Monday, August 24, 2009

Semantic shift - Glissement sémantique

The written press in Quebec has covered the worrysome problems of school drop-outs and what society can do about this. Articles speak of the phenomenon of “décrochage”. The verb “décrocher” is used to express the idea of disengagement, of breaking off the action (like studies for example). In the physical world, décorcher may be used when meaning to take down (décrocher les rideaux, uncoupling (a car train). In the telecommunication parlance, décrochage means to switchover. In the financial world, le décorchage du franc par rapport au mark means the unpegging of the Franc from the Mark.

Dernièrement, j’ai remarqué dans plusieurs articles sur les abandons scolaires au Québec que les journalistes parlent des efforts d’encourager les jeunes à retourner à l’école, à reprendre leurs études. C’est là qu’apparaît le terme « raccrochage », utilisé comme antonyme (contraire) de décrochage. Ce qui est, dans mon esprit, un choix surprenant.

Is the use of raccrochage brought about by the influence of the English language? The closest English word for décrochage is “disconnect”, whereas raccrochage is reconnect. So in the context of drop-outs, instead of the idea of abandoning, or letting go (in French), the English uses the idea of leaving the scene.

The problem with raccrocher is that its usual meanings are to hang up (the phone), to retire (as from a sport), to put down (the telephone receiver), or to solicit or accost a customer (by a prostitute). It also means to reconnect or tie together (train cars, facts) or to rescue – a business deal, for example). Not an iota of an idea of resuming one’s studies in school.

The problem that I see with this situation is that if French-speaking Quebeckers continue to use raccrocher to mean resume studies, they will completely confuse the situation and the verbs accrocher, décrocher and raccrocher would have taken meanings which they did not originally have.

Translators have to be constantly aware of changing speech patterns and find solutions to problems that the unilingual users have not even considered.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Head Light – Lumière à tête (??)

Picked up a nifty little portable light at a sale the other day, but not because I was impressed by the French translation. In fact it is awful. I thought I would point out just a few of the bloopers.

On side A - the generic name of the product 1 Watt LED Head Light was transformed in a Light with a head. In addition, LED does have a French equivalent = DEL (diode électroluminescente).

Dans le sous-titre on trouve Bande de tête élastique ajustable – que doivent donc faire les gens qui ont la tête dure? Le fait que l’appareil est hydrofuge ne semble pas avoir mérité une traduction. La note sur la longueur du fonctionnement est de syntaxe anglaise.

On side B, adjectives qualifying nouns do not have proper endings.
Ampoules lumineuse (s?)
Ampoules blanche(s) several bulbs but the adjective is in singular form.
Bouton de pression control 4 modes de lumière – could not translate this word? - No problem, just leave it in English, customers will understand!
Flashing signal (press ON button for 2 sec) - Signal clignotant (appuyez SUR bouton pour 2 sec.)
There is no button with the marking SUR on the device– it is the on/off button! French could have said “appuyez sur l’interrupteur pendant 2 sec”.

A French-speaking customer who absolutely needs the light will buy it, but someone undecided will definitely be put off by the mistakes and the sloppy rendering. Who will be blamed – the importer, China?

World Famous Sales (Concord, Ont). who is looking after your packaging translations?

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Like many other Internet users in Canada, I have been using Bell Canada for many years.Le modem fourni par Bell et le router d’IBM que nous avions installé marchaient comme merveille.

At the beginning of July, the Internet connection started to act up – sporadic misconnects, lost emails. I called Technical Service and upon having explained all our trouble-shooting steps we had taken, was told that the matter had to do with a DNS – people felt frustrated but could not help.

Au milieu du mois, la situation s’est empirée. Le nombre sites Internet captés se réduit à trois ou quatre, et le courriel ne marche que sporadiquement. On nous envoie un technicien qui nous apprend que notre modem (de Bell) n’est plus capable de transmettre la masse de données que les câbles lui envoient mais également qu’il y a un problème de câble dans la rue.

A few days later, visit from the Bell Cable person who performs a small cable splice on the front lawn but who also tells us that the problem is inside, not in the cable. Third technician, who attempts to install a brand-new modem-router, discovers that it is defective. Bell sends us a second modem-router which their own Testing facility finds to be defective. Third router arrives and after days of fighting with it, we finally make it work. It appears as though not sufficient installation info was provided by Bell but we were able to find similar info from the manufacturer, 2-Wire.

Our internet connection is now ok again and Bell is reimbursing us for over a month of lost use. L’Internet est plein de forums qui discutent des difficultés rencontrées par les utilisateurs de cet appareil – donc nous ne sommes par les premiers. Nous nous considérons chanceux, au moins, la liaison est rétablie.