French Idioms

French Idioms

French Idioms and their English Equivalents

An idiom is an expression whose meaning cannot be deduced from the literal definitions of the words that make up the expression. In other words you couldn’t look up the meaning of each word in a dictionary and comprehend the meaning of the sentence.

Idioms are often deeply ingrained into our culture, going back many generations and used without thinking. Idioms are often funny when taken out of context or spoken to a student of English (who will have no choice but to take the meaning literally). “It’s raining cats and dogs” does not mean that there are cats and dogs falling out of the sky. This makes idioms very hard to translate and represent effectively in a foreign language.

To illustrate how funny idioms can be we have prepared a list of French Idioms and their English equivalents below.

If you have a translation project that involves the use of idioms or colloquialisms please highlight their use in the source text before sending them to K International. We offer a transcreation service that will allows us to re-engineer the text making it suitable for the market in which it is intended for, in other words we will not translate “it’s raining cats and dogs” literally we’ll use ‘Il pleut des cordes’ if the text is for the French speaking market in France.

French Idiom
(English Translation)
English Equivalent
Il pleut des cordes
(it’s raining ropes)
I’s raining cats and dogs
Avoir une dent contre quelqu’un
(to have a tooth against someone)
To have a grudge against someone
C’est la fin des haricots!
(It’s the end of the beans)
That’s the last straw
Chercher midi à quatorze heures
(To look for midday at 2pm)
To over complicate things
Etre trempé jusqu’aux os
(To be soaked to the bones)
To be soaked to the skin
Faire choux blanc
(to make white cabbage)
To draw a blank
Faire d’une pierre deux coups
(To hit twice with the same stone)
To kill two birds with one stone
Panne d’oreiller
(pillow failure)
To sleep in (usually when you are late for work / an appointment)
Se noyer dans un verre d’eau
(To drown in a glass of water)
To make a mountain out of a molehill
tirer les plans sur la comète
(to draw up plans on the comet)
To count one’s chickens before they’ve hatched
Voir 36 chandelles
(to see 36 candles)
To see stars
Vouloir le beurre et l’argent du beurre
(To want the butter and the money for the butter)
To want your cake and eat it too

Diary of a Translator

Translation is never an easy task, and translating literature is especially difficult. However, to those outside of the translation industry, it’s a task that can seem deceptively simple. After all, the text is already written; how hard can it be to change the words to another language?

To help counter that perception, Daniel Hahn of FreeWordCentre.com is blogging each step of his translation of Brazilian author Carola Saavedra’s novel Flores Azuis from Portuguese to English. This translation diary gives the reader an inside look at all of the countless decisions and considerations that go into translating a novel from one language to another, a task that Hahn refers to as “both simple and impossible.”

As Hahn notes in a the 4th entry, entitled “infidelity,” a good translation is never a simple matter of swapping one word out for another, “because two languages never map onto each other word for word, and there’s something happening in the Portuguese that isn’t happening in the English, just because of the way the two languages work differently.” In this case, he is trying to decide how he wants to signal the gender of the narrator to the reader. Portuguese is a gendered language, so in the original text this information is signaled by the gender of adjectives the narrator uses to describe herself, with no need to explicitly state that she is a woman. When translating to English, he must find a way to indicate her gender without sounding awkward.

Read through the series to see how much thought goes in to providing an accurate translation that maintains all the subtleties of the original text. Then, ask yourself if you can really rely on anything less than a skilled translator to translate for your business!

Photo Credit: Attribution Some rights reserved by Leyram Odacrem

Autumn colours of Shinjuku

Picture Postcards from Tokyo

Being part of a company working with languages every day really helps stoke the desire to travel. I have just returned from another trip to Tokyo, my third time in as many years. If you have followed some of my previous articles you may be forgiven for thinking I am developing something of an affinity for the place. It’s true, I think if I could, I would relocate there in heartbeat. Read more

The Manslater

Too good not to share, this is the perfect gift this Christmas for the guy who has everything. Hope it helps (I’ve already ordered one).

One Ring To Translate

People who are deaf or hard of hearing and use sign language to communicate may soon get some extra help when it comes to translation, thanks to a sign language translation ring under development by a group of designers from Asia University.

The device consists of a set of rings and two bracelets that sense and interpret finger, hand and wrist movements made by the user. The signs are translated into words, which are relayed to the user’s conversation partner via a speaker. The device also translates spoken words into writing, which is shown on an LED display on the bracelet.

The sign language ring won the 2013 Red Dot Design award. If it makes it through the development phase and out to the general public, it could provide a streamlined, convenient way to help the deaf and hard-of-hearing interact with the hearing world.

However, as with many high-tech translation concepts, the devil is in the details. Questions remain about how accurately the device will be able to translate sign language. As it stands now, it’s certainly not a replacement for a human interpreter. As Howard Rosenblum, the CEO of US organization the National Association for the Deaf, explained to ABC News:

“American Sign Language encompasses more than what would be measured in the wrist and fingers. ASL relies on wrist movements, handshapes, finger-spelling, body movements and facial expressions. The National Association of the Deaf encourages the developers of this emerging technology to work with the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, and the hearing community, to ensure that their innovative product meets our needs.”

Despite these drawbacks, if the Sign Language Ring makes it into production, it could be a welcome tool for everyday situations like shopping. What do you think of it?

Photo credit: © | Dreamstime.com

You Can Haz Spanish!

Last month, we wrote about the potentially dire consequences of the UK’s foreign language shortage for our economy. How do we get more people to learn another language? As it turns out, the common housecat  may hold the key.

Say what? According to research performed by a company called Memrise, people retain information better when it is presented in the form of cute cat pictures. As Memrise COO Ben Whately explained to the BBC:

“We wanted to know what kinds of visual mnemonics were most effective at helping people to learn fast. The pattern began to emerge that pictures of cats always featured disproportionately among the most effective.”

Now, you can channel your obsession with funny cat memes into something productive: learning another language. Read more

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