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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

Message in a bottle

Message in a bottle

A French love letter was found near Falmouth, Cornwall last week.

The beer bottle was found by Martin Leslie, a coastguard manager, and his family as they walked on Praa Sands, near Falmouth.

The bottle was poking out of the sand; its top was sealed with red candle wax. Inside was a three A4 pages handwritten in French and dated September 28th.

Mr Leslie had a go at translating the letter using the internet but could only decipher words relating to love, death and missing someone.

He assumed that the letter must be a suicide note and handed the letter to Falmouth Coastguards to pass onto their counterparts in France.

According to the Telegraph Mr Leslie said the woman said she and her lover shared magical moments together but that she understood that he had to return to his wife. She finished by saying she hoped to find another man like him with whom she could live a beautiful life.

The letter said ”These magic moments are pure secret. The secret of life and pleasure without limits. In twenty years, it will still be here, the previous moments of happiness, when life will get dreary, we will be able to tap into these memories to remember what it is to live again.”

Mr Leslie plans to keep hold of the letter which is unsigned and has no contact address on it.

Language Fracas Heats Up In Quebec

In Quebec, Canada’s sole French-speaking province, language has long been a contentious issue.  Now, the results of a recent survey performed by research agency CROP have added fuel to the fire.

To perform the survey, CROP interviewed 560 people who live in Quebec but did not grow up in French-speaking households. The participants were a mix of Anglos (Canadians who grew up in English-speaking households) and immigrants from other countries.

In its write-up of the results, local magazine L’actualité portrayed the results as devastating for the future of French in Quebec. The magazine cover featured a frog holding a sign that reads “Ici, on parle English” or “Here, we speak English.”

Inside, the article claimed that the survey results showed that young Anglos living in Quebec simply do not care about preserving the province’s historically French culture.

For example, only 37% agreed with the following statement:  “The predominant position of the French language is the key component of Montreal’s originality. Without it, the city would lose its soul.” Young English speakers also didn’t recognize local, French-speaking Quebec government figures and celebrities.

However,  most of Quebec’s anglos do in fact speak French, and 83 percent wanted their children to learn the language, too. Plus, surveys like this can be unreliable and this one had a rather small sample size.

Nonetheless, the government of Quebec has already taken action, encouraging the province’s “language watchdog” to take action more quickly, and finding the funds for the agency to hire more employees. One legislator has also proposed more stringent language rules.

However, according to  Globe and Mail columnist Lysiane Gagnon, these measures don’t get to the root of the problem:

“Nowhere in L’actualité’s issue on “the future of French” is there a word about the main reason of the (relative) decline of French in Montreal: the fact that the French-speaking middle class is leaving the city in droves to settle in the nearby suburbs.”

Image Credit: AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by Dougtone

french translation services

French Translation Services: 6 Essential Facts for Businesses

French is one of our most-requested languages here at K International, and with good reason. But there’s much more to French translation than meets the eye.  Here are six essential facts that businesses in the market for French translation services need to know.

Some French words should not be translated literally.

Here are just a few examples:

Soutien-gorge: Literal translation: “Throat support.” Actual meaning: “brassiere.”
Amuse-bouche: Literal translation: “Mouth fun.” Actual meaning: “appetizer.”
Pomme de terre: Literal translation: “Earth Apple.” Actual meaning: “Potato.”
Rabat-joie: Literal translation: “Joy reducer.” Actual meaning: “Party pooper.” We all know someone like that! Read more

The Language of Love

Valentine’s Day is approaching fast, a time when we express our love with cards and presents. Love is honoured on this day throughout the world.

Valentine’s Day is shrouded with myths of sacred marriage, fertility and romance. The true St. Valentine was a Christian saint but very little is known about him. Originally St Valentine’s Day was celebrated as a Christian feast but it was abandoned due to lack of solid information. There are many Valentine’s in history martyred by the church and until 1969 the Catholic Church actually celebrated 11 Valentine’s Days throughout the year.

Language is a very important part of the Valentine’s celebrations. Billions of cards are sent on Valentine’s making it the second most popular time to send cards behind Christmas. What is said in the card can mean so much to the receiver even when the sender sticks with tradition and sends their words anonymously.

There are certain languages which have an association with love, French and Italian being the most famous romantic languages.French has a reputation for being the language of love; its flowing sound makes it perfect for flamboyant love poems. Descending from Latin, French is one of the ‘romance languages’ and is spoken as a first language by approximately 128 million people around the world.

Valentine’s Day has no real connection with French but the perception is that the French are very romantic. This may or may not be true, I would guess that it depends on the individual but the smooth, romantic tones of their language impress people from around the world on this day for lovers.

Valentine’s Day has become a very commercial event perhaps we should do something extra special this year, learn a phrase in French and recite it to your loved one. Below we have included some examples to get you started….

Bonne Saint Valentin! – Happy Valentine’s Day!

Je t’aime – I love you

Mon amour pour toi est éternel – My love for you is eternal

Je t’aime de tout mon cœur – I love you with all my heart

À toi, pour toujours – Yours forever

Tendres baisers – Love and kisses

Je veux passer la reste de ma vie avec toi – I want to spend the rest of my life with you.

Tu es la femme de ma vie – you are the woman of my life (a man talking to a woman and telling her)

Un bouquet de fleurs – a bunch of flowers
Une bague – a ring

With it being Valentines Day those romantic men among you may want to ask….
Veux-tu m’épouser ? – Marry me? (Will you be my wife?)

Or if you want to be cheeky….
On va chez toi ou chez moi ? – Your place or mine?

The Language of Love

Valentine’s Day is approaching fast, a time when we express our love with cards and presents. Love is honoured on this day throughout the world.

Valentine’s Day is shrouded with myths of sacred marriage, fertility and romance. The true St. Valentine was a Christian saint but very little is known about him. Originally St Valentine’s Day was celebrated as a Christian feast but it was abandoned due to lack of solid information. There are many Valentine’s in history martyred by the church and until 1969 the Catholic Church actually celebrated 11 Valentine’s Days throughout the year.

Language is a very important part of the Valentine’s celebrations. Billions of cards are sent on Valentine’s making it the second most popular time to send cards behind Christmas. What is said in the card can mean so much to the receiver even when the sender sticks with tradition and sends their words anonymously.

There are certain languages which have an association with love, French and Italian being the most famous romantic languages.

French has a reputation for being the language of love; its flowing sound makes it perfect for flamboyant love poems. Descending from Latin, French is one of the ‘romance languages’ and is spoken as a first language by approximately 128 million people around the world.

Valentine’s Day has no real connection with French but the perception is that the French are very romantic. This may or may not be true, I would guess that it depends on the individual but the smooth, romantic tones of their language impress people from around the world on this day for lovers.

Valentine’s Day has become a very commercial event perhaps we should do something extra special this year, learn a phrase in French and recite it to your loved one. Below we have included some examples to get you started….

Bonne Saint Valentin! – Happy Valentine’s Day!

Je t’aime – I love you

Mon amour pour toi est éternel – My love for you is eternal

Je t’aime de tout mon cœur – I love you with all my heart

À toi, pour toujours – Yours forever

Tendres baisers – Love and kisses

Je veux passer la reste de ma vie avec toi – I want to spend the rest of my life with you.

Tu es la femme de ma vie – you are the woman of my life

Un bouquet de fleurs – a bunch of flowers
Une bague – a ring

With it being Valentines Day those romantic men among you may want to ask….
Veux-tu m’épouser ? – Marry me? (Will you be my wife?)

Or if you want to be cheeky….
On va chez toi ou chez moi ? – Your place or mine?

twitter changes French language

How Twitter is Changing French

We all know that technology is changing the English language, adding new words and bringing shorthand like LOL and WTF even into spoken conversations.

However, English isn’t the only language that’s being affected by the rise of new forms of communication like Twitter and Facebook.

If you’ve studied Spanish, French or a related language, you’ll remember having to learn two forms “you,” one used to address friends and family and another used to address strangers, older adults and people otherwise ranked higher than you in the social hierarchy.

As the BBC recently covered, however, on Twitter, the formal “you” is hardly ever used. After all, it’s somewhat difficult to determine social status based on an avatar.

As Anthony Besson, a young Frenchman and Twitter user interviewed for the article put it,

“In the philosophy of the internet, we are among peers, equal, without social distinction, whatever your age, gender, income or status in real life.”

Professor Antonio Casilli, who teaches Digital Humanities at Telecom ParisTech, told the BBC that using (or requiring someone else to use) “vous” on Twitter goes against this philosophy, making it “a major break in the code of communication… an attempt to reaffirm asymmetric social roles… a manifestation of distance that compromises social cohesion.”

But don’t consign “vous” to the trash heap of history just yet. At the moment, there’s a bit of a culture clash going on. Most people still see using “vous” as a way to show respect, and some see using “tu” uninvited as an insult.

For example, last year news magazine director Laurent Joffrin confronted a follower on Twitter for using “tu” without permission. While his follower probably didn’t mean to insult him with the informal address, Joffrin was showered with a flurry of deliberate online insults for his trouble.

Somewhat ironically, he accuses people who use “tu” on Twitter of trying to implement their own hierarchy. He told the BBC,

“It doesn’t bring people together, it heightens tensions. It’s an appalling culture. People on Twitter would never dare to go up to someone in the street and call them ‘tu’ because it’s a form of violence – you see drivers insulting each other using ‘tu’. In big cities especially, you need respect and courtesy. And on Twitter, there isn’t respect.”

As the online world and the offline world increasingly bleed into each other, it will be interesting to see how this trend shakes out.

 

NYC French Language Bookstore Set to Close

Librarie de France bookstore in New York City which specialises in French Language books looks set to close after being in business for 74 years. Librarie de France has said it is being forced to close because of the high rental costs that threatened to triple to $1 million a year. According to store owner Emanuel Molho the shop lease ends on the 30th September 2009.

Molho is quoted as saying: “New York is becoming impossible for retail”.

Librarie de France is world famous and is the only bookstore of its kind in the United States. Each member of staff who works in the bookstore can speak at least two languages. The business was started by Molho’s father, Isaac in 1928. In 1935, the shop moved to its current location, the La Maison Francaise building near the Rockefeller Centre skating rink.

It’s a shame that such a specialist language bookstore will go out of business due to the extortionate rents being imposed on New York’s retail businesses.