Five Major Challenges of English to French Translation

Did you know that the English language is comprised of around 45% of French origin? The French language, derived from Vulgar Latin, is a Romance language and boasts a huge population of 280 million speakers worldwide. In fact, the French language is the only language besides English in all the continents with this many speakers, with 68 million speakers. Not surprisingly, it is the second most widely spoken language in Europe. Need English to French translation? We have got you covered!

Due to its Romance origin, French has a Germanic heritage and lends many words to the English language. It is also referred to as a ‘global language of reference’ and is the only other working language among the 6 official languages of the United Nations, besides English. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that it is one of the 3 procedural languages in the European Union and is used in its proceedings as well.

With this much global reach and acclaim, it’s not difficult to see why businesses are interested in translating their English language content into the French language. As more people join the fold to hire expert French translators, the popularity of English to French translation is increasing.

However, it is important to note here that translating a modern language like English to the Romance language of French is no easy task, particularly due to the varying linguistic roots of these languages.

This is the reason why translation from English to French poses some challenges which are:

1. Multiple French variations

Similar to the variations in the spoken English language of the UK, North America, and Australia, the French language also comes with its own variations, with differences in French spoken in Belgium, the Middle East, France, Canada, and the USA.

Although these differences are most prominent in pronunciations, the cultural differences in formalities, grammar, food, and everyday items make these languages unique from each other. Obviously, these cultural differences will have to be kept in consideration when translating between the two languages.

The Solution:

In order to deal with the challenge of multiple variations, it is always a good idea to identify which variation of French is spoken in the region you aim to target. This is important as a failure to correctly pinpoint the type of French spoken can create confusion and frustration among your target audience. Additionally, before hiring translators, it is important to ensure they have the translation expertise in the specific area you aim to target.

2. The Length of French

It is common knowledge that not all languages are of the same length—some are long languages while others are short. Take for example the Chinese language, which is a short language owing to its characters. On the other hand, the French language is a long language, with French translations being 15-20% longer than their English counterparts.

This makes the translation from English to French a very tricky and challenging task, with problems arising with respect to space and design, particularly in the case of website and user interface translations.

The Solution

The solution for managing the length of text in translation—especially if you are translating a user interface or an app store description, is to take help from a certified and professional translator who knows how to create shorter text while making sure the original meaning remains intact. 

Provide Translation from English Language to French language

3. The Cultural Markers of French

Every language has its own cultural requirement which is apparent from the level of formality built into it. The French language, too, has a formal pronoun of “you” (called vous), with more formal titles used as a sign of respect, depending on the region. These cultural markers make French a unique and distinct language from the rest of the languages.

The Solution

The solution lies in finding an expert translator who has ample experience in translating for a wide range of audiences belonging to different demographics. 

The Cultural Markers of French

4. The Differences in Grammar

Owing to their different language origins, English and French languages have some variations in grammar. These differences are apparent in gender, syntax, verbs, and adjectives. For example, the French variation in word order is completely different from the Subject-Verb-Object structure of English.

Sentences like “I sometimes play volleyball” in English can translate into “I play sometimes volleyball” in French syntax which does not make sense at all. Similarly, with respect to gender, French is a two-gender language, which means that nouns are assigned genders. Interestingly, there are no rules as to which nouns are feminine and which are masculine, making it extremely confusing for English speakers.

The Solution

To manage the subtle differences in grammar, the expertise of native grammar is a must. Seek a translator who owns native expertise and picks the differences between gender and syntax easily. 

5. English and French look the same

This challenge poses a huge confusion for translators of English to the French language. Despite their varying origins, many words in English and French look deceptively similar, even though they have completely different definitions. This is because French has evolved from Latin, which has influenced the English language.

Consequently, English and French share many common words from Latin whose definitions have evolved differently over time. For example, the word Avertissement in French may seem like something associated with marketing and advertisement, when in fact it means warning. Similarly, déception in French means a serious lie, but it means “disappointment” when translated into English. 

The Solution

The solution to this problem is to hire an expert bilingual translator who has fluency in both English and French. In addition, you can always do a little digging yourself and find out which words seem like English but hold completely different meanings in French. Make sure to keep the two meanings in mind when translating from English to French and vice versa.

The Last Word

The French language may be one of the most widely spoken languages, with speakers in all 5 continents of the world, but the English language is a universal one. This is why when the need for French translation arises, it is necessary to hire an expert translator from a reputed translation agency who has expertise in both English and French. This will ensure that no errors occur during translation.

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