April 19, 2006

It’s like those French have a different word for everything

Filed under: General Me — tomemos @ 1:01 am

I passed my French translation exam! Back up–a French translation exam? See, in my program, we have to pass a major and minor translation exam, in two different languages of our choice, before we can get on with our lives. I passed the major exam in my second year, translating Spanish (relying on my last Spanish class, six years prior); this year, I decided on French. The thing is, I don’t know French. I’ve never taken a French class, and when I travelled around France on my own in college I couldn’t even avoid humiliation with a translation book. (For instance, I pronounced “where is”–où est–not “oo-way,” as is correct, but “ooh-est.”) But on the test I had four things going for me:

–I speak Spanish (sorta) and English (sorta-plus), which means I can puzzle out French words from their contexts a fair amount. I did this to impress Julie while we were in Paris together–translating ads in the Metro and that kind of thing.
–Dictionaries–both a French-English dictionary and a French verb dictionary–were allowed during the test.
–The text we were translating was from a French book on semiotic theory, which was loaded with cognates (structure linguistique, représentations sémantique, grammaire chomskyenne).
–The standard for the test was ridiculously easy.

This last one was the prime factor in my success, I think. The whole exercise can be summed up in the words the grader wrote in the margin next to my last paragraph: Close enough. Damn straight. That’s my new grad school motto. I’ll put it on a plaque on my wall, translated into Latin. Although I might translate the tense slightly incorrectly, for effect.

In other, “too small for its own entry” news, I just saw a Kaiser Permanente web ad that said, “Get health care for your family that’s anything but expected.” Am I the only one who thinks that’s somewhat ominous?



  1. Congrats Tom.

    Comment by Adam K. — April 25, 2006 @ 12:57 pm

  2. So where are you?? No entries for aaaaaaaaages!

    Comment by Fae — May 22, 2006 @ 3:32 pm

  3. Hey, I have no insecurities about my Spanish… two grad courses in medieval Spanish lit (both taught and read in Spanish), plus an undergrad minor, and years of…oh, what do they call it… *reading and speaking*? They gave me a chapter by some Argentine modernist to translate– as if I could translate a modernist work written in ENGLISH–and I get a “very low pass.” Nice. (If you had to translate Gertrude Stein into Spanish, where would you begin?)

    Comment by The Little Womedievalist — June 22, 2006 @ 9:53 pm

  4. I hear ya. That’s why I only ever translated the nonfiction.

    Comment by Tom — June 23, 2006 @ 12:53 am

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