Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The power of Blogs

A colleague of mine, Donna Papacosta, viewed this page recently and in her enthusiasm wrote a very flattering piece. At the end of it, she got carried away in her French. I provided a correction. Read the full story:


Moral of the story: 1) it is great to have supportive colleagues, 2) things that appear to be easy to translate aren't always so.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Challenges of multilingual media production

While discussing the challenges of the production of multilingual training films, videos, CD'S and DVD's, a prospective customer shared with me the tribulations that they encountered. When adapting material from another province or country, the customer's company discovered that settings and symbols used in the English (in this case American) original production did not produce the expected result with French (Quebec) customers. The presence of a US flag lost its significance and some of the cultural aspects of the production did not find an equivalent in the French version. A wise producer will localise its production, i.e. adapt it to its destination country.

With an Englishman as president and a New-Zelander as another executive participating in company communications, the client realised that a well-done dub would be much more effective. That is, provided that the fading of the English voice is done properly and that the main French narrative replace it completely. The communication in this form was well received by its French-speaking employees.

In my own experience, I witnessed a case where a French-speaking female actor, dubbing a female executive, decided to carry out the French "liaison" only when she liked the sound of it. (see:
http://french.about.com/library/pronunciation/bl-liaisons-L.htm?terms=French+%22Liaison%22.) In standard "broadcast" French, the liaison is done throughout, as it forms part of the speech. Our female president sounded like an uneducated hick in this presentation, not the savvy and experienced lawyer that she was. Fortunately, we noticed this discrepancy early on and were able to redub the broadcast, with the liaison performed properly.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Gerbera Daisy

This is a Gerbera Daisy; I photographed it several years ago in a quaint flower shop in San Francisco. What appealed to me were the softness of the colours and the delicacy of the petals. Research on the Internet reveals that it belongs to the sunflower family, and has some 30 species. Its habitat extends to South America, Africa, Madagascar and tropical Asia.

What is interesting is that Ontario nurseries now carry this plant and we now have two of these daisies planted in our front yard. Their colour matches that of the nearby geraniums. Our world is shrinking . . .

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Dumplings of the world, unite!

An observing and inventive marketer realized that “dumplings” exist in many countries – why not make a dumpling mould for them? I did not know, when I was asked to provide the French for the package, that the job would take me on a virtual world tour in search of dumplings.

The first use mentioned was for making Potstickers – I had never heard the word and my regular on-line dictionaries did not recognize it. A Google search brought me to Wikipedia which gave a description, the Chinese word 锅贴 and an equivalent spelled in Latin characters: Jiaozi. The French version of Wikipedia gave a detailed description of the item, stating that in France, it is sometimes called “Ravioli pékinois”. The package being made for Canada, I decided that the word Jiaozi would be more readily recognized (like the currently popular Italian porcini which is also known as a boletus or cep(e) but that is another story).

The word Piroshki was no trouble for me as my Russian family used to have them quite often when we were children. They were the baked ones, stuffed with meat and rice, as opposed to the Polish ones, which are boiled. The boiled one we called Vareniki. The only thing that I had to do is to confirm the proper spelling in French, which turned out to be Pirojkis (the j being sounded like a g – in George).

Raviolis did not pose a problem in French. The word is spelled exactly the same way. It is only when it is pronounced that the emphasis is on the final “i” whereas in Italian, I believe, the accent falls on the “o”.

Termium Plus, the Canadian Government trilingual database, provided me the equivalent for empanadas, which is the same word. Through About.com, I learned that this is mostly a Chilean and Argentinean food although other Latin American countries have their own versions of this.

I had heard the word Kreplach and knew that it was Jewish or Yiddish. What I did not know was its country of origin and therefore could not tell whether consumers in Montreal would understand it. Fortunately, 86-year –old Saul who frequents the same Fitness Centre as I was able to straighten me out: “My parents who were from Poland, used to cook these quite often” he said. “They looked like raviolis”, I said. “” I don’t know”, said Saul, “I do not eat raviolis.”

Finally, Termium gave pâtés pantins as the French equivalent for pasties, which my Canadian wife confirmed as being a type of ravioli in England (i.e. the Cornish pasty).

Will the package appeal to the Canadian multinational customers? I hope so – for me it sure was a pleasure discovering all these details. I am bilingual but it is my multilingual heritage, which helped me with this assignment.

Monday, May 08, 2006

L'aire de Broca

Pour les langagiers intéressés par la biologie, voici un lien menant à l'université McGill

n ne pense pas souvent à la façon dont on parle et comprend les langues - voici une explication.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Rembrandt - délicieux à croquer

Le site multilingue hollandais sur Rembrandt nous dit en anglais/The multilingual Rembrandt site gives the following copy in English :

Dec 16, 2005 until Mar 19, 2006. The exhibition Rembrandt’s Mother, Myth and Reality explores the mystery around the old woman reading the Bible. Rembrandt has portrayed this woman tenderly more than once. As early as the 17th century she was thought to be Rembrandt’s mother

et la version française dit /and the French version says:
16 décembre 2005 au 19 mars 2006. L’exposition La mère de Rembrandt, mythe et réalité explore le mystère qui flotte autour de la vieille femme qui lit la Bible. Rembrandt a croqué cette femme plusieurs fois de manière tendre. Dès le 17ème siècle, elle fut identifiée comme la mère de Rembrandt.

French in bold says: " Rembrandt tenderly bit this woman several times."

Monday, May 01, 2006

Want to fly a kite?

As a child and young adult, one of the most freeing activities that I can recall is going to fly a kite. In Toronto, all young and no so young kite fliers have a special day coming

The Toronto Conservation Authority organizes a kite flying at the Kortright Conservation Area.

Translation Fishbone Diagram

Business people, especially those familiar with
manufacturing and production, understand process charts and cause and effect charts. That is reason why I put this chart together which attempts to show the various elements that enter into a translator's work.

An exercise such as this helps to refine a process
and illustrate every discrete part of it. I hope that my detail oriented readers will enjoy it.

P.S.. I have found how to perform a spellcheck while writing this Blog. Please ask me for details. To enlarge the diagram, double click on it.

Guide pratique: Écrivez clairemement et simplement

J'ai trouvé, il y a quelque temps de cela, l'article en titre en version PDF, qui est publié par Options Consommateurs du Québec, dont voici le site web :


Une page entière est consacrée aux guides gratuits dont celui sur la composition de communications. Je l'ai trouvé utile dans mes travaux mais surtout dans mes discussions avec des clients francophones dont les avis sur la façon d'écrire différaient des miens.

Il est toujours utile d'avoir une opinion des experts. À vos plumes!



Comme je me le suis promis, je vais communiquer dans ce Blog dans les deux langues officielles du Canada. Je viens de découvrir un site appelé Francparler qui traite de la langue, de son évolution, de ses caprices et de ses inventions. Je le recommande aux languagiers et aux autres francophiles. Bonne lecture.