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https://www.duolingo.com/Duck_man

Things that bug the hell out of me translating French -- just a start

Duck_man
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  1. The French use of the historical present -- particular when it moves into the historical future. Would? Was? WTF

  2. 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.

  3. "C'est quelquechose qui/que est....." I am about to lapse into telling my wife and my children, "It is you that I love."

  4. lui-meme and its equivalents ... "It is you yourself that I myself love."

  5. "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.

4 years ago

42 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/toussaintlou
toussaintlou
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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.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ncdrake

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.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/driusan
driusan
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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.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ncdrake

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."

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sheylen

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.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/nicfishe

Let's start a campaign to get septante and huitante into everyday French

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PERCE_NEIGE
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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!)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/S0S_90
S0S_90
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...and if the muscles in your mouth are able to form all the required sounds...

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PERCE_NEIGE
PERCE_NEIGE
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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.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/S0S_90
S0S_90
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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.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/melissamorris

Not in anywhere I've been in Canada- but thanks for the info!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ArkanGaulson
ArkanGaulson
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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.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Duck_man
Duck_man
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Let it all out!!! (PS I'm just glad I'm not learning English)

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PERCE_NEIGE
PERCE_NEIGE
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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...

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/melissamorris

I will have to ask my friends if they do indeed use shortened numbers in Canada.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jenga_Jane

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

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/melissamorris

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.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sheylen

The Belgians us septante for "seventy" and nonante for "ninety" but Belgians use quatre-vingts for eighty.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/nicfishe

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..

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PERCE_NEIGE
PERCE_NEIGE
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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...

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jenga_Jane

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...

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/S0S_90
S0S_90
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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).

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/nicfishe

I learnt the -e mistake in animals! Un singe, un tigre and un insecte and that was my three hearts! :P

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ncdrake

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.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ArkanGaulson
ArkanGaulson
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My favourite line in French is "Qu'est-ce qu'il y a ?" ....."What is it that there is." Beautiful.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Duck_man
Duck_man
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Or, better yet, "Qu'est-ce que c'est que ca?" "What is it that it is that that?"

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PERCE_NEIGE
PERCE_NEIGE
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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?

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Duck_man
Duck_man
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Well, that certainly clears things up. :) Thank you.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Carolyn250

Sentences that go on forever- by the time I am working on the last few phrases, I have completely forgotten how it started.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Duck_man
Duck_man
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And the subject is generally at the end

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ncdrake

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).

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Duck_man
Duck_man
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I understand that "Capital" by Thomas Piketty was originally only 3 sentences long.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PERCE_NEIGE
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Well written French sentences should include a lot of pause (coma) or to be short.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Amy-schultz

Carolyn250, oh how true! Thanks for the chuckle!

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/agent001

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

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JC70
JC70
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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.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/driusan
driusan
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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"

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JC70
JC70
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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...'.

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/nicfishe

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

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JC70
JC70
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Yep, present subjunctive. Il faut que j'aille pour acheter de l'ail, etc...

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Duck_man
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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".

4 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Jenga_Jane

This is my new favourite thread on Duolingo...

4 years ago