless of where you live.

First, let me give you some background information. Not having studied translation formally in school, when I first started out I didn’t realize that Canada had its own roster of translators associations, or that certification was even an option. After speaking with an acquaintance in the US who had told me that I needed to be certified in order to work for the company where he worked, I joined ATA and decided to start by completing a mentorship with an experienced translator. At the beginning of our mentorship, my mentor told me how she had failed the ATA certification exam twice before passing on her third try. Since I looked up to her and valued her advice, I figured that getting certified was essential in order to make it as a translator, and I decided to go for it on my next trip to the States. Unfortunately, after eventually failing twice myself, I decided that I would wait until trying again, thinking that I needed more experience and practice.

At the same time, since I didn’t know how long my husband and I would be living in Canada, I debated whether an American or Canadian certification would bring me the most benefit. I eventually heard about Quebec’s professional association, the Ordre des traducteurs terminologues et interprètes agréés du Québec (OTTIAQ), and started looking into their certification process. I learned that, in Canada, the titled of Certified Translator is granted by each province’s regulatory body, the Canadian Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Council (CTTIC), and that each province’s translators association has its own certification process. I was happy to find out that OTTIAQ offers a few different paths to certification, all of which take into account one’s educational background and professional experience and don’t necessarily involve an exam (more on that later). Given my specific experience, the only other criteria I had to fulfill before submitting my application for review was obtaining at least 5 years of experience.

Just before reaching the 5-year mark, my husband accepted a job offer in Saint John, New Brunswick, and more options became apparent to me after looking into New Brunswick’s certification process. Now, I not only had the option of taking an exam or having my qualifications reviewed, but I could also get certified by way of a mentorship. Given my experience with the ATA exam and the uncertainty of meeting the requirements for a “certification on dossier,” I opted for the mentorship in the hopes that my work would speak for itself, in the end.

I should note that, while ATA certification boosts your credibility in the United States, it is not required by all government agencies and, in some cases, a foreign certification will do. In Canada, however, certification is often required by the Translation Bureau in order to translate official documents for the government. And in New Brunswick—the only officially bilingual province in Canada—certification is mandatory. All the more reason for me to be certified.

Over the next 6 months, I submitted more than the minimum of 30,000 words to my mentor for her review and feedback. While my first few translations came back with a slew of comments (turns out I did need more practice), little by little I started seeing fewer and fewer revisions and, by the end of the mentorship, more than one document came back to me with no revisions at all. Although my mentor told me from the beginning that her aim was for me to go from a “very good translator to an excellent one,” I didn’t start to feel worthy of receiving the title of Certified Translator until she told me a few months into the mentorship that she was definitely going to recommend me for certification.

The big news came a few weeks after the end of the mentorship when I received word from the president of the CTINB that my mentor’s recommendation had been approved by the board and I was officially a certified French-to-English translator. Hooray! It was about time.

Looking forward, I hope to take advantage of the reciprocity agreement between the CTINB and Quebec’s association to have my certification recognized by OTTIAQ, as well as benefit from the liability insurance that the Order offers. As with ATA, there are many benefits to being a member of other translators associations; you just have to pick and choose which ones are most beneficial to you.

And who knows: maybe ATA’s new computerized exam will prove to be another way for me and many other translators to demonstrate our skills, in the conditions in which we feel most comfortable. It’s what I’m hoping for, at least!

Natalie Pavey is a French to English translator who specializes in French to English translation services in the fields of sustainable development, business communications and marketing.

À Propos: Book Review – Rien ne s’oppose à la nuit

ata-fld-newsletter-logoDelphine de Vigan’s Rien ne s’oppose à la nuit (Nothing Holds Back The Night) begins with its heartbreaking end: the suicide of her mother, Lucile. With suspense set aside, de Vigan instead sets to the task of “writing her mother” by uncovering and unraveling her life in a story that is part memoir and part novel.

Lucile was one of nine children in a chaotic, spirited but close-knit family. By the age of seven, she was working as a fashion model, which garnered her attention from those within her immediate circle as well as those who recognized her from her posters throughout Paris. Doted on by so many, she claims to have “paid the price for her beauty.” Though, even as she laments the attention, she is acutely aware that her changing body prevents her from continuing the work and she must stand aside while her younger sisters take her place. As she navigates her youth and adolescence, her family suffers more than its share of tragedy, the impact of which stays with Lucile as she emerges into adulthood. As she steadily grows older, her mental state also becomes increasingly unstable with frequent episodes of mania, depression, and delusion, setting the uneven rhythm for the rest of her life. Her tenuous grasp on reality, of course, also punctuates the lives of her two daughters, who survive her mother’s vacillations, but not unscathed.

While telling of the story of her mother, de Vigan interweaves her own journey to discover her and reach her in some way that she perhaps couldn’t as a child. She culls through letters and notes written by Lucile at various points in her life and during varying degrees of lucidity; a documentary video of the family recorded by a local TV station; nearly 50 hours of audio recordings from her grandfather; and interviews with as many members of her family as are willing to participate. The second half of the book shifts in tone and in speaker as de Vigan explores her own memories and intertwines them with everyone else’s allowing the reader to become a witness to a private exploration of suffering. She is aware that telling her mother’s story is a flawed and beautifully imperfect undertaking and she seems to prefer it that way. It is, after all, not unlike her mother.

Catherine Savino

Catherine Savino is a FR-EN translator, project manager, and writer originally from Detroit and currently living in sunny San Diego.