The English church

Preparation is everything when interpreting. And I mean, everything. Your clients count on you to communicate in the most natural manner possible, and you can only do that efficiently if you are familiar enough with the subject matter and terminology employed. Otherwise, you have to pause a lot, sweating and panicking, as you struggle to think of the right words, which turns what should be a smooth exchange into a painful ordeal.
Tomorrow, I will be interpreting during a meeting between people working for the diocese of Chichester and their French counterparts. They will be discussing church renovation projects. When they approached me to ask whether I would be available for this job, I accepted, knowing that this would involve a lot of preparation time. This is not unusual; for one day of interpreting, I normally plan a day of research and reading to familiarise myself with the area that will be discussed. The project coordinator was kind enough to send me a lot of background documents, but I was worried about one specific area, which they didn’t cover: the actual terminology linked to church architecture. Then I realised that I actually know a retired Canon of Durham Cathedral also used to be the chairman of the diocesan advisory committee for the care of churches in Durham. Perfect! I asked him whether he would do me a quick drawing showing the names of the different parts of a church, and this is what I got in the post last week:
Fantastic, isn’t it? All I had to do was research the French equivalent terminology. Now they can throw whatever they like at me on this topic, I should be ready for them.

By | 2016-10-18T15:50:55+00:00 August 1st, 2005|Interpreting|5 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. MM August 1, 2005 at 7:46 pm

    This is excellent. It isn’t easy to find such diagrams. There is a series of French books on architecture, and some have photos with terms superimposed, but you have to know they exist, and they will be either out of print or expensive.
    Your church seems to lack a transept, though.

  2. Bruno August 2, 2005 at 1:14 pm

    Margaret said:
    > Your church seems to lack a transept, though.
    … as well as a north aisle, by the way ! 😉
    More seriously, these 2 drawings are certainly worth several pages of explanations !
    This reminds me of a book I read a few years ago (in French unfortunately at that time): “The Unburied”, by Charles Palliser (author of “The Quincunx”). Many passages in that book are related to the reconstruction of the Thurchester cathedral at the end of the 19th century. If I remember well, besides the plot in itself which makes it a worthy reading, many terms related to church architecture are employed in it.
    Best regards,

  3. céline August 2, 2005 at 2:07 pm

    I will ask about the transept.

  4. céline August 4, 2005 at 9:33 am

    MM, this is the answer I got:
    “A transept is an arm to the N or to the S of a church. The church would be a rather large one (usually dating from the 12th-15th century) and would be used to fit in a large number of side chapels for the daily mass. A cathedral would have transepts, sometimes doubled.”
    So it looks like it wasn’t included because this is a drawing of a small parish church.

  5. August 10, 2005 at 4:15 pm

    Language Translation Services: Preparation

    Language translation, and more correctly interpreting, is, as Céline in pointed out recently, all about preparation. With a very big P. She uses the example of a conference on church architecture as to how much you have to know…

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