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Outrage over French Eurovision Song

French MP Jacques Myard, of the UMP party,was outraged that the song chosen to represent France in last years Eurovision Song Contest had English lyrics.

This year’s Eurovision Song Contest will take place on the 16th of  May in Moscow and the song chosen to represent France will be sung in French (this time). Forty three countries will be taking part; the show is very popular drawing in a television audience of 200 million viewers from Europe and beyond.

The song which was chosen to represent France last year was entitled ‘Divine’,  it combined both English and French lyrics with electro euro pop.

According to the BBC the culture minister in France defended the song saying, the country should fully support his (Sebastien Tellier – Singing ‘Divine’ for France) bid for victory.

Many countries choose to sing in English. Statistically you are more likely to win the competition when singing in English, according to information released by Eurovision.

Dutch or French? The Line Between the Two Threatens to Divide Belgium

Belgium is like two countries rolled up into one-French-speaking Wallonia and Dutch-speaking Flanders. Soon, the tension between the two may split the country apart.

French and Dutch spoken in Belgium

The conflict between the two language groups goes back to when the country was founded in the 19th century. At that time, the country’s ruling class spoke French. In fact, if you wanted to be anyone in Belgium, you had to learn to speak French even if you grew up speaking Dutch. However, the majority of the people in Flanders, a slim majority of the population Belgian population as a whole, speaks Dutch (or Flemish). Over time, the Flemings were able to make Dutch the official language of Flanders, while French remained the official language of Wallonia.

A recent article in The Guardian describes just how fragile this linguistic compromise has become: Walloons and Flemings live apart, work apart and generally don’t marry. In the few bilingual communities, French-speaking students learn in separate classrooms from their Dutch-speaking counterparts. The tension between the two groups has left the government crippled.

The article quotes Jeroen Vermeiren, a Flemish bookseller just outside Brussels, who reassured the newspaper that:

“We won’t fall into madness, like Serbia and Croatia. But it creates great emotions on both sides.”

The Guardian wryly notes that while the two halves of Belgium are divided by language and culture, there is something that unites them: the national debt. The article compares the two sides to:

“a couple trapped in a loveless marriage, eyeing divorce but unable to agree on the mortgage liabilities,” and says that “the Flemings and the Walloons may be stuck together because of the cost of splitting up.”

Shared debt is not a good foundation for a country any more than it is for a marriage. Hopefully, the two sides are able to work something out and move ahead amicably, either as fellow citizens or just as neighbors.

French Readers Devour "50 Shades of Grey" Translation

50 Shades of Grey may have effortlessly taken the English-speaking world by storm, but what about the French? The answer may surprise you.

After all, in the country that gave us the Marquis de Sade, you’d expect readers to have more discriminating tastes when it comes to sadomasochism. French literary critics most certainly did. Here’s a sampling of the book’s critical reception, from the Daily Mail:

  • ‘It exposes the cultural gulf between the Anglo-Saxon hypocrisy and the old authentic sado-masochism of the French.’ — Les Inrocks Magazine
  • ‘Some couples may say it has helped their sex lives by reading it, but it’s as close to literature as Whiskas cat food is to gastronomy.’ — L’Express

And one more from the Guardian:

  • “It’s 50 shades of boredom.” — Slate.fr

The critics in France must have been sorely disappointed by the reactions of their countrywomen, as according to the Daily Mail the translation has become “the fastest selling book in French history.”

Here’s how Isabelle Laffont, managing director of JC Lattès, the book’s French publisher, explained the book’s appeal to the Guardian:

“We have been pleasantly surprised by the way the book has been received. Everyone says it’s not literature, which is true, but we are promoting it as the story of love like you have never read before. For the first time this is a book that is erotic but also about love. Previous books have had the eroticism but have been rather brutal, but this is a love story. It’s a bit hot in places, but it’s not perverse and the heroine is not a victim.”

Other possible explanations:

  • Curiosity killed the cat. (If you’re curious and haven’t read it yet, this post from the Everywhereist might help you resist the urge.)
  • Sometimes, you don’t want fine champagne and brie….you just want to curl up on the couch with a bottle of cheap wine and a box of Twinkies. This would be the literary equivalent of doing just that.
Cloud Computing, C'est Quoi En Français ?

Cloud Computing, C’est Quoi En Français ?

It is becoming increasingly difficult for the French language to keep up with the pace of technology, according to this article in the Wall Street Journal. New buzzwords like “cloud computing,” “social media” and “web 2.0” are introduced frequently, and since new French translations for English words have to be created by a committee and approved by France’s General Commission of Terminology and Neology and other regulatory bodies, the French language often lags behind.

For example, the Wall Street Journal notes that it took a committee that specialises in coming up with French equivalents for English computing technology terms 18 months to come up with a translation for cloud computing. The result, “informatique en nuage,” which literally means “computing on a cloud,” was deemed unsatisfactory.

So, until the committee comes up with a new translation, the French language is left without a standard term to describe what Wikipedia defines as “a style of computing in which dynamically scalable and often virtualised resources are provided as a service over the Internet.”

In the Wall Street Journal article, Xavier North, the head of the General Delegation, defends the approval process, saying, “Rigor cannot be compromised.” However, at this rate, by the time they get a translation approved, “cloud computing” will be old news instead of the “next big thing.”

Each year, about 300 new French terms make it through the approval process to become part of the French language. Creating French alternatives to imported English phrases is an important part of keeping the French language healthy and relevant, but it seems like the process needs to move a little bit faster to keep up with the increased pace of technological change.

To ensure you get the best quality from your language project choose a trusted provider. Our French translation services are relied on by governments and businesses worldwide, contact us today to find out more

 

French: Language of Tomorrow?

What do you think the most valuable foreign language will be in the future?  For most of you, Mandarin (or standard) Chinese was probably the first language that came to mind. That’s not an unreasonable assumption, considering China’s size and ascendency in the world economy.

However, data released by investment bank Natixis suggests that the most widely spoken language of the future might be something a little less predictable: Parlez-vous français, anyone?

Really? French? What is this, the 1800’s? These days, American writers can achieve almost instant viral success by writing editorials describing the relative unimportance of the French language. For example, in The New Republic, Jphn McWhorter asked

“One learns French to communicate with … who, exactly? Some will yearn to read Sartre and Molière; more power to them. But what about languages like Spanish and Chinese, which are useful to learn because we encounter them in everyday life?”

It’s true, right now there are “only” about 75 million native French speakers, and about 387 million people speaking it as either a first or second language. Compared to about 960 million native Mandarin Chinese speakers, that seems like small potatoes.

However, many French-speaking countries are located in Africa, with a rapidly growing population. So, according to Natixis, by 2050 we’ll have around 750 million French speakers, equivalent to or slightly more than the number of Mandarin speakers expected at that time.

As Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry notes in Forbes, the projections may not be entirely accurate because Natixis is assuming that every person born in an officially French-speaking country will speak French. This is unlikely to be the case; local and tribal languages will undoubtedly continue to be  spoken. However, overly optimistic projections aside, he believes

“The point still stands: French is still a fast-growing, global language. The other mooted language of the future, Mandarin, despite being excruciatingly hard to learn for most Westerners, will probably not be that given China’s certain demographic slide. Meanwhile, French will be present on all continents, and particularly predominant in a continent that, by 2050, should be a fast-growing economic powerhouse–Africa.”

What do you think?

Photo: AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by quinn.anya

Google Fined Over French Books

According to the BBC a Paris court has fined Google 300,000 euros (£266,000) in damages and interest for copyright infringement of books owned by French publisher La Martiniere.

La Martiniere was one of many publishers to take Google to court for digitising books without explicit permission.

Google have also been told that they will have to pay 10,000 euros a day until it has removed extracts of the books from its database.

Google had planned to scan millions of books to make them available online; this ruling may have ramifications for this plan.

The BBC report that this case will be seen as a victory for critics of the plan who fear Google is creating a monopoly over information.

The publisher Herve de la Martiniere launched his court case three years ago but Google continued to scan books throughout this time.

This is a big set back for the web giant Google.

Is Cajun French in Danger?

If you’ve ever visited the state of Louisiana, a deep French cultural influence was probably one of the first things you noticed. French is everywhere…in the names of the towns, parishes and places, in the lyrics of Cajun music, and in the names of typical Cajun dishes like boudin and andouille sausages.

However, over the past 50 years, it’s become much less common to find the language in the one place that matters most for its survival: the lips of people, particularly young people.

Early in the 20th century, the Louisiana government began trying to suppress the use of French in favor of English. According to the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, children were actually punished for speaking French in school starting in 1915. The Seattle Times reports that in 1968, there were still about a million French speakers in Louisiana, but today that estimate is down to at most 200,000 when you add up all the different French dialects spoken in the state.

Meanwhile, the government’s efforts have shifted gears, from trying to eliminate French in schools to encouraging it via immersion programs in historically French-speaking parishes.

Sue Vasseur, manager of popular Cajun bar Fred’s Lounge, told reporters that the immersion programs give her hope:

“I’m hoping it’s going to continue. They are teaching French in our schools here now in Mamou and Evangeline Parish. So I think possibly some of it will rub off on our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren.”

Immersion programs help, but they aren’t a panacea. As Gwen Duplechin of Butte La Rose observed in the article, “you have to keep it up or it doesn’t work.” Her own granddaughter went to a French immersion school, but lost touch with the language afterwards.

In this respect, the future of French in Louisiana seems most secure in the city of Lafayette, where it is spoken with some frequency in everyday life, by people of all ages.

Unfortunately, this year Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal put the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana’s budget under the knife, which will make finding teachers for the immersion program more difficult and severely affect other efforts to preserve the language.

Given the lifelong advantages that growing up bilingual gives children in terms of cognition, investing in immersion programs for kids seems like a no-brainer. The region’s unique cultural heritage is preserved, kids reap the additional benefits of growing up bilingual…how is this not a win-win situation?

Photo Credit: Attribution Some rights reserved by Cajun Byrd

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

Does the UK Need More Foreign Language Speakers?

Is the UK facing a shortage of foreign language speakers in the near future?  That seems to be the case, a new study from the CBI confirms.

Last year, the British Council released a report describing the potential economic harm caused by not having enough UK workers with the right foreign language skills.

The 2014 CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey supports those conclusions. According to the CBI survey, two thirds of UK employers prefer to hire employees with foreign language skills.

Which languages are companies looking for? The most requested language was French, with 50% of businesses looking to hire French speakers. 49% were looking for German speakers, and 44% were looking for Spanish speakers. However, the number of businesses looking for Mandarin and Arabic speakers is growing. For example, 31% of the firms surveyed considered Mandarin a  useful language for their business. In 2012, only 25 percent did. Likewise, demand for Arabic language skills is up 4 percent since 2012.

In a statement,  CBI deputy director general Katja Hall expressed concern about the number of UK students learning these languages:

“With the EU still our largest export market, it’s no surprise to see German, French and Spanish language skills so highly prized by companies. But with China and Latin America seeing solid growth, ambitious firms want the language skills that can smooth the path into new markets. It has been a worry to see foreign language study in our schools under pressure with one in five schools having a persistently low take-up of languages. The jury remains out as to whether recent government initiatives can help spur a resurgence in language learning. Young people considering their future subject choices should be made more aware of the benefits to their careers that can come from studying a foreign language.”

To address this problem, the  government is making foreign  languages mandatory in UK schools starting at age seven.

Is there anything else we should be doing to encourage British children to learn foreign languages? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Photo Credit: Attribution Some rights reserved by mklapper

No Hashtags, Please, We’re French

In recent years, the guardians of the French language have had trouble keeping up with the influx of English-language loanwords from the tech world. Buzzwords like “cloud computing” and services like Twitter and Facebook leave an unmistakable, and unmistakably English, impact on the language. Read more