Things that bug the hell out of me translating French -- just a start
The French use of the historical present -- particular when it moves into the historical future. Would? Was? WTF
Ainsi -- I swear that 90% of the time this is just a space filler. If you translated this as "thus" every time, 50% of English sentences would have thus in them.
"C'est quelquechose qui/que est....." I am about to lapse into telling my wife and my children, "It is you that I love."
lui-meme and its equivalents ... "It is you yourself that I myself love."
"en fait" -- In fact, it is you yourself that I myself in fact love."
I know....I know.....it's just cultural. Sorry -- had to vent.
Feel free to share.
There are a lot of small items, but what astounds me is that a language which makes everything masculine and feminine, has only..... "sa" and "son". Quoi? No masculine and feminine versions? Umm, No. This way, when news items are translated by autobots, these articles says things like, "Miley Cyrus continued on his tour today...", .....his/her...whatever....why would that be important? Another item which seems strange is the obvious inability to come up with "septante", "huitante", and "neufante" for 70, 80, and 90. Instead they perform addition and multiplication to get from 69 to 99. It was as if no one ever sat down and said, let's make our language easier to work with, more specific, and let's drop all the accent marks because you don't need a fully illustrated word once you've mastered saying the word in kindergarten. Hey, I'm an adult who has said this word thousands of times....do I stress the "e"? Let me check the accent marks for guidance...hilarious.
Say what you will about the utility of some of the accents (I'm looking at you, circumflex), what's amazing is that the language is almost entirely phonetic. That's right, once you learn how to pronounce the vowel clusters, and perhaps more importantly what not to pronounce, you can pronounce any French word you've never seen before with total confidence. Unlike in English, where you must take a leap of faith (rough, bough, trough, through--all different) -eaux or -euil or any other is always pronounced the same.
Numbers 70-99 are totally ridiculous, I grant you. In fact in French Canada they do just say :septante," etc.
We don't say "septante" in Canada, we use the same soixant-dix, quatre-vingts, quatre-vingts dix numbers as elsewhere.
And I like circumflexes. Knowing that historically they replaced an s often makes it easier to translate into English.
Interesting, I thought I had learned that somewhere but it seems I was largely mistaken.
And yes, etymologically the circumflexes are a great tool, a little living indicator of the history of the language! Nevertheless sometimes it just feels like one more thing to remember. I'm not incredibly strong on accents because I mostly learned French by speaking, so in moments of frustration I often have the thought "oh who cares, it all sounds the same when you say it out loud."
The Belgians us septante for "seventy" and nonante for "ninety" but Belgians use always quatre-vingts for eighty. I think that Swiss French is similar.
I completely agree, French is easy to pronounce when you know the rules, and when you see the word in the written form, in the other way, it's more difficult than English to spell, but a lot easier to pronunce (when you know the rules!)
...and if the muscles in your mouth are able to form all the required sounds...
French sounds are not that hard, even if you don't know them in your own language (the only exception is the "U" sound I think, because many people who learned French and are now fluent, still can't make that sound), for the nasalised sound, I'm convinced it can be made by people of any language even if they don't have it in their own language. It needs training, that's all, but when you find the way to use your nose for talking, it's ok.
The u sound is quite easy for me as we have the same sound in German, it's written ü there. The nasalised sounds are the problem.
It's funny because English used to use the same numbering system...the old "fourscore and ten" for ninety. Then we decided, as we do in English, to just change it.
Septante, octante, nonante do exist in French!!!
I'm French, and my grandmother taught me how to count like this. In some region of France it was in use. Now, it's only used in Switzerland, Québec...
70 = Old way/Swiss way: septante; Modern French way: soixante-dix. 80 = see here http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/octante, etc...
I will have to ask my friends if they do indeed use shortened numbers in Canada.
I learned French in French Immersion schools in Ontario (non-French speaking Canada). We used soixante-dix, quatre-vignts, and quatre-vingts-dix - even after doing that for YEARS I still always had to stare at numbers like 76 or 92 and think - actually think about how to say them out loud. Same goes for when the teachers gave us oral drills (Soixante-douze plus quatre-vignt-deux fait quoi?) I failed half the time because I couldn't think fast enough if it was 62 or 72. :-P
I agree, it requires a lot of thought to orally respond to addition questions like that! I still have yet to hear anyone use the shortened version! I don't think it would fly in Quebec for some reason, but I also learned French in Ontario.
The Belgians us septante for "seventy" and nonante for "ninety" but Belgians use quatre-vingts for eighty.
Genders drive me mad! Especially when you loose a heart for getting the wrong gender. I don't know if a table or a bus for example is male or female..
Just memorize the gender with the noun, it's the simpler way. Instead of learning "lune" alone, memorize "la lune" and use you imagination to remember it, by imagining a lady-moon for instance. Genders are boring, but they make the language more poetic...
And then you get words like "l'horloge" or "l'autobus" and you just give up and guess. I've tried using "un/une horloge" or "un/une autobus" and I get it right by guessing that way maybe sixty percent of the time...
Just memorize that words ending with "e" or "tion" are female, the others male. It isn't always correct but in most cases it's like that. The exceptions you either have to learn or to guess (I prefer the last option).
I learnt the -e mistake in animals! Un singe, un tigre and un insecte and that was my three hearts! :P
For No. 2, Ainsi -- J'affirme, it's overused. It doesn't help that the literal translation "thus" sounds academic and out of place in common English a lot of the time. Leaving it out is often a good move.
Side note: I find that French is more filled with academicisms than English--case in point, the year I lived in France there was a guy I knew who seemed to use the term "a priori" at least once every time I saw him. It took me a while to work out what he was even saying (thanks, Latin). Once I started to recognize it I realized that people just use it to mean "generally" or "in theory" or "unless something changes." Literally, he would say things like "A priori, ca serait pas un problème" in answer to "Can I reserve this room for Friday?" Never ceased to be funny to me.
My favourite line in French is "Qu'est-ce qu'il y a ?" ....."What is it that there is." Beautiful.
Or, better yet, "Qu'est-ce que c'est que ca?" "What is it that it is that that?"
The whole "est-ce que" is translated with "does" for a question = "what does there is there" is closer in my opinion. Qu'est-ce que c'est que ça? = litterally: What does is that is?
Sentences that go on forever- by the time I am working on the last few phrases, I have completely forgotten how it started.
This is actually a really important thing to realize while translating--the French are much more comfortable with longer sentences, and a good English translation may just include a few more periods. If you're tying yourself in knots trying to make it make sense, chopping it up may be a way better solution (particularly if it wasn't deathless prose to begin with).
I understand that "Capital" by Thomas Piketty was originally only 3 sentences long.
Well written French sentences should include a lot of pause (coma) or to be short.
that's awesome thanks for sharing. We all bending, we are struggling. The more you let go and just accept and cheerish it's different then you are on your way. (I'm not an English speaker and look where I got by doing that) it was super fun too how you have different way of thinking about things due to what language proposes (my native language is Polish). Bend man, bend:D good luck for us all we will need it
I've moaned about this before, but: I find certain negative modal constructions very irritating in French - notably '(je) ne dois pas..." and 'il ne faut pas...'.
I tend to think of 'je dois...' as 'I must... and 'il faut...' as 'it is necessary (to)....'. But the natural negation of these English constructions would be, 'I must not...', and 'it is not necessary (to)...' - both of which are mistranslations of the French.
Looking at "on ne doit pas fumer" and "il ne faut pas fumer" together, I naturally think that the former means "one must not smoke" and the latter means "it is not necessary to smoke". But the opposite is closer to the truth.
I think of "devoir" as "need to" (the verb, as opposed to "avoir besoin" which is to have a need) and "falloir" as "must" and don't have that problem.
Though I don't think I'll ever get used to "personne" being a negative modifier, especially when french speakers often leave out the "ne" from "ne .. personne"
Of course, and this is the sensible solution, since my natural interpretation of the French is what leads me astray. But the fact that it strikes me as natural is the problem...
I do wonder though: 'il me faut une pomme' can be used in place of 'j'ai besoin d'une pomme' - but then is 'il ne me faut pas une (de?) pomme' the same as 'je n'ai pas besoin d'une pomme', i.e. 'I do not have a need for an apple'? Because then... that breaks the rules. By the logic of 'il ne faut pas...', the former ought to mean 'I have a need for not an apple'. Gah.
By bizarre contrast, I never struggled with 'ne...personne', though I had trouble with 'ne...que' until I started associating it with English phrases like 'nothing but...'.
And watch out for that whole new tense that follows 'il faut que/c'est important que..' - for example il faut que j'aille ... I've forgotten the name of that tense
I'll just keep entertaining myself -- "celui-ci" or"la dernière", which generally forces you to reread half a page to figure out what they refer to (for those of you who went to parochial school, apologies for ending a sentence with a preposition). Also "ou" when they really mean "et".