I’ve already mentioned a technique called enrichment (or stuffing, as Anthony likes to call it). I use it all the time, mainly because of English prepositions: they are very supple and flexible, which makes them difficult to translate using French prepositions, which are a lot less pliable.
The people on the course will have to book their own hotels.
The preposition on can be translated by a French preposition (sur, à, le, etc.), but here, doing so would lead to an awkward sentence. It is thus more elegant to use a verb phrase:
Les personnes participant à la formation devront réserver elles-mêmes leur chambre d’hôtel.
Pronouns also often need to be enriched when translating into French:
You will endeavour to master all the concepts presented in the course. To achieve this, your full commitment will be required.
Vous tenterez de maîtriser tous les concepts présentés lors du cours. Pour atteindre cet objectif, vous devrez faire preuve d’un engagement sans faille.

Enrichment can also be necessary in some cases of subordination, especially when introducing indirect interrogative propositions.
The other decision you have to make is how you wish to organise your workload.
Vous devrez également décider de la manière dont vous désirez organiser votre travail.

However, enrichment isn’t the only way to solve this type of problem, as this example shows:
Autre décision à prendre : comment organiserez-vous votre travail ?
Here I used a change of punctuation, a modulation (change of point of view) and a change of syntax.
Writing this article and comparing the examples I gave made me realise that this technique might partly explain why a French translation is always longer than the English source text.

By | 2016-10-18T15:51:42+00:00 November 5th, 2004|Technical corner|3 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. bathrobe December 6, 2004 at 3:04 pm

    Having worked as a translator myself (although never a very good one), I can appreciate what you are saying. I find it interesting, however, that the point of departure in all this is _words_. Despite concepts such as ‘dynamic equivalence’, the first instinct in translation seems to be making sure that all the individual words are properly reflected in the translation.
    The next step after considering how to translate all the words is making sure that we are not so obsessed with individual words as to get the translation wrong!
    In any case, rather than ‘translation theory’, what you are talking about here is a very useful form of ‘translation praxis’, i.e., procedures for converting words and structures from one language to another and obtaining a fairly natural result.
    This is not meant as a criticism but as an observation.
    That brings me to my question: Is dynamic equivalence really possible? Or is it simply another procedure, a goal given to the translator to help avoid the worst traps of word-for-word translation?

  2. céline December 6, 2004 at 3:22 pm

    “fairly natural result”? Well, without being overly ambitious, I certainly hope so!
    In my work, I try and always use the “dynamic equivalence” approach; I find it’s the only way to ensure readability. This doesn’t mean that you have to forget all about the original words, however, and to me, translation is a precision exercise in knowing when to stick to the words and when to forget about them (the second sentence of my second example is a good illustration of that).
    Techniques like Enrichment are a way of easing the transition between languages when a sentence “works” in both of them without having to be tinkered with too heavily.

  3. bathrobe December 6, 2004 at 11:41 pm

    Sorry, the ‘fairly natural result’ wasn’t directed at you personally; it was meant as a comment on the concept of ‘enrichment’! The same technique as applied by different people could yield quite different results, from good to excellent. The idea is the same, however. As you say, it is a ‘way of easing the transition between languages’.
    As to whether a sentence ‘works’ in both languages, I feel that that would depend on the language. In languages like French or English, a lot of things can be translated fairly literally and you still get a _reasonable_ result simply because the grammar, writing habits, etc. are relatively close. (I don’t want to underrate the difficulties of translating between French and English. The very similarity is an insidious trap and there is nothing worse than a direct translation!) When you are looking at languages that are quite different, however, the result of a word-for-word translation is much less acceptable. I used to work in Japanese and word-for-word translations, even on a simple grammatical level, simply don’t work. Of course, that didn’t stop me from trying!

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