FLD Continuing Education Series – Episode 10: State of the FLD Fall 2017

Eve, Jenn, Angela - L to R
Eve, Jenn, Angela – L to R

Welcome to the tenth episode of the French Language Division’s Continuing Education Series podcast.

The main focus of this podcast is the craft of translation (English > French and French > English). It also provides a forum for the Division Administrator and Assistant Administrator to give a State of the FLD address. The purpose of this episode is to let members know what is happening with the FLD.

In today’s episode, FLD Administrator Eve Bodeux and FLD Assistant Administrator Jenn Mercer join Angela Benoit for the third State of the Division episode (episode 10 of the entire series). Get the latest on all things FLD, including a sneak preview of what your Division is planning for the upcoming the 58th American Translators Association Conference to be held in Washington, DC in October 2017.

List of links mentioned in this episode:

SOUNDCLOUD: You may access Episode 10 and other podcast episodes on SoundCloud here. On SoundCloud, you can listen to the episode in your browser or download a copy of this episode directly to your computer.

ITUNES: This episode and the entire podcast series are also available on iTunes here. On iTunes, you can subscribe or listen online.


FLD Meet-Up at the 58th ATA Conference Being Held in Washington, DC in October 2017

French Language Division Mixer/Meet-Up

When: Thursday, October 26, 2017 – from 6 to 7 pm

Washington, DC – The Sidecar Bar (at the conference hotel, the Washington Hilton)

In addition to the official FLD dinner, the French Language Division will also be holding an informal mixer/meet-up at the Sidecar bar at the conference hotel, on the Thursday evening of the conference. This informal event does not require reservations and the only cost is what you order at the bar.

Take advantage of this opportunity to meet your fellow FLD members in a relaxed environment, check in with old friends and make new connections. Feel free to drop in to this casual event for a few minutes or stay for the entire hour. This will also be a great place to organize your own dinner with FLD colleagues if you are unable to attend the official dinner.*

*This year’s official FLD dinner will be on Friday, October 27, 2017, at 7 pm and must be reserved and paid for in advance. See the FLD website for more details: https://www.ata-divisions.org/FLD/2017/08/15/fld-dinner-ata58/. Please be aware that we do expect the official dinner to sell out.

FLD Dinner in Washington, DC for ATA’s 58th Annual Conference – Sign Up Now!


The French Language Division’s dinner at the Washington, DC conference will be held at La Tomate Italian Bistro. We hope to see you there!

We expect this event to sell out. 

Friday, October 27 at 7:00 p.m.

La Tomate Italian Bistro
1701 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20009


~ SALAD – you will choose one of the following: Mozzarella over Vegetable Caponata – OR-  House Salad

~ ENTRÉE – you will choose one of the following: Fusilli – OR – Pork – OR – Salmon

~ DESSERT – Tiramisu

Note: Drinks are not included.


Price: $56.00 per person and this includes three-course dinner, tax, and gratuity.

NOTE: All non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages will be the diner’s responsibility and are *not* included.

Payment for the dinner must be made in advance by PayPal (https://www.paypal.com/us/home) to andie.n.ho@gmail.com and received, on or before Friday, October 9, or before the event sells out.

Please select the “send money to friends and family” option so that the FLD is not charged additional PayPal fees.

IMPORTANT NOTE: We do not provide refunds. You may sell or give your ticket to another conference attendee to attend in your place. If you do so, please notify us of the update, but the FLD does not provide refunds once a spot for the dinner has been purchased.


From the conference hotel, the Washington Hilton, La Tomate Italian Bistro is a 10-minute walk, one mile
along Connecticut Ave NW. For those who’d like to walk as a group, we’ll meet up in the conference hotel lobby at around 6:45 p.m.


Contact us at divisionfld@atanet.org.

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.

Some Thoughts on Translating Poincaré


At the American Translators Association (ATA) conference in San Francisco in November 2016, I talked about Translating Poincaré. Instead of providing a summary for this blog of what turned out to be a very interesting talk, I’d like to discuss some related points that didn’t make it into that talk. My presentation discussed the book I translated, Sur le problème des trois corps et les équations de la dynamique, by Henri Poincaré. The book transformed the study of orbits in the solar system. Before the book was published, the motion of planets in the solar system, governed by Newton’s deterministic laws of motion and gravitation, was thought to run like clockwork, and most efforts were focused on the computation of positions of the planets and effective methods for doing those computations. In his book, Poincaré instead studied the differential equations (the actual mathematical form of the laws of motion) and their properties as a specific example of a dynamical system and was able to build the mathematical proofs and tools of dynamical systems theory. After the book’s publication, it was known that the stability of the solar system is not assured since it could be subject to chaotic behavior like other dynamical systems. Since the conference, I have signed a publishing contract with the publishing company Springer, and they are preparing my translation for publication.

Why this book?

I first heard of this book either around 1978 while I was an undergraduate at Cornell University or around 1982 while I was a graduate student in the astronomy department at Harvard University. I no longer remember the particular time or context although there are a few conceivable possibilities.

What is clear, many years later, is that I was in an environment that recognized, respected and understood (on some level) the importance of this book. And, it did so despite two obstacles. The first was of course its age; it was published in 1890. The other obstacle, from the perspective of a US academic environment, was the language; it was written in formal French with a specialized vocabulary demanded by the subject matter. In 1982, I spoke French that was fully adequate for many purposes. Yet it then seemed to me unlikely that I would be able to read and understand Poincaré’s work, so I made no effort to try. Together, this means that the book was a classic, but inaccessible to a large readership even though its existence was well known.

On the way from 1985 (when I was awarded a PhD) to 2014, my life and career experienced some strange twists and turns and sharp bumps and jolts. By then I’d become an established, independent translator from French into English working mostly with complex technical subjects.

One of the distressing realities of freelance work is the unpredictable switch between frenetic feeding frenzy and frustrating famine. In the spring of 2014, during one such famine, I started to look for stimulating intellectual activity to fill the time until the next feeding frenzy hit. I immediately focused my search on potential projects that could make a connection back to what I had once been: an astronomer and mathematical-physicist

In fairly short order I had a few ideas for projects involving dynamics and the stability of rotating astrophysical fluids. I talked to some people. I tried to assess the effort and resources that might be needed. While this route seemed plausible, it didn’t grab hold of my interest and hang on.

At the same time, my interest in Henri Poincaré’s work resurfaced. I found Poincaré to be a compelling author. I was very interested in carefully understanding what Poincaré had written. What better way to do that than to translate his book? I quickly found that it was easy to find scanned images of his works online. (The website hosted by the Université de Lorraine for the Henri Poincaré Papers, and its bibliography in particular, is very useful.) In addition to this book, I also looked at Les méthodes nouvelles de la mécanique céleste and his three books popularizing science (La Science et l’hypothèse, La Valeur de la science and Science et méthode).

These last four books all had existing translations of unknown quality. It was also clear that typesetting the equations in Sur le problème and Les méthodes nouvelles would require a significant effort. On the other hand, I recognized that I would likely find that effort satisfying. My presentation at the ATA conference discussed what was involved in typesetting the equations for one page.

I prepared a sample translation of a chapter from La Science et l’hypothèse, and after discussions with Maria Ascher and Michael Fischer—then at Harvard University Press—I decided to dive in and start translating Sur le problème, motivated by my interest in the author and subject.

As paying translation work flowed in, I translated patents and documents for clinical trials, and as that work ebbed, I went back to translating mathematical physics. In that way, I got two things that really interested me: stimulating intellectual activity and close, detailed study of a book and author that had long interested me.

Errors and Typos in the Source

The published version of Poincaré’s book that reached the public had a limited amount of lint, or distracting errors of a typographic nature not affecting the fabric of the work. I found twenty-six. For example, in one place the equation numbers advance from 3 to 5, and equation 4 does not appear anywhere else in that section. Nothing can be done about an error like that during translation, and so the error is replicated. On the other hand, on the next page the first subscript, ,was incorrect, but I could easily correct it to . With other similar errors, I corrected them unobtrusively.

My Approach to the Translation

In preparing this translation, I tried to keep several objectives in sight. The first was accessibility. At one level, this objective is valid for any translation. The purpose of translation is to take a document which was written (and therefore accessible) in one language and fit for one particular purpose and render it in another language (making it accessible in that language too), where it is fit for the same purpose or some analog thereof. In this instance, I understood that purpose to be a scholarly presentation of Poincaré’s ideas and approach to studying and understanding dynamical systems, and particularly the general three-body problem. This implicitly includes the ideas of time and audience: one hundred twenty-five years later, the expected audience for my translation is English-speaking people knowledgeable in dynamical systems wishing to understand how a foundational classic of the field established and set its direction.

Looking deeper, there was also the issue of voice. In the translation I tried to avoid speaking in my own voice, meaning retelling in my words what Poincaré wrote, and tried to follow closely what and how Poincaré wrote, letting his voice come through while respecting the standards of grammar, syntax and phrasing expected in contemporary, professional US English.

Essential to both of these is the matter of accuracy. In preparing my translation, I worked through and sought to understand what Poincaré was writing about so that I would be able to accurately present it in my translation. I then checked and rechecked this translation to eliminate any misunderstanding, inconsistency or infelicity that might have gotten through anyway. I am human, so I can be certain that I was not fully successful despite my best effort.

My opinion that this is a classic of the literature of mathematical physics that deserves to be understood, and that Poincaré merits the recognition and credit that follows from that understanding, was fundamental to my effort and motivation.

Bruce D. Popp

Bruce D. Popp, Ph.D. is a French into English scientific and technical translator.