Studying French – Avoiding the English Translation Lure


One of many biggest sources of errors in French is word-for-word translation. For instance, you already know that the French verb finir means “to complete”. Then je suis fini should imply “I am completed” or “I am completed”, proper? Probably not. This widespread mistake truly means “I am all washed up”. It might be way more right to say j’ai fini or j’ai terminé. Listed here are a few widespread mistranslations that I’ve heard:

Je suis vingt ans.”I am 20 years previous.”

C’est le premier temps que je viens ici. “That is the primary time that I come right here.”

Il est froid dehors. “It’s chilly exterior.”

Listed here are the proper varieties:

J’ai vingt ans.

C’est la première fois que je viens ici.

Il fait froid dehors.

What has occurred right here is that the person has a) discovered the French equal of 1 which means of an English phrase (I’m = je suis) and b) generalizes that one French translation wherever the English type is used. Therefore, je suis vingt ans or je suis fini.

The identical factor occurs with le temps “time”. The “first time” turns into le premier temps. That is in fact improper. It needs to be la première fois. Equally, when talking in regards to the climate, one ought to use il fait as a substitute of il est.

This sort mistake will not be instantly obvious as a result of the grammar is usually impeccable. In truth, the error is probably not within the type however moderately within the which means. In French je suis froid is completely right. Nonetheless, it means “I am cold-hearted” whereas j’ai froid means “I am chilly”.

As you’ll be able to see, these kinds of errors are arduous to identify, however they’re nonetheless errors and typically embarrassing if not incomprehensible.

What’s the answer? The essential thought is to discover ways to suppose inside out, that’s to say from French going to English as a substitute of the opposite manner.

Initially, remember that phrases typically have a number of meanings. The verb “to do” in English has many completely completely different usages. One translation is faire. However faire doesn’t translate all of the usages of “to do”. As a matter of truth the verbs “to do” and “to make” are each translated by faire. That is the very purpose why French-speakers have a tendency to combine up the 2 English verbs. A very good bilingual dictionary is an important instrument. It would present how the varied usages of the English phrase might be translated.

The second a part of the answer is to have a look at the French phrases “inside out”, that’s from the French perspective. This implies wanting up the French phrases both in a bilingual or an all-French dictionary. Pay explicit consideration to idioms with quite common verbs like être, avoir, faire, dire, parler, and so forth. For instance the verb avoir may be very wealthy in varieties like avoir faim “to be hungry”, avoir soif “to be thirsty” and avoir peur “to be afraid”. Faire is wealthy with idioms like “faire envie” “to draw”, faire beau “to have good climate”, faire peur “to frighten”, faire dodo “to fall asleep” (for kids) or faire nuit ” to change into darkish”.

These idiomatic expressions are the signal of a extremely good speaker of French. One technique to obtain that is to mimic and adapt complete phrases that illustrate these idiomatic usages. For instance, memorize il fait beau aujourd’hui “the climate is good at present” and make a degree of utilizing it just a few instances on daily basis till it involves your thoughts spontaneously. Then take the sample and modify it till you might be completely relaxed with all of the variations.


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