What’s in a Paragraph? Why Humans Outdo Auto-Translators

Commendation Translation Focus

This week I spent time translating a document for a friend whose grandfather fought in World War I. The document, issued by the French government, recognizes members of a United States Marine Regiment that helped defeat the Germans near the end of the war. There’s only one paragraph to translate.…

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Revolutionary Lafayette Through Eyes of a 21st-Century Translator

Lafayette in Battle

This summer I’m featuring a few guest posts from fellow francophile bloggers. Below you’ll find an interview that centers on the remarkable life of the Marquis de La Fayette. Known in the United States as Lafayette, the young French marquis played a pivotal role in helping America defeat the British…

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The 100-Year Anniversary of Proust’s Final Night on the Town

Location of Proust's Last DInner Party

On May 18, 1922, one of Paris’ grandest hotels was the site of a legendary dinner party. Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Diaghilev, James Joyce, and Marcel Proust, were among the attendees. The evening is featured in a book, titled Proust at the Majestic: The Last Days of the Author…

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“Under the Bridges of Paris”—Contrasting French and American Cultures

The Seine and Notre Dame in Paris

Two of the things that Paris is known for are the river Seine, adorned by a series of 37 unique and magical bridges, and romance. In 1955, Dean Martin celebrated these iconic features in his hit song Under the Bridges of Paris. Martin’s emotive vocals attracted fans around the globe…

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The Miser’s Ghost, A Winter’s Cautionary Tale from Quebec

Vieille maison en hiver

My favorite Christmas story is A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Every year I watch or read some version of this classic tale. Last week, I began wondering if there might be a similarly cherished, yuletide parable from France. I tracked down a dozen acclaimed stories, including two by Molière,…

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Baudelaire’s Spleen Defies Translation, There Do the Foolhardy Tread

La Fleur du mal

In 1968, The Sunday Times in London ran a competition to translate the poem Spleen, by the famous French poet Charles Baudelaire. Upon learning of the contest, Nicholas Moore, who had once been one of Britain’s most celebrated poets, decided to have a little fun and also prove a point.…

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Camus’ Letters to a German Friend, a Warning for Our Times

Hitler in front of the Eiffel Tower

Sunday, November 7, marks what would have been the 108th birthday of Nobel Prize winner, Albert Camus. During World War II, Camus joined the French Resistance, a movement dedicated to overthrowing the Germans. Camus lent his genius to the clandestine effort by working as a journalist and underground newspaper editor.…

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Advice Given by a Famous Author to his Grandson

Today marks the 5-year anniversary of Umberto Eco’s death. In case you’re unfamiliar with this Italian author and philosopher, Eco was also a brilliant linguist who penned several international bestsellers such as The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum. He also translated numerous works from English and French into…

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