Training grant: Make Sure Your English is… English – Hayley reports

ITI Members of the French Network can apply for a training grant to organise or attend an event. In March 2021, Hayley Leva received the grant to attend the event Make Sure Your English is… English, organised by Magistrad and hosted by Joachim Lépine. Here she shares what she learned.

Do we say that in English? Hang on… is that franglais? After living and working in France for almost 10 years, I catch myself asking questions like that a little too often. And while my slips and made-up words are a great source of entertainment for family and friends back in the UK, they clearly have no place in my translation work. I was therefore delighted when I came across “Make Sure Your English is… English” on the MAGISTRAD website. The two-part workshop is led by Joachim Lépine (Traductions LION) and is designed to help French to English translators “walk the boundary” between the two languages and eliminate the influence of French from their work. Just what I needed!

Joachim kicked off the first session by giving us a brief history of French and English and explaining some of the broad differences between the two languages. For example, French is often more formal than English in similar contexts – French speakers often try to “speak the way they write”, whereas English speakers tend to “write the way they speak”. One of the other participants made the astute observation that there is a parallel between the French and English languages and the respective legal systems: French is about codes and rules, whereas English is about usage and precedents.

The remainder of the workshop was dedicated to the hallmarks of English at the word, sentence and text levels. Joachim took us through each hallmark in turn, illustrating them with examples from his own work and lots of interactive exercises. We did quick brainstorms to share ideas and translated short extracts ourselves so that we could really get to grips with what we were learning. Joachim also recommended some books and style guides that he has found useful, and emphasised the importance of reading good English writing to develop our “inner ear”.

Some of the hallmarks we looked at were familiar to me. For example, I was aware that “elegant variation” (the use of synonyms to avoid repetition) is frowned upon in English but considered good style in French, and I aim to pay attention to this while translating. However, there were others that I hadn’t picked up on or given much thought to. English speakers spontaneously use a lot of phrasal verbs and word pairs for instance. We arrange set up meetings, discuss talk about projects and cancel call off events. We get up bright and early, keep our desks neat and tidy, and try to stay fit and healthy. Weaving these features into our translations is a relatively simple way of making our texts more idiomatic.

The examples I’ve quoted above only give the tiniest glimpse of everything we covered in the workshop, which was helpful and enjoyable in equal measure. Joachim is very knowledgeable and made the sessions fun and interactive. And best of all? I was able to apply some of his tips and tricks almost immediately. I’ve also become far more attentive to language, style and structure when I’m reading, and I’m sure that this will enhance my translations. All in all, I wholeheartedly recommend the course to any French to English translators who feel that their English might be “slipping” or anyone who wants to learn more about the stylistic differences between French and English.