I tried that out in curiosity and it doesn't work today (May 6, 2015). I can't report it though because I have no clue if it is a correct translation.
Edit: It's not a correct translation! Scroll down a little bit if you want a more in-depth explanation, but in a nutshell caractère translates pretty strictly to "temper" in this context. There are other ways that the word can be used that would translate how you expect it to, n6zs lists a few below.
I see it translated as "What a character!" which is an expression meaning an interesting or amusing individual. Maybe you have a silly friend who tells outrageous stories. You could say about him "What a character!" It sounds like the other character you are talking about is letter characters. Just type "define character" into google and you can see all the different translations for character. I don't know if "What a temper!" is a common expression but I could see it being said about a toddler throwing a fit or someone who easily angers.
Just to clarify, the English "What character" never refers to a person's temper whereas "Quel caractère" does. That is the reason why English speakers (and French) find it a bit confusing.
- Il a un bon caractère = He has a good character.
- Il a une bonne personnalité = He has a nice personality.
- Quel personnage ! = What a character! (he has a lively or funny personality)
- Quel caractère ! = What a temper! (he's a hothead/he gets angry very easily).
- Ces caractères sont trop petits. Je ne peux pas les lire. = Those letters (i.e., characters) are too small. I can't read them.
As stated above "What character!" is a compliment that expresses an admiration of someone with excellent qualities of morality or strength. Like if someone showed courage and unwavering strength in the midst of trouble, you could say that to mean "how impressive his resilience is!"
On the other hand "What a character!" is something you would say probably with a smile because it implies something odd but usually funny about the person. You could use the phrase, for instance, in reference to Mr Bean
I am a native English speaker. N6zs made a clarifying list for me! Bravo.
In English, "What a character!" or "What a personality!" both imply humorous approval of someone is jovial or entertaining. He is playing a role, like a character in a comedy.
My understanding of the French "Quel caractère! is that it is about an explosive or unpleasant personality. To speak of temper in English, I would say "He has a temper" or "He has quite the temper" meaning he is not likely to stay calm. It is his habitual way of being. Be careful; he may flip out!
In English we add an adjective for a more specific judgment on what his temper comprises: "He has a bad/explosive/grouchy/vicious/snarly temper." (adj + noun)
In English, as in French, the judgment is more existential by using the "to be" verb: He is cantankerous. He is grumpy. He is touchy. He is irascible. He is choleric. He is moody. He is crotchety. He is vicious. He is ill/bad/quick-tempered. Be warned!
There is an slightly teasing, chiding idiom of warning or friendly reproval when someone is beginning to "lose it". This phrase is often presented in a humous, sing-song tone, eyebrows raised and maybe even a forefinger wag: "Temper, temper!"
You've got "What a character!" down.
But as n6zs/George mentions, in English "What character!" doesn't refer to a (bad) temper. Instead it's a positive statement that implies integrity and courage.
"What a temper!" refers pretty much exclusively to a tendency to explode with anger.
"What (a) temperament", on the other hand, would often be used disparagingly but would ultimately depend on context. It could conceivably refer to any one of a good, bad, or peculiar disposition (golden retriever, formerly tormented small dog, or any kind of cat, respectively).
("Temper" itself can be neutral, good, or bad, depending on the context, but as soon as we say someone has "a temper", without any adjective, it means pretty much only that the person has a tendency to become very angry, very easily.)
I'm just clarifying the English because of this recent comment of yours and your earlier comment where you say "Quel caractère !" definitely means "what a (bad/explosive/peculiar...) temper!"
"Peculiar" isn't really an adjective we would assume with "what a temper" in English, except perhaps to say that it was strange that the person would become so angry without any real provocation (unless by "peculiar" you mean "uniquely extreme").
As a result of all of this I'm left slightly confused as to the meaning of the French after reading everything here (and particularly as to whether the French has a slightly broader meaning than the English translation currently provided).
"Quel caractère !" being exclamative, it is a reaction to an attitude or behavior of someone with a 'sturdy character' (un caractère bien trempé).
This is someone who dares to say what he/she thinks, someone who has opinions and expresses them aloud. In many cases, the speaker is impressed, in particular if he/she is an introvert, or even a coward.
But, this is also pejorative; about a baby or child crying a lot, stomping, rolling on the floor, etc. this an indirect criticism of their parents' educational skills. About a woman, very sadly, this is an overt criticism of her (alleged) lack of self-control, to say the least.
"Quel tempérament !" also comments on personality traits of someone who is energetic, decisive, indefatigable.
"Quel personnage !" or "quel phénomène !" will be laudatory of the person as a whole, when no adjective is added.
Thanks Sitesurf – this is all very interesting and helpful indeed.
Apparently "quel caractère" and these related phrases are all somewhat complicated to translate into English.
In fact, if I read you correctly, it seems as though "quel caractère" could mean "what character", "what a character" (which is not necessarily disparaging in English, depending on the context), "what a temper", or "what (a) temperament" (which is also context-dependent), and the context would be quite necessary in determining which of these would be the closest approximation.
PeaceJoyPancakes, I agree with you. Having read the "whole yard of this thread" one must conclude as you have. There probably should be a whole section on 'Caractère'/Behaviour(?) where the nuances of character and behaviour are taught.
Whaty'all think? I see that describing a person's behaviour and/or character in French has lot's of faux amis in English.
Larousse gives "what a temper" as the translation of "quel caractère", but from the discussion on this page it seems to be a phrase that can't necessarily be translated by one direct equivalent that works in all contexts, which is as much the fault of English as of French.
The appropriate translation of "caractère" seems to lie along the lines of "temper", "temperament", "character", and "nature", depending on the context. The various translations of the word in different contexts provided by Collins and Larousse may be helpful:
Thanks for the phrase "tempérer sa colère".
The editors have changed the course to accept homophones in the listening exercises, however, you got the gender of « quelles » wrong. « Caractère » is masculine (OK, there is also one meaning that can be either feminine or masculine - an emotionally disturbed child - but it's unlikely that you meant that) so you should have written « Quels caractères ». It's possibly a slightly strange phrase as "What a temper!" (a single person) is going to be much more common than "What tempers!" (a group of people).
"Acteur/Actrice de genre" seems applicable. I have no idea whether it's commonly used.
- acteur(‑trice) m f de genre
Because there is a difference between a word standing alone and a word as part of an idiomatic phrase. Faire is to do or to make, but il fait froid is how you say "it is cold" when talking about the weather.
BTW, Sitesurf might have already clarified this in the discussion, so please read if you haven't.