Friday, February 5, 2010

French to English: The Press, Part 1

Which section of the paper do you read first?  Or which one don't you bother to read?

the press 1 I get to read whatever my brother has finished reading.  It's my subscription, but brothers are special that way.    They're the ones who have the privilege of reading the papers before their siblings do, siblings who pay for the subscription.  What do you think he'll tell me if I ask him to split the subscription fee with me?

He won't answer, he'll just give me that are you nuts look. 

On Saturday mornings - my favorite day of the week - the first section I read (if my brother's done with it) is the Gazette's Home Section.  I enjoy the articles written by the Gazette writers when they visit homes and chat with tenants and homeowners.  It's in the form of a question and answer, so it is easy reading.  Those who are interviewed show an area of their apartment or house and they tell readers why they chose the apartment or the location and what's special about the neighborhood.  If they have an interesting piece of art, they talk about that too.

I also like the business section.  It's a good way to rev up your financial education at your own pace.

This three-part French to English lexicon will focus on newspapers.  I'll give you some terms and I'll translate  short paragraphs from columnists of LaPresse, Le Journal de Montréal and Le Devoir - three newspapers with a wide circulation in Montreal. 

La Presse is read by Montreal's Francophone community (I'm sure many Anglophones read it too) and is the French equivalent of the Montreal Gazette.  Le Journal de Montréal is a popular newspaper, with a slight bent for the sensational.  Le Devoir is - ehem - more high-brow and read by the intelligentsia.  It's a conservative newspaper; if you want to refine your French vocabulary, and learn the art of sophisticated journalism, read Le Devoir everyday.

When I was first learning French, I had to keep my bilingual dictionary close by when reading Le Devoir.  There were many words I could not understand.  If I read LeDevoir today, I bet I'll still be looking up some words!

For today's blog, I'll start with Lysiane Gagnon of LaPresse.  This paragraph refers to the United States which seemed to be in free fall judging from last year's recession.  She uses the word "declin" (decline), and mentions Denys Arcand, a Quebec film producer who made the beautiful film, Declin de l'empire américain.


Denys Arcand avait trouvé un titre prémonitoire. Le fait marquant de la décennie est en effet le déclin de l'empire américain.
Déclin tout relatif, cela va de soi. Les États-Unis restent la puissance la plus riche, la plus avancée scientifiquement, la plus forte militairement, et celle dont la culture est le plus innovatrice. Mais déclin il y a.


Ms Gagnon uses the word "premonitoire"  (think "premonition").  "Cela va de soi" is an expression you might be familiar with.  It means "it goes without saying."

Here's the English translation: 

Denys Arcand may have chosen a title that hinted at a premonition because the most significant event of the decade was in fact the decline of the American empire.

But it goes without saying that the word "decline" is relative.  The United States remains the wealthiest, most scientifically advanced, and the strongest military power with a culture described as the most innovative.  But yes, it's on a decline.

You'll notice that I translated Ms Gagnon's paragraph by  adding or subtracting words where it was necessary to do so.  These translation theories are to étoffer (to beef up with more words) and to supprimer (to cut out or take out words) and they are techniques used by translators to make the translation more fluid and more natural.

Our translation professors always used to say not to produce a translation that reads like a translation; it has to read like it was the original.  As you can see, my translation isn't literal.  For example, premonitoire is "premonitory" in English, but who uses premonitory these days?  I chose instead, "that hinted at a premonition."  I also connected sentences 1 and 2 by adding the word "because" to make a more natural transition of ideas.  I have done the same with the rest of the translation. 

Writers make use of what's called "editorial licence".  For translators, editorial licence is an inevitable practice, especially when literal translations are to be avoided.

Your first set of newspaper terms:

lead story
corps du texte
body copy
caractère gras
journal grand format
bureau des informations locales
city desk
classified advertising
annonces classées
chronique, reportage
column inch
chroniqueur (chroniqueuse)
columnist (female columnist)
secrétariat de rédaction
copy desk
copy editor (female copy editor)
droit d'auteur
correspondent (female correspondent)

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