French Translation Services
Whether you are looking for French translation for something technical, legal or medical, or simply a letter, we can help you.
Lingua Translations is well known for its quality-driven French translation services. We will equip you with knowledge and methods, enabling you to communicate in the correct written form of French, whether you need Parisian or Canadian French we can help. Remember not to pick the wrong one!
We offer a professional French to English and English to French language translation service, amongst others. Here is some information which you will find useful as the French language is full of interesting facts and essential tips when you are looking to communicate effectively in French speaking countries.
France is historically extremely proud of its language and national identity and has organisations and legislation in place dedicated to their protection. For example, the Académie Française has existed since 1635 to act as an official authority on the French language and the Toubon Law of 1994 stipulates that the French language must be used in all official government publications, advertisements, and workplaces, in commercial contracts, government-financed schools and some other contexts. This law guarantees a steady stream of translation work for a qualified French translator.
France is also the most visited tourist destination in the entire world, recording a staggering 84.7 MILLION visitors in 2013. According to the Foreign Office, around 17 million British nationals flock to France every year. French tourism providers have to be able to appeal to tourists by having their marketing materials and brochures translated in a fluent, engaging and idiomatic way, so that foreign visitors don’t even know they are reading a translation! We provide experienced translators who are not only fluent in French but who also have an excellent command of their native language (something that is of vital importance but so often forgotten when it comes to translation) who will render travel and tourism documents in fluent, natural-sounding English that does not sound translated in order to appeal to the widest audience possible.
As the world’s fifth largest economy, France has the second largest consumer market in Europe. It presents a prosperous exports market to UK businesses looking to expand and is not only a hub for business within the European Union but also for Africa and the Middle East. Paris is Europe’s leading financial centre and France presents huge investment opportunities in sectors such as nuclear energy, pharmaceuticals and agri-food industry.
Other countries where French is spoken
French is also an official administrative language in many African countries, although it is usually spoken by the public as a second language, alongside indigenous mother tongue languages. In some countries, it is a first language among the upper classes of the population, such as in Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, but only a second language among the general population. In every African country where French is spoken, there are variations in pronunciation and vocabulary, and often the population speaks a mixture of French and their native language, which is called patois or Creole.
French is also spoken in France’s Départements d’Outre-Mer, or DOMs (overseas departments). These have the same status as metropolitan French departments. These include Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, Mayotte and Réunion. It is also spoken in French Polynesia and New Caledonia. French is spoken in Africa and these other countries as they were French colonies during the imperial era; the use of the French language is a lasting legacy of French control over and administration of these areas.
Differences between French and English that affect translation
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: you can’t ‘just get it translated’. There’s a whole host of grammar and punctuation differences to consider when translating into French, and a French translation will even be 15% – 20% longer than the source document as it is a ‘wordier’ language! You might even need to consider using professional desktop publishing services to rearrange the layout of your document to accommodate the translation. Here are some of the potential pitfalls that all French translators have to navigate:
Like many other European languages, French nouns are gendered. There are certain rules that can help learners to guess whether a noun might be masculine or feminine, but it can seem quite arbitrary and genders of words just have to be slowly memorised! For example, there is not really an explanation for why une chaise (chair) is feminine but un ordinateur (computer) is masculine!
When writing French, colons and semi-colons have a space after the word, like this :
English “speech marks” become « like this » in French, although in French literature, indented hyphens are more commonly used to indicate speech, for example:
– Levez-vous, reprit le professeur, et dites-moi votre nom.
Le nouveau articula, d’une voix bredouillante, un nom inintelligible.
– Répétez !
(From Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert)
In terms of numbers, between French and English the decimal point becomes a comma and vice versa.
1,000 in English becomes 1.000 in French
3.14 in English becomes 3,14 in French.
In French, there are even two ways to say you! One (tu) is informal and employed when addressing children, family members, friends and inferiors. The other (vous) is formal and employed when addressing strangers, teachers and superiors. Using tu when addressing your French clients, for example, would be seen as rude and could cause you problems in your relations with them.
French makes extensive use of accented letters, and the omission of an accent has the potential to completely change the meaning of a word. For example, tâche means stain or dirty mark, whereas tache means task or chore!
French translation is in no way simple, and what we have outlined above is only a small snapshot of the many pitfalls to be navigated when translating even the simplest of documents! This is why at Lingua Translations we provide translators who are qualified to at least degree level and have at least five years’ professional experience before we allow them to work for us. These linguistic nuances can mean the difference between an amateur-looking document that makes a poor impression on clients or the public or you being able to present a professional, culturally aware and grammatically accurate document that has the impact you want it to have.
A modern translation services provider for a modern world
As an experienced translation services provider, we understand that the world of translation has moved on from a pencil, a piece of paper and a vast piles of dictionaries! We keep up to date with the very latest computer assisted translation (CAT) tools, which not only enables us to work faster, making our turnaround quicker and meeting your tight deadlines, but it allows us to compare multiple documents from a single customer, create glossaries and count repetitive words and phrases. As well as improving efficiency, using translation technology enables us to offer discounted rates to customers, as we will not charge as much for repetitions. Please note that translation technologies are incredibly specialised pieces of software for use by human translators to improve their accuracy and efficiency. They should not be confused with machine translation, which are free online tools that produce at best gist translations and at worst wildly inaccurate gibberish! Read more about CAT tools.
Remember: Lingua Translations can provide a professional translation of any general or technical document, no matter what the size or timescale. We offer translation in many specialist sectors.
French Speaking Countries
- Variations of French
Getting a document translated into French is not as simple as it sounds – there are many different varieties of French and selecting a translator who can work into a specific dialect is of paramount importance depending on your target audience.
- Metropolitan French
Metropolitan French is French spoken in Paris and considered ‘standard’. Having said that, there are significant dialectical differences within France itself, and vocabulary and accent can differ significantly from region to region. For example, the French pastry is pain au chocolat when in Paris and chocolatine in the south-western city of Bordeaux. Similarly, the word for “bag” in most areas is sac, but in Bordeaux it is poche, but in most other French regions, poche means pocket!
- Swiss and Belgian French
There are also slight variations in the French spoken in other European countries such as Belgium and Switzerland, although these are negligible and this French is still considered to be standard. The main differences centre on vocabulary and numbers. For example, in standard French, numbers are still partly based on the old vigesimal system (based around increments of 20). The numbers soixante-dix (seventy), quatre-vingt (eighty) and quatre-vingt-dix (ninety) literally translate as sixty-ten, four-twenty and four-twenty-ten. In Belgian French, the simpler septante, octante and nonante are used (to the relief of many learners of French who find the French numerical system difficult to get their heads around!).
- Canadian French
In Canada, French is the mother tongue of approximately 7.3 million people, mostly in the region of Quebec. French Canadians are also highly protective of their language and have a Charter of the French Language, similar to the French Toubon Law, making French the language of business in Quebec and also restricting the use of English on signs. Canadian French comes from a more archaic dialect of French and has retained many of the features lost in European French. There are significant differences in vocabulary, pronunciation and slang. For example, in Canadian French, a mobile phone is a cellulaire, whereas it is a portable in Metropolitan French. Email is courriel in Quebec and email or mél in Paris! Due to the influence of English, Canadian French also uses a lot of anglicisms (words entirely borrowed from or partly influenced by English words). For example, whereas the word for lift (or elevator) is ascenseur in Metropolitan French, in Canadian French it is élévateur. Similarly, a “bar of soap” is une barre de savon in Canadian French and a pain de savon in Metropolitan French. The quebecois also use the informal tu form of address more than in other dialects, which could have serious implications if this was not considered in translation.