As a language, French is very close to English. There are many overlapping words between the two. However, French pronunciations are completely different, which makes English speakers unable to understand even when the French are using the same word. For example, in French, one always uses the soft “t” and the soft “d” rather than the hard ones. Plus, French has a much more stable grammar than English which can be all over the place! If you’re looking for a French translator, you don’t necessarily need someone with native fluency (although this helps) but someone who understands the structure of the language on a written level. Here are some of the qualities you might want to look for:
- Ability to read and write destination language with ease. Some people might be better at speaking French while others are better at reading and writing it. For translation purposes, you’re more interested in the latter. Of course, being able to speak with fluency usually helps but it’s not a requirement.
- Ability to understand the source language well. The person who is doing the translating needs to be bilingual. If they’re translating from English into French, they have to be able to understand English as well as French. If the person’s language skills in one language are stronger, they may not be able to translate as well.
- Ability to understand cultural nuances in French. The person must understand French culture so that s/he is able to come up with a translation that will appeal to French speakers. When translating certain idioms, you need to come up with new idioms in the destination language which match. For example, you might substitute “savoir-faire” for “know-how.”
- Ability to understand cultural nuances in English. If the person doesn’t understand American or English culture, they might not know how to translate certain idioms. There are a number of idioms which we use constantly in America, such as “What’s up?” You can’t directly translate this into French or your reader will end up looking at the ceiling!
- Cultural sensitivity. The translator should understand that certain words may have a benign meaning in one language but could end up sounding offensive in a different language. So it’s important to stay away from these.
If you’re looking for a French translator who has a good understanding of the French language and culture, contact us.