Oops! Mistranslated French

No Word-for-Word

The sad part in human translation services is that exact translations are not always the BEST translations; sometime trans-creation is needed to achieve best quality translations. Mostly it is proverbs and sayings, which are so colorful and fanciful hence result in literal translations that would startle and cause apprehension. It is always fun to learn some French proverbs, it is an essential ingredient to become fluent in the language. Using some appropriate proverbs into your speech help you in acculturation and appear more local.

Oops image

Fun with Miss Translation

It is best to speak the new language you are learning; and even better if you practice some irritating and pretentious proverbs. It is very amusing to give very literal translations.

The new trick:

“on n’apprend pas aux vieux singes à faire des grimaces”

Literal meaning: ‘you can’t teach old monkeys to make faces!’

Fair English translation: ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’

but it’s much more fun to use the literal version.

The one about the youth:

“si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait”

Literal meaning: ‘Youth is wasted on the young,’

Fair English Translation: ‘If youth only knew, if old age only could.’

It captures a sadness that comes with experience that I find very affecting, and lacks the English version’s cynicism.

“un malheur ne vient jamais seul”

Literal meaning: ‘misfortune never arrives alone’ 

Fair English Translation: ‘When it rains, it pours’ but the literal translation

Of course, translation professionals have an odd sense of humor as well as sense of language. Which is why the profession is joined with so much solitude!

Advertisements