Friday, June 18, 2010

French to English: Cars, Part 2

If push comes to shove and you have a very technical document to translate that the client needs yesterday, how do you cope - especially when the generous sprinkling of technical terms prevents you from understanding the document?  My suggestion:  go for "gisting." 

Gisting is a process that enables you to get a rough idea of the subject matter.  One way to do gisted translation is to submit it to machine translation.  The machine will spew out words which, when put together, provide clues on the topic.  This way, you'll be able to look up terminology in the proper context. 

I have the Systran package and while I would never use it to translate an entire document, I would use it on that rare occasion when I'm at a loss.  If, after reading the 5th paragraph, I still don't understand the source language,  I simply turn on my Systran software and let the machine do the work.  Nine times out of ten I get to discern what is being said.

Another way is to let Google help you.  While Google Translate should never be your primary tool, it does give you good gisting possibilities.

There is nothing wrong with Google Translate or machine translation - provided the document is not sent to the client as is. Human intervention is a must.  You'd have to clean it up - and clean up you will because you and I already know that machine translation - if not edited - can be atrocious.  It will make you chuckle, but I don't think your client will be very amused.

In my next post, I'll give you examples of Google translations, and then do some quality control so that the document reads intelligently.

témoin de frein antiblocage ABS service reminder indicator
témoins de feux de direction turn signal indicator lights
témoin de feux de route high beam indicator light
témoin de pression d'huile low oil pressure warning light
témoin de frein de stationnement parking brake
témoin lumineux du système de charge charging system warning light
témoin et carillon de porte ouverte door ajar warning light and alarm
témoin de bas niveau de carburant low fuel level warning light
lampe témoin d'anomalie moteur malfunction indicator light
signal lumineux et sonore de ceinture de sécurité seat belt warning light and chime
témoin de température du liquide de refroidissement engine coolant temperature warning light
témoin du système d'immobilisation immobilizer warning light

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

French to English: Cars, Part 1

I'm enjoying my new car - that fresh-from-the factory smell, the way it purrs like a kitten and the smooth highway driving tell you that yes, life can be grand with a brand new machine. 

I managed to keep my old car (a Toyota Corolla) for 14 years.  In the last 2 years, however, I no longer used it for long trips, preferring to rent a car.  I was afraid that it might suddenly croak right in the middle of a busy highway.  It was running well right up to its 14th year and for sentimental reasons, I wanted to hang on to it for longer; I secretly hoped I could keep it for at least another 3 years.

But one April afternoon before attending mass, the car started to tremble and I got scared.  All I did was pray hard we'd get home safely.  We did make it home, but that was a sign from above that it was probably time to let go.  Why push my luck?

I wasn't ready for a new car, but I didn't want to face another year of expensive repairs either so I bit the bullet and went shopping.  With a pint full of dread.

I learned a lesson:  don't shop for a new car when your old one shows signs of serious trouble.  Two reasons:  (a)  out of desperation, you could settle for the first offer that comes your way, and (b)  the trade-in value is a sorry pittance.  You know that old advice to stars about making an exit from the celebrity circuit while they're still hot?  The same advice applies to cars, no doubt.

Because I was afraid that my old car would suffer another relapse and leave me with zero mobility, I hurried up the buying process instead of taking my time to compare offers from at least 2 other dealerships.  In my rush to close the first deal, I ended up with a cost that was far greater than the cost posted in the papers.  What I should have done was to do my own calculations instead of taking the salesman's word and relying on HIS computer to spew out the figures.  That was so unintelligent of me!  When I drove out of the dealership with my new car, I had this nagging suspicion that I'd been had.

As for the trade-in value, Toyota Corollas have good resale value - but only if they're in good condition.  Mine had a lot of rust on the underside.  Plus it was 14 years old!  If I had sold it on its 7th or 8th birthday, I probably would have received a higher trade-in value.

That's all behind me now.  My new car won't give me reason to worry for at least the next 5 years.  My sister once said that her own experience shows that cars start showing trouble just when their warranties expire.  My brother also told me that I should get rid of that mentality of keeping my car for as long as I can.  "Get rid of it when it's past its prime," he said.

And with the kind of Montreal winters we have, I learned another lesson:  I'll have my car rust-proofed every year.  That way its bottom belly stays well-lubricated!

levier d'ouverture de capot hood release lever
interrupteur de phares antibrouillard fog light switch
bouton de commande de luminosité du tableau panel brightness control knob
régulateur de vitesse cruise control
klaxon horn
sac gonflable air bag
commutateur de lave/essuie glace windshield wiper/washer switch
commutateur de feux de détresse hazard warning light switch
montre à affichage numérique digital clock
interrupteur de dégivreur de lunette de-fogger switch
boîte à gants glove box (compartment)
panneau de commande de chauffage/climatisation heating/air conditioning control panel

Friday, June 11, 2010

French to English: Countries, Part 3

I've been swamped with client work, but that's no excuse to be away from my personal blog this long.  I have not posted anything since the 20th of May - mea culpa - but much as I love blogging, I gotta put food on the table as well.  Ah, the heartaches!  Wish I had two brains and one more pair of hands.  These extras would allow me to do everything I want to do in a day.  But as they say, be careful what you wish for.  I don't want to wake up one morning and see how deformed I've become!

As I complete this final series on countries, I have two bits of trivia to share with you:  there is no country that begins with the letter "X".  If you chance upon an island - unnamed and undiscovered - and you can lay claim to it, why not give it a name that starts with X?

Second bit of trivia:  did you know that there's a country called Nieu?  I shouldn't say "country", it's really an island and it's just three hours away from New Zealand.  On the official web site, it reports that are  less than 90 hotel rooms and there are times in the year where there are more whales than humans.

I have never heard of Nieu until I did research for this posting.  Nieu is not to be confused with Nieu-Bethesda which is in Africa.  The Nieu I discovered is in the South Pacific Ocean and is also known as the Rock of Polynesia. It is bordered by New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga and Cook Island.  It associates freely with New Zealand and is somewhat "governed" by New Zealand.  I think I'll put this island in my "countries to visit before I die" list.  I have always dreamed of visiting Australia and New Zealand anyway so why not do a side trip to Nieu?  Maybe it's the best place to "renew" one's energies!

Here is your final batch of French-English country names:

La Corée du NordNorth Korea
la Papauasie-Nouvelle-GuinéePapua Nwe Guinea
la PolognePoland
la RoumanieRomania
Sainte-Christophe-et-Nièves (masc.)Saint Kitts-Nevis
Saint-MarinSan Marino
l'Arabie Saodite Saudi Arabia
l'Écosse (fem)Scotland
la SerbieSerbia
les Seychelles (fem)Seychelles
l'EspagneSpain (fem)
la SuèdeSweden
la SuisseSwitzerland
les pays de GalleWales

If you're as curious as I am about Nieu, please visit:
There's a brochure and a map which you can download.

Where are you heading to this summer?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

French to English: Countries, Part 2

Like other professionals, translators have their own tool kits.  I obtained the translation of this next set of countries using a simple but useful software called GT4T.  More about GT4T below.  Let's talk about CATs first.

About 75% of translators I know use computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools.  I believe the industry standard is Trados.  Other popular CATs include Wordfast, MemoQ and DivX.  These aren't machine translation software, they are called terminology memory software and they help facilitate the work of translators who have to translate documents with word counts in the thousands.  They help retain the consistency of term usage.

I once tried Wordfast years ago but gave it up after a few weeks.  Don't ask me why.  I think my discomfort had to do with the interface. 

Translators also have machine translation software programs which, we all know, don't do a perfect job.  Machine translation has not yet reached its full maturity, and leaves much to be desired.  One example of a machine translation software is Systran.  I gave it a try.  It did a so-so job, and while the user manual said that its memory can be "trained", one word I was never able to teach it was "borough."  In Montreal, we say "arrondisement" just like they do in France, but Systran kept returning the word "district" as the English translation even if I kept correcting it and sending it to the memory term base.

So translation tools, I'm afraid, have left a bitter taste on my mouth.  Maybe it's my fault for not trying hard enough to decode the configuration.  I almost bought MemoQ not too long ago but I've been reading the comments on Yahoo groups and while some of them have been charmed by it, there seems to be a lot of issues.  MemoQ, however, has excellent customer support.  Users praise their customer support staff to high heavens.  But for now I'm staying away from any translation software - whether it's a CAT or machine translation software.

Last week, I came across Dallas Cao's GT4T while I was surfing on ProZ, and it's a clever concoction, without the whistles and bells.  It is based on Google's translation base and it does a good job.  GT4T stands for "Google Translate for Translators."  It works only within Microsoft Word and the operation is fairly straightforward.  I'm actually enjoying it.  You can find out more by going to
Oh yes, it's of course limited in functionalities compared toTrados, Wordfast or MemoQ, but when you're pressed for time and don't have time to learn the intricacies of CAT tools, Dallas Cao's GT4T is excellent!  After you've translated the document using it, all you need to do is to clean it up and do the required quality control.  I used GT4T to do this next set of countries for you, but had to add the "le" or the "la" before the French name (hello Google!)

la Hongrie Hungary
Île Maurice (fem)Mauritius
le Japon Japan
la Jordanie Jordan
le Koweït  Kuwait
la Lettonie Latvia
la Libye Libya
Malte (fem)Malta
le MarocMorocco
la Norvège Norway
l’Ouganda (m)Uganda
la Nouvelle-Zélande New Zealand

Monday, May 17, 2010

French to English: Countries, Part 1

When I was studying translation, one theory that I had down pat was NOT to translate proper nouns.  French names of associations and groups shouldn't be translated unless there was an official English equivalent. 

I never really got around to asking my professors why the French write the names of countries differently.  For example, why would the United States become les États-Unis?  What was even more intriguing was some countries were masculine and others were feminine.  An academic question gone unanswered!  I'll have to dig into my old textbooks and find the explanation.

I'd like to give you the names of some countries in French and English, but I will choose only those countries that are not so obvious owing to the different way they're spelled.
Here's the first 12:  (plus 1 bonus)

l'Andorre (feminine)Andora
la Barbade (fem)Barbados
la BiélorussieBelarus
la BirmanieBurma
le Cap-VertCape Verde Islands
le TchadChad
les ComoresComoro Islands
le DanemarkDenmark
l'Équateur (fem)Ecuador
les FidjiFiji Islands
la Polynésie françaiseFrench Polynesia
l'Allemagne (fem)Germany

I've been delinquent in posting.  I have a good reason though.  I was buried in client work and in the last 30 days, I lived around pressing deadlines.  That's a good sign, don't you think?  Some of us thrive in our work.  I like the adrenaline rush when I'm racing against time.  The only downside is that I don't get to blog as consistently as I want to.

Adrenalin rush in French - une poussée d'adrénaline or une montée d'adrénaline.
downside - l'inconvénient (as in disadvantage)

Friday, April 16, 2010

French to English: Chocolate, Part 3

Did you know that you can make truffles at home?  I had no idea until I came across some truffle recipes.

This white chocolate truffles recipe is from Ghirardelli's chocolate cookbook.  I mentioned this book in my last post when I talked about Domingo Ghirardelli, an Italian who settled in San Francisco and became a successful chocolatier.

I envy people who can make homemade chocolates; next to bread, the smell of chocolates can liven up the atmosphere of any home.  Imagine a condo right in the heart of downtown giving off chocolate aromas from the 18th floor!  (That might increase the value of your real estate).

The wonderful thing about this recipe is it has only 4 ingredients and  the method for making truffles is described in less than 10 sentences!

Here is the recipe for those who want to try their luck with white chocolate truffles (from The Ghirardelli Cookbook, ISBN:  9 781580 088718):

You'll need these ingredients:
* 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
* 1 tbsp unsalted butter
* 8 ounces Ghirardelli white chocolate baking bar, chopped into small pieces
* 1 cup shredded coconut or chopped almonds


1.  In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer.  Add the butter and stir until melted.  Add the white chocolate.  Stir until completely melted and smooth.  Remove from the heat and pour into a shallow bowl.

2.  Cool, cover and refrigerate the mixture until firm, at least 2 hours.

3.  Using a mellon baller or small spoon, roll the mixture into 1 inch balls.  Roll each ball in the coconut or almonds.  Enjoy immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

And voila!  That's it - straight from the Ghirardelli company.

Your final batch of chocolate words:

certifié équitablefair trade certified
chocolats fourrésfilled chocolates
poudre de cacaococoa powder
graine de cacao décortiquéecocoa nib
mise en moulespanning
pralineburnt almond
pressurage de la pâtepressing

I wasn't sure what gianduja meant so I looked it up.  It's a European style chocolate that's made of chocolate and nut paste.  Many use hazelnut paste, but almond paste is also popular.

chocolate filling What about ganache?  Think of icing, filling or glaze - the one that"crowns" pastries and cakes.  It may have started in France or Switzerland.  It is made by heating heavy cream (35% and higher) and then pouring it over semi-sweet chocolate pieces which together are blended until smooth.  Sometimes, people add liqueurs or a variety of extracts.  Chocolate experts say that to make ganache, the usual ratio is 2 parts chocolate to 1 part cream (that will of course depend on the kind of texture you want to obtain).

If your supermarket does not sell Ghirardelli chocolates, I don't see why you can't use any other white chocolate.  In fact, those white chocolate chips sold in supermarkets might be good substitutes.  Remember, though, that to make excellent chocolate, you have to spend a few extra dollars for good quality ingredients.

Friday, April 9, 2010

French to English: Chocolate, Part 2

The name Ghirardelli is Italian in origin but say that name out loud and North American chocolate lovers will tell you that it's America's premier chocolate maker.

I was lucky to have stumbled upon The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, ISBN: 13: 978-1-58008-871-8) because it not only narrates the history of Ghirardelli but it also contains 80 enticing and decadent recipes, some of which are simple to follow.

Domingo Ghirardelli was initiated into the chocolate world by working as an apprentice chocolatier in a small Italian town in Rapallo, Italy.  He studied under Signor Romanengo and learned to make premium chocolate delicacies, sugar loaves and Italian fudge candies. 

Why would an 11-eleven year old boy spend his time in a chocolate factory when he could be out playing with his friends?  It probably had a lot to do with his father's travels to Sumatra and Peru.  Listening to his father's exotic tales, his fertile, chocolatey imagination sprung forth! 

Barely 20 and already married, he set out with his wife Bettina  to Uruguay and then settled in Lima, Peru where they started a small store.  But Bettina died and Domingo re-married a widow, Carmen Alvarado.  Soon the couple were friends with an American cabinet maker, James Lick, who also had that entrepreneurial bent.  Later, they decided to pack their bags and head straight for San Francisco. 

At first Domingo tried to participate in the Gold Rush which was at its fever pitch in California, but somehow he always returned to the craft he grew up with and loved most.

Ghirardelli wanted to make his own chocolate so he imported equipment from Switzerland and Peru.  It was only natural for the business to thrive:  soon, Mr. and Mrs. Ghirardelli opened stores in Oakland, Stockton and Sonora.

Domingo Ghirardelli is credited with the discovery of the Broma process in 1867 and is still used today.  This process involves leaving a bag of cocoa beans hanging in a warm room for a long time.  When the beans melt, cocoa butter drops to the floor.  The bag contains the leftover cocoa which doesn't have any trace of cocoa fat.  It now forms the base of the company's Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa.



chocolat non-sucré unsweetened chocolate
bain-marie (bain d'eau) double boiler
mélange blending
brisures de chocolate chocolate chips
mousse au chocolate chocolate mousse
roulé au chocolat chocolate Swiss roll
chocolat de couverture chocolate topping
cachuète enrobée de chocolat chocolate covered peanut
conchage conching
coulis coulis
chocolat noir dark chocolate
désodorisation deodorization
dragée dragee (sugar-coated candy, nut or pill)
granulés de chocolat chocolate cake decorations

Monday, April 5, 2010

French to English: Chocolate, Part 1

Chocolates must be coming out of your ears, now that Easter weekend is almost over.  My brother and I received chocolates and jelly beans from our kind neighbor.  To reciprocate, I made chocolate muffins and sent them over with fresh strawberries.

Client work kept me on my toes and away from my blog, and that's the reason I haven't posted anything since the 19th of March.  My bad. 

I was thinking about what lexicon to give you this week and I decided that since I had just completed some chocolate articles for a client who owns a cookie cutter business and with Easter celebrations in full swing, I thought, why not do a chocolate lexicon?

But first, here's your treat to a chocolate video.  I reviewed many chocolate videos and I picked this one especially for you.  Ever wondered how those chocolate bunnies are made?  Check this out!
Quite an involved process but if you've got the right machines and equipment, you don't need to be bending over hot coals and looking at the timer.  Those epoxy sheets are interesting.  Would making your own homemade chocolate tickle your fancy?

What comes to mind when someone says "chocolate?"  I think of Switzerland, France and Belgium.  I love American chocolate (especially Mars), but every now and then I wouldn't mind spending money on fine, European chocolates. 

It might surprise you that chocolate didn't originate from Switzerland, France or Belgium.  History books tell us that chocolate was first "discovered" among the Aztecs in the 14th century in a place called Tenochtitlán, now known as Mexico City.

It all started when Hernando Cortés went to Monteczuma (Montezuma) to conquer the Aztec empire but instead of stumbling on vast wealth as he had hoped, he discovered the cocoa bean which the natives were very fond of.  It was later used as a trading currency.  When Cortés presented the bean to the Spanish court, the king and queen didn't like it because of its bitterness.

Many, many years later, Cortés made a cocoa drink which changed the minds of royalty.  All of a sudden it was coveted by the upper European classes and only the wealthy could afford it. From then on, the dynamic development of this seductive and mouth-watering delicacy took off.

Here's your first set of chocolate terms:

after taste
chocolat artisanal
artisanal chocolate (home made)
beurre de cacao
cocoa butter
thermomètre à sirop de sucre
bavarois au chocolat
chocolate amer
bitter chocolate
blanchiment gras
matière grasse butyrique
mouleuse à chocolat
chocolate moulding machine
pâte de chocolat
chocolate paste
rapeuse-effileuse de chocolat

One intriguing term is "bloom."  According to a chocolate book I was reading, bloom is what happens to the surface of the chocolate.  It can be in the form of dullness, streaks, graying or discoloration.  When bloom occurs, that means that the chocolate was not tempered properly; it can also mean that it was  stored in a place where there were fluctuating temperatures or moisture. While it is unattractive, bloom on chocolate is safe to consume.

Friday, March 19, 2010

French to English: Earthquakes, Part 3

Earthquake terminology is a vast mass of technical and scientific terms.  We are familiar with words like intensity, tremor, faults, Richter scale and aftershocks.  What we probably don't know are those esoteric terms that only earthquake scientists use when they're doing research, giving a conference, or writing scientific papers.

For example, what's a harmonic tremor?  I'm sure it has nothing to do with Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.  The USGS defines harmonic tremor as a series of earthquakes that seismographs detect.  They may or may not be a prelude to a volcanic eruption.

And what's the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale? The intensity number is usually written as a roman numeral and it measures the severity of an earthquake as it affects the earth's surface and human lives.  There are, of course, several intensity scales.  In the US, the Modified Mercalli and the Rossi-Forel scales are commonly used.

The Rayleigh wave is a seismic wave that occurs on the surface of the ground, causing the ground to move in elliptical motion.  An isoseismal line is a map illustration - usually in the form of a line or contour - showing which areas experienced the same intensity during an earthquake.

Recurrence interval is also called the return period and refers to the period of time of between major earthquakes in a given area.

Here is your third and final set of earthquake terms:

réplique (réplique sismique)aftershock
zone de BenioffBenioff zone
plan de faillefault plane
échelle géochronologiquegeologic time scale
tremblement harmoniqueharmonic tremor
isoséisteisoseismal line
échelle de Mercalli modifiéemodified Mercalli intensity scale
pédogénétiquepedogenic (set of processes that alter or transfer soil elements)
intervalle de récurrencerecurrence interval
onde de RayleighRayleigh wave

Come and visit again.  I start a new theme in my next posting!  I have not decided which theme I'll tackle next but I'm sure you'll be able to add the terms to your growing vocabulary!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

French to English: Earthquakes, Part 2


You just ate a super bowl size of your favorite ice cream and you're feeling some kind of remorse.  You want to dance for a few minutes so the ice cream doesn't go to your waist.  You put on the CD and  the disco tune starts blasting in your living room.  You're "shaking your booty" and you imagine that you and your friends are having a whale of a time in a downtown funky disco. 

Something's moving. You're not sure if the movement is coming from your gyrating hips.  Three seconds later you ask if you're overdoing it because the living room seems to be spinning slowly.  You stop to catch your breath.  It's not you.

It'''s an earthquake!  You look up the stare at the go down on your knees, keeping your head close to the ground.  The CD sounds funny.  You quickly turn it off and unplug the CD player.  The whole house is shaking.  You're getting dizzy.  Should you try to crawl outside or should you stay put?

You find yourself wishing that you had taken a few minutes to read that emergency preparedness report from the government.  It dished out guidelines on what you can do when an earthquake strikes.

I don't know if you've heard of Doug Copp who tried to debunk the theory of "drop, cover and hold on." It's bad advice, Copp says, because seeking cover under tables and other similar pieces of furniture entails the risk of getting crushed underneath.  He advanced the "triangle of life" concept.  He said that when a structure collapses due to an earthquake, the ceiling will fall on objects and furniture, crushing the person hiding under them.  His triangle of life theory is based on the idea that the height of the object that remains standing during an earthquake serves as a sort of protective covering over the space or void beside it which will bring about a sloping roof over it.  He believed in his theory because he had worked in disaster recue operations before and he noticed the triangle formations in the disaster zone.

While Copp's theory was interesting, it did not hold much water.  The US government insists that the best way to protect yourself is still the drop, cover and hold on technique.  Here are guidelines from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  The FEMA  advises against:  running outside, standing beside a door or adopting the triangle of life as a survival strategy.

To minimize injury to yourself and to increase your chances of surviving an earthquake, take these steps (source:  FEMA:  This is copied verbatim.

What to Do During an Earthquake

Stay as safe as possible during an earthquake. Be aware that some earthquakes are actually foreshocks and a larger earthquake might occur. Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place and stay indoors until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe.

If indoors

  • DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
  • Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
  • Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, loadbearing doorway.
  • Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
  • Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
  • DO NOT use the elevators.

If outdoors

  • Stay there.
  • Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
  • Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits and alongside exterior walls. Many of the 120 fatalities from the 1933 Long Beach earthquake occurred when people ran outside of buildings only to be killed by falling debris from collapsing walls. Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects.

If in a moving vehicle

  • Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.
  • Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.

If trapped under debris

  • Do not light a match.
  • Do not move about or kick up dust.
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.

Make copies of FEMA's advice and pass them on to your friends and loved ones. Better yet, direct them to the FEMA web site.

Here is your 2nd set of earthquake terms:



cercle de feu ring of fire (also called the Circum-Pacific Belt).  It refers to the earthquake zones surrounding the Pacific Ocean.
fosse océanique oceanic trench (a linear depression of the sea floor)
alluvion alluvium (loose gravel, sand or silt)
aséismique aseismic (a fault where no earthquakes have occurred)
substratum bedrock
directivité directivity (according to the USGS, directivity is an "effect of a fault rupturing whereby earthquake ground motion in the direction of rupture propagation is more severe than that in other directions from the earthquake source.")
mécanisme au foyer focal mechanism
géodésie geodesy (science of studying the size and shape of the earth)
grande cercle great circle
mouvement du sol ground motion
horst horst (A horst is found together with a graben in an extensional environment. The graben are the downdropped blocks and the horst are the upthrown blocks that lie next to the graben - definition provided by USGS)
interplaque inter-plate
glissement de terrain landslide
magnitude magnitude


Thursday, March 11, 2010

French to English: Earthquakes, Part 1

I frown and complain when it's snowing outside.  Snow is merely an irritant, snowstorms and avalanches do not faze me.  These natural disasters can dampen my spirits, but they don't provoke fear in me.  I don't quiver with dread.

Earthquakes, however, are a different story.  They create fear to the point that I can't help but think "end of the world."  One earthquake is all it takes.  What happens to my psyche when there are several?

The year 2010 woke us from our peaceful and cozy slumber when Haiti got hit by a monstrous quake.   The disaster touched some raw nerves.  We asked, how can that kind of tragedy happen without warning?

The film footage gnawed at us:  piles of bodies strewn here and there, cries from under the debris and starving, crying infants were heart-wrenching.  We were jolted out of our complacency, stirring our compassion and sense of philanthropy. Haitians will be scared and scarred forever.  This earthquake left painful memories.  Weeks after the quake, we're still reeling from the shock.  

Then earthquakes in Turkey and Chile were reported last month.  Three weeks ago,  mild tremors (about 3.0 in the Richter scale) were felt in the north of Quebec.  We were much luckier.  No damage, no rescue teams were required.  Montrealers didn't even feel it. 

Today, I read on Yahoo that another quake measuring 7.2 hit Chile again.

Let's hope that these earthquakes take a sabbatical; otherwise 2010 will feel like 2012.
Pascal Bernard in Qu'est-ce qui fait trembler la terre? (What makes the earth tremble?) wrote about the earthquakes that occurred all over the world and dissects them, tracing earthquakes to their origins.  In Part I of his book, he mentioned the 1755 quake that decimated Lisbon.  The destruction was so massive it shocked Voltaire who turned to poetry to express his grief:

Philosophes trompés, qui criez « tout est bien »,
Accourez : contemplez ces ruines affreuses,
Ces debris, ces lambeaux, ces cendres malheureuses.
Ces femmes, ces enfants, l’un sur l’autre entassés
Sous ces marbres rompus, ces members disperses ;
Cent mille infortunés que la terre dévore
Enterrés sous leurs toit, terminent sans secours
Dans l’horreur des tourments leurs lamentable jours ? »

A translator who specializes in literary translation would no doubt come up with a good rendering in English of Voltaire's poem and with skill, capture the philosopher's anguish accurately.

Alas, I did not train in literary translation; I am told it is one of the most difficult fields.  I will translate Voltaire in my own barbaric and unschooled way so that you get the gist of his sorrow (I wish now I had taken a literary translation course):

They are mistaken - philosophers who shout "all is well"
Rush over here and look at these atrocious ruins,
These debris, these fragments, these pitiful ashes
Women and children, their bodies piled up one after the other
Underneath these broken marble stones, pieces scattered about;
One hundred thousand unlucky souls that the earth has devoured
Bleeding, torn, their hearts still beating
Buried under their roofs...they die; no help comes
Trapped in the horror of their lamentable days

I gave that my best shot, but if there are literal translators who are reading this post and have a better translation, please feel free to share them!

It's time for this initial batch of earthquake terms:

tremblement de terreearthquake
accélérogrammeaccelerogram (recording of the acceleration of the ground during an earthquake
asperitéaccident (an area on a fault that is stuck)
rejet-pendagedip slip (occurs when the blocks have shifted vertically).
hypocentre (ou foyer sismique)hypocenter (point within the earth where an earthquake rupture begins)
plaque tectonique (ou plate lithosphérique)tectonic plates (large, thin and rigid plates on the outer surface of the earth that move relative to each other)
inversion géomagnétiquemagnetic polarity reversal (when the earth's magnetic field changes to the opposite polarity)
faillefault (fracture)
glissement de terrainlandslide
sismogrammeseismogram (earthquake record)

Please drop by again for your next set of earthquake terms!