Sunshine Abroad

The trials and rewards of French translation and beyond

Revert, Revise, Reconfigure: My Brain

Here’s what being non-natively bilingual means.

It means that I didn’t grow up speaking French, but I speak it now.

It means I’m proficient, not fluent. It means I speak French well enough that a surprisingly high number of people have been mislead into the assumption that I’m actually French, but I still sometimes have to ask French people about vocabulary words.

It means that I can write pretty darn well in French, but if it’s a professional thing, I’ll have a native French speaker edit it.

It means I can slip very easily between French and English. It means I can slip very easily between the US and France and England and Madagascar.

It also means that my brain is wired one way, with additional circuits that have been added as the years have gone by.

When I’m in a French-speaking environment, I think in French. (That was one of the ways that I knew I was finally becoming comfortable with the language, when I could think and dream in it.)

When I’m in an Anglophone environment, my brain reverts to its original programming. And it reverts so much that all my memories transform into English memories. Any recalled speech from a French conversation is automatically recalled in English, and if I were to want to recount the actual French words for someone, I’d have to retranslate it back to my second language in my head.

Brain circuitry is weird. I don’t quite understand it sometimes.

Proofreading after the fact

It doesn't work. It just makes you look like a donkey's rear end. And about as intelligent as its front end. Example 1:

"i" instead of "y", except after "Chr"...

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a picture of the Chrysler Building, labeled "Chrisler Building."

It was found in an exhibit called "New York, New York!" at a big expo just outside of Lyon, France. A French person's take on New York City, if you will. So of course, it opened with a scale model of the Statue of Liberty's torch -- gotta highlight the ties between the two great nations! Then it continued on to the jazz era, stock market crash, taxicabs, etc. Including a large swath of skyscrapers.

But what's even more adorable about this hilarious typo is that they actually tried to fix it after the fact. If you look closely, you'll see a faint overlay of a slightly translucent "y" over the much clearer "i" in the picture.

And as if that wasn't enough, there was an even bigger problem. In the same lineup of iconic New York City skyscrapers, we saw, proudly displayed, a picture of the Tribune Tower.

In Chicago.

I'm sure they meant the Tribune Building. But by then, I had lost all hope. Gave up. Too depressed to take a picture. Even though it was a hilarious picture, with the first part of the "Chicago Tribune" logo on the building next door still visible.

So what, though? Most French people won't know the difference. And it's not going to have any sort of detrimental effect on their daily lives.

But it's still wrong. And there will be people who notice. Probably a couple of important people. Maybe even clients. Or potential clients. If I had any relevant power, I'd be firing (or not ever hiring) the people who created that exhibit.

In conclusion, please be careful. Like I was, reading over this post four times before sending it off into the ether.