Friday, May 29, 2009

Infectious Diseases, Part 3

Extensive media coverage of the H1N1 virus was a painful reminder that viruses and bacteria know no frontiers.  Like stealthy spies, they can start in one place and rapidly penetrate every nook and cranny of the globe.  bacteria

What terms came up frequently during the recent H1N1  crisis that made us more aware of government measures being taken to assure the public's safety?

A random sample of those terms is given below (two terms are footnoted and indicated by a number):



pollution de l'air air pollution
zoonoses zoonotic diseases(1)
résistance aux médicaments drug resistance
souche strain
virus virus
infection bactérienne bacterial infection
agent antirétroviral antiretroviral agent(2)
maladies infectieuses infectious diseases
immunisations et vaccins immunizations and vaccinations
mesures et d'interventions d'urgence emergency preparedness and response

(1)  The WHO says:  "Any disease and/or infection which is naturally transmissible from vertebrate animals to man is classified as a zoonosis...Over 200 zoonoses have been described and...involve all types of agents: bacteria, parasites, viruses and unconventional agents."

(2) An antiretroviral agent is a substance which stops or slows down the activity of a retrovirus like HIV.

When it comes to translating documents about health issues and emergency health procedures, translators have a true ally - the World Health Organization.  I say that because the WHO web site is now in several languages.  It is an excellent starting point for building  health and public safety lexicons in French and English!


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Infectious Diseases, Part 2

In my last blog, I spoke about shying away from large medical translation mandates.  That timidity stems from two factors:

  • large mandates (10,000 words and up) are backbreaking.  Maybe translators who use computer-assisted translation tools and who specialize in this field don't share my view.  They can just breeze through their documents and complete the job on time;  I have tried both translation software and CAT tools and I must admit that they fall short of my expectations.  I'd rather translate from scratch, especially if I'm translating documents of less than 10K words. 
  • Looking up medical terminology takes time, especially if you're not accustomed to doing medical translation. You can spend hours researching and verifying terms.  I'm not referring to actual technical terms like the official French and English names for specific diseases.  I'm referring more to segments of the translation that can lend themselves to ambiguity due to different local practices.

seminar Like most professionals, translators have to upgrade their skills constantly, not just in the latest technologies but also in translation theory and practice in a given field.  One way of upgrading their skills is to attend seminars.  Seminar topics cover localization (adapting the terms as they are used in the country or region), quality control, recent trends and developments, resources, and familiarization with software features that translators are not aware exist.  

What issues would a medical translation seminar cover?  This one being offered by the ATA (American Translators Association and the  Association of Translators and Interpreters of San Diego) will be held in July 2009 in San Diego, California.  On the agenda:

  • translation of medical records (including doctors' orders and prescriptions)
  • understanding of medical shorthand (standardized medical writing and record formats)
  • understanding of heart problems, cardiovascular procedures and surgeries to come up with more accurate translations
  • networking with fellow translators in the same field.

Here are five more terms to add to your French-English lexicon for infectious diseases:



Fièvre Chikungunya Chikungunya fever
Cyclospora Cyclosporiasis
Entérovirus 71 Enterovirus 71
Virus H1N1 (grippe porcine chez l'être humain) H1N1 virus (pork swine flu)
Maladie de Lyme Lyme disease

Chikungunya fever causes fatigue, headache, fever and severe arthritis in the wrists, ankles and other joints.  Joints become swollen, reducing the range of motion.  There was a recent outbreak of this disease in Southeast Asia and is sometimes confused with Denge fever because some symptoms are similar.

Cyclosporiasis is a disease that affects the small intestine.  The parasite is microscopic in size.

H1N1, of which we've heard so much about, is a strain of the influenza virus that affects pigs, but which can also affect humans, particularly their respiratory systems.

Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease which, if left untreated, can spread to the musko-skeletal, nervous and cardiovascular systems.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Infectious Diseases, Part 1


infectious diseases part 1 Despite my translation experience, there are two fields where I hesitate to accept mandates:  legal and medical translation.  I am even more hesitant when documents have over 10,000 words. 

Medical translation is a highly specialized field; if a translator does not have the necessary resources, the quality of the translation in the target language could be compromised.  This is the reason why translators are often required to have an excellent command of the target language (which is normally their mother tongue) and a very good working knowledge (functional and conceptual) of the source language.

Given that new diseases and viruses make their way into the medical community faster than medical dictionaries can keep up, translators often scramble for term equivalents.  You cannot do a good translation with only pocket medical dictionaries.  You need access to terminology and linguistic databases - preferably those that are created by government bodies, accredited private associations and universities) and large medical dictionaries like the ones that Elsevier publishes (Elsevier dictionaries cost an arm and a leg).

I have heard of cases where translators often leave the original term in quotation marks because they can't find the equivalent.  When too many terms in the document are not translated, this indicates that the translator may not have practised due diligence.  A good translator will "move mountains" to find the appropriate translation.  Research is a tool, resourcefulness is a virtue. 

For example, take the infectious disease Brucellose - a  French term.  If a translator does diligent research,  he will learn that it is an illness that affects humans when they consume unpasteurized milk and other milk products from infected cows, goats or pigs.  cow part1 He will also learn that it is not a  disease common in North America but in regions like the Mediterranean and North and East Africa.  He will also know that the English equivalent is Brucellosis. 

The following are five infectious diseases to add to your French-English vocabulary builder:




Campylobactériose Campylobacteriosis
Coqueluche CJD/vCJD
Teigne Epidermophyton floccosum
Histoplasmose Histoplasmosis
Leptospirose Leptospirosis

Following is a brief and general description of each:

Campylobacteriosis:  attacks the digestive system; caused by eating uncooked pork or contaminated milk.  Can also be contracted from animals.

CJD/vCJD:  acronym for Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) which is of two types:  classical and variant.  Infectious agents called prions (or misfolded proteins) attack brain cells, leading to gaps in brain tissue.  It can be fatal.

Epidermophyton floccosum: affects the hair, skin and nails, and the disease is characterized by hair loss, breakage or lesions.  This disease is more common in hot climates and in crowded places.

Histoplasmosis: a lung disease caused by a fungus called Histoplasma capsulatum. It can spread to other parts of the body.

Leptospirosis:  a bacteria called Leptospira is the culprit.  It primarily affects animals but humans can catch it through soil, vegetation or water that contains contaminated animal urine.  Humans can also acquire it in pools and lakes.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Summer Sports, Part 3: Volleyball & Water Polo




People say that volleyball is the second most popular sport in the world today.

William G. Morgan  invented volleyball and he introduced it in 1895 at a Massachusetts YMCA.  Six players are on each side and the ball measures 65-67 cm in circumference and weighs 260-280g.  It became an Olympic sport in 1964, and the first winners were American.  There are currently about 800 million volleyballers in the world.

Do you play volleyball?  It was popular in my school but now when I hear "volleyball", my mind wanders off to the beach.

I've compiled these French-English volleyball terms:



terrain court
filet net
temps-mort time out
remplacement substitution
faute foul
blocage blocking
joueur arrière back line player
service serve
surface de service service area
ligne de fond back line (also: baseline)
ligne centrale (aussi: ligne médiane) center line
ligne d'attaque attack line
piste d'élan approach
zone arrière back court
manchette bump
coup croisé cross court shot
feinte dink

water polo

Water Polo

In water polo, there are 13 players but only 12 of them can be in the water at the same time.  Players can toss or throw the ball with one hand but cannot be punched by others except the goalkeeper.

The dress code for water polo are trunks and caps.  Caps must be secured firmly under the chin.  If a cap falls off, the player must replace it at the next stoppage.  No player is allowed to apply oil or grease on his/her body.  When a team gains possession of the ball, players have 35 seconds to shoot it towards the goal; if not, they must concede a free throw. 

I've always wondered about the 35-second rule and where it came from.  And why 35 and not 30?  According to the NCAA, there was an attempt to change 35 seconds to 30 but somehow, the 35-second rule was maintained.  NCAA rules change every two years, so the next rules review will take place in 2010.  Officials will probably revisit the 35 second rule.



coup de coin corner throw
contre-attaque counter attack
supériorité numérique extra man advantage
joueur de champ field player
remise en jeu par le gardien de but goal throw
tir de pénalité penalty throw
règle de 35 secondes 35-second rule

This rounds up our French English summer sports vocabulary (I'll be back with more terms at a future date).

The next series?  How about infectious diseases?


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Summer Sports, Part 2: Baseball & Swimming

Having lived in the US for 8 years, I am aware how baseball has become an unchallenged and revered  institution. I listened in awe as Americans spoke glowingly of their favorite teams, their attention riveted to the TV screen until the final scores come out.  Canadians have the same passion for hockey. Even in summer time, you see kids in the street with a puck and stick, unmindful of the dangers of traffic.

Baseball historians insist that even if Abner Doubleday invented the sport, Alexander Cartwright is the true father of baseball.  He established the first formal rules of baseball in 1845.

Time to polish your French to English baseball terminology!



lanceur pitcher
receveur catcher
premier but first baseman
deuxième but second baseman
troisième but third baseman
inter shortstop
voltigeur gauche left fielder
voltigeur de centre center fielder
voltigeur droit right fielder
marbre home base (also: home plate)
circuit home run
masque de receveur catcher’s mask
protège-gorge throat protector
genouillère (aussi: protège-genou) knee protector (also: knee guard)
manche inning
arbitre umpire
bâton bat
zone de prises strike zone
prise strike
frappe batting
jeu forcé force play
vol de but steal

Turning now to swimming, there are four competition categories:  freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly and backstroke.  The spearhead principle is a concept you most likely have heard about.  It means that in every competition, the fastest rated swimmer is assigned the center lane; if the number of lanes is even, he gets the right of center lane.  The other competitors are assigned alternate left/right positions of the center lane, with the slowest swimmers getting the two outside lanes.  This arrangement usually will see the swimmers fanning out into a spearhead formation as they complete the race.

A few French-English swimming terms for you:



piscine pool
nage libre (aussi:  natation libre) freestyle
brasse breaststroke
papillon butterfly
juge-arbitre referee
faux départ false start
formation fer de lance spearhead formation
nageur de quatre nages medley swimmer
nage synchronisée (the FFN – Fédération française de natation also calls it natation synchronisée) synchronized swimming
jambe de ballet simple ballet leg
jambe de ballet double ballet double leg
jambe pliée bent knee
chevalier knight
vertical vertical
position groupée tuck
carpé avant front pike
carpé arrière back pike

I swim occasionally and my favorite strokes are the freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke.  I sometimes do the dog crawl and the scissors.  I have trouble with the butterfly.

For an English commentary on the freestyle technique, you can click on this link:

For a French demonstration (no commentary), click here:!9C207695B264ECE3!3136.trak.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Summer Sports, Part 1: Golf/Water Skiing

For this week, I’ll post French-English terms for various summer sports. 

Did you know that there are over 150 kinds of sports in at least 13 categories (athletics, winter, team, gymnastics, combat, etc) and more than 200 international and national sports associations?  With that variety,  there is no excuse NOT to make an effort to engage in a sport you learn and enjoy.  If we have the Special Olympics for the disabled, it is to encourage the physically and intellectually challenged to participate.  The Special Olympics web site writes about 10 ways you can get involved with the Special Olympics in your community.

Today’s blog:  Golf and Water Skiing Terms 

My father was an avid golfer.  When he was alive, he played golf every weekend;  when he retired, he played at least 3-4 times a week.  He stopped playing golf when he was diagnosed with colon cancer and I knew how this self-deprivation affected him profoundly.  When he was younger and stronger, he looked forward to his golf games, getting up as early as 4:30 in the morning so he and his golf buddies would beat the crowds.  He was an admirer of Tiger Woods and he followed Tiger’s tournaments on TV.  I dare not think of the kind of emotions that raged in him when he watched Tiger swing that iron while he dealt with the nostalgia of his golfing days.

tiger woods_post 4

(“I don’t know if I even have an aura, man. I just try to win.” Tiger Woods). 

There are two types of golf competitions:  match play and stroke play.  Match play victory is based on the majority of holes while stroke play victory is based on the number of strokes.  The player with the fewest strokes wins.

A few golf terms:



bâton  de golf golf club
bois wood
fer iron
fer droit putter
parcours de golf golf course
allée fairway
vert (aussi: pelouse d’arrivée) putting green
handicap (aussi: marge d’erreur) handicap
partie par trou match play
partie par coup stroke play (also: medal play)
caddie caddie
fosse de sable bunker
oiselet birdie
bogey bogey

Water Skiing

As a child, I thought of water skiers as an elite group of pleasure-seekers and listened to them with envy as they nattered about their bold and graceful movements.  I told myself then that I’d learn it one day and excel in it.

I never did.

Life got in the way and I have not once been on water skis.  Tennis yes…which became an addiction.  But I still envy water skiers and watch them from a distance, marvelling at their form and grace.

water skiThe sport is divided into three sections:  jumping, slalom and trick riding.  In jumping, the ramp is an inclined plane, and the boat must be parallel to the ramp on the right side.  In slalom, the boat has to go through the middle area of the slalom course and the skier has to swing across it to pass six buoys.  The skier then follows the boat through the central gate.  Trick riding, the last section, requires the skier to perform on a straight course with buoys on each side.

Some water skiing terms:



ski nautique water skiing
saut jumping
slalom slalom
figures trick riding
embarcation pour le ski ski boat
fixation foot binding
remorque towing line
bouée buoy
goofy goofy (a skier who leads with the right food forward)
combinaison humide (aussi: vêtement non-étanche wet suit
vêtement étanche dry suit

Next post:  swimming and baseball terms!



Sunday, May 17, 2009

Gardening – Part 3

Garden Essentials

Aside from plants, a garden can be a refuge, an entertainment center.  Romantics propose and get married in gardens; some use it as a place to argue so that the children or guests don’t have to hear the heated exchange of words.

For this third and final series on gardening vocabulary, I compiled a list of terms of garden tools, components and accessories.  When I say “final series”, I don’t mean that this theme is forever closed.  Lexicons for plants and gardens are numerous and I shall re-start a series at a future time and add more terms.

Take your typical home in the suburbs with a garden.  What do you see?



chaise longue lounging chair
barbecue au gaz gas grill
piscine hors terre above-ground pool
appareil de nettoyage automatique pour piscine hors-terre automatic above-ground pool cleaner
hamac folding hammock
tapis d’extérieur outdoor rug

You need not travel to far away places to enjoy the esthetics and symmetry of gardens.  Two dominant types of gardens have influenced the landscape and development of gardens:  French and English.  But nowadays distinctions blur, as more and more people prefer to mix elements taken from both styles.  In fact, most people who like recreational gardening don’t really pay attention to principles and methods.  They learn as they go!

Despite the recession, people are spending their money to embellish their gardens.  As one gardener said,  “why not, my garden is my safe haven.”  According to a report by Beth Johnston of Sun Media, this year’s hot ticket is the strawberry vanilla hydrangea.  The red Mandeville (an annual) is also popular.



jardinière à 3 tablettes 3-tier plant holder
paniers à suspendre hanging baskets
topiaire de cèdre artificiel artificial cedar topiary
abri-moustiquaire screen house
parasol de patio patio umbrella

If you like to entertain in your garden, you’ll need… garden_entertain_post 3



table de bout carrée en bois dur pour l’extérieur hardwood outdoor square end table
desserte/porte bouteille wine rack/serving rack
coffre à roulettes deck box with wheels
ustensiles de cuisine kitchen utensils
sac à rebut waste bag
brocs pitchers

Some fancy items for the garden include…



marqueurs pour plantes plant marker sets
housse de balancelle patio swing cover
carillon éolien en bois wooden wind chimes
vasque décorative pour oiseaux decorative bird baths

Next week, I’ll start a new theme – summer sports!


Friday, May 15, 2009

Gardening - Part 2: Flowers!

Today we continue our gardening theme and give you 20 different flowers in French and English.  Ah flowers…they replace words of love and probably do a better job in healing the sick and uplifting the downtrodden.  They stir the poet in each of us. 

(Note:  images of the flowers here are from Wikipedia, not from my garden)

3 combined

Landscaping and gardening experts say that spring is the best time of the year to plant.  They advise adding a root stimulant like bone meal or mycorrhizae to encourage roots and healthy growth.  Broken branches must be pruned and the surface must be covered with mulch.  The soil has to be moist until the plant is “settled in.”  3 combined1

When shopping for flowers – especially perennials and annuals – examine their leaves.  Inspect the undersides to make sure there are no pests or signs of disease or decay.

One thing to remember about annuals:  they can’t survive the winter so they have to be replanted every year unless you choose re-seeding annuals.  Perennials will keep though.  Perennial bulbs like daffodils and tulips will remain in the ground throughout winter.  This way you don’t need to dig them up and store them during autumn.

combined3 A writer mentioned an interesting thing about edible flowers.  There are some species that you can eat, but do be careful:  you can eat only the petals, and don’t eat edible flowers that you buy at stores unless you’re 100% sure that they were not sprayed with chemicals.  Eat them in small quantities first, in case you’re allergic.  Lastly, don’t eat those that you plucked out of the roadside – think “exhaust” and “pollution.”

The 20 flowers below are a mix of annuals (A), perennials (P), bulbs (B) and others (O).  The letters follow the English names. 



Amarante Amaranth (A)
Amaryllis Amaryllis (B)
Arctotis hybrid African Daisy (A)
Campanules Blanketflowers (P)
Crête-de-qoc Cockscomb (A)
Digitale poupre Foxglove (P)
Fougère Fern (O)
Hortensia Hydrangea (O)
Jasmin trompette Trumpet Vine ((O)
Liatride Blazing Star (B)
Lis de paques Easter Lily (O)
Narcisse des près Daffodils (B)
Narcissus tazette papyraceus Paperwhite (B)
Oeillet giroflée Carnation (P)
Pied d’alouette Larkspur (A)
Racine de pivoine Peony (P)
Rose trémière Hollyhock (P)
Tulipe Tulip (B)
Violette d’Usambara African Violet (O)
Violette pied d’oiseau Pansy (A)

I’ve been watching this TV ad promoting a product called Roll N Grow.  It’s a cloth-like piece of padding that you can put in pots, beds and along the edge of your driveway.  It contains 1,000 seeds and claims that when used, there is no need to do any weeding, hoeing, and all the prep work required before planting flowers.  The company’s web site is

Has anyone ever tried it?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Gardening: Part 1

The store flyers are out.  From fertilizers to weeding tools to garden hats, we’re reminded that it’s that time again to tend to our gardens.  Soon the nursery a few blocks from my place will be packed with green and not-so-green thumbs hauling heavy bags of soil and outdoor ornaments into the trunks of their cars.  Thanks to their zeal and creativity, neighbourhood yards will come alive with the colors of spring.


I don’t have space for a garden because I live in a condo building although there is a tiny plot of land out front where I could plant some dainty flowers to break the monotony of red brick and concrete. 

As Cicero once said, "he who has a garden and a library wants for nothing.”

Gardening and landscaping experts advise that the choice of plants and flowers must be based on the type of soil and climate of a given geographical area.  Any garden project must consider the sun’s intensity, soil conditions and the amount of rainfall. 

This week, let’s build a French-English gardening lexicon:

For starters, decor items and fertilizers!



pierre décorative decorative stone
galet doré pea pebble
pierre de rivière river stone
argile broyée brick chips
paillis rouge red mulch
paillis noir black mulch
paillis de cèdre cedar mulch
ecaille de cacao cocoa shell mulch
semence à gazon grass seed
terre noire black earth
fumier de mouton sheep manure
engrais verdissant pour pelouse green-up lawn fertilizer
grazonneur turf starter
terreau de tourbe avec fumier manured peat loam
gazon supplément de croissance turf growth supplement
pâturage fertilisé fertilized pasture
carreaux de parterre lawn tile
mélanges de gramineés à gazon lawn/turf grass mixture
teneur d’un engrais fertilizer grade
distributeur d’engrais fertilizer spreader


Tip:  It is safe to mow your lawn after the fertilizer you have applied has been rained on or watered.