Translation from Inside the Kitchen Window

Translation Frustration

As a translator you want to make sure the information you are translating will relate to the intended audience. Getting the right phrases for the region or the correct terminology are all part of the job when translating documents and presentations. Sometimes it can be more fun not to translate and let the language of French and English fight it out on their own. Here is what I mean.

We were on a vacation to visit family and friends in my home Province of Quebec years ago. My husband had been traveling to Quebec for work for a few years and was trying very hard to learn French so he could communicate with my family and friends. He had done pretty well but as many people do had problems with sentence structure and defining words in French. This is how the story played out.

The four of us had just finished a beautiful dinner outside on the patio. My friend and I cleared off the plates and were doing the dishes just inside the kitchen window listening to the conversation going on outside. My husband was asked, ” depuis combien de temps tu conduit?” This phrase in English means, ” How long have you been driving?” Here’s the problem! My husband knew that the verb “combien” meant how much. So he thought our friend was asking him how much he got paid at his job. The two went back and forth trying to understand what the other was asking. We kept doing the dishes while listening and we were laughing so hard we almost pee’d our pants. Oh I could have helped him understand, but it was much funnier letting him try to figure it out on his own.

We still laugh about that moment to this day. I tell you this story to show you the importance of getting the proper translation for your audience. Words can have multiple meanings in any language and pronunciation factors can make words seem like other similar words. You wouldn’t want a customer to mistake the message you are trying to get across because they didn’t understand the words being used. After all if you are not in the room you may not notice the laughing going on outside of the window.

About the Author

Carmen Outridge owns Outridge Translation Services offering English to French translation services for those operating in the Province of Quebec. She has been in the translation industry for over 30 years and is from Quebec. If you have documents you need translated then visit and have your translation completed the way Quebec expects it.

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