December 17, 2010

Translation services: availability over Christmas

The site's translation services will be available over Christmas. However, please note the following:

- you are advised to submit your documents as soon as possible during December;
- no non-urgent translations will be delivered between 24-26 December; if you urgently require translations delivered on these dates, please specify this at the outset in your request;
- between 24-26 December, it may take a little longer to respond to requests for quotes.

November 29, 2010

Now easier to link to dictionary entries

A change has been made to the French-English dictionary to make it easier to link to dictionary entries from your blog or web site, or to e-mail links to French dictionary entries to yourself or other friends/colleagues.

Many entries now have their own URL. After looking a word up in the dictionary, you can copy the URL from the address bar of your browser, and later use that URL to look up the entry. This therefore allows you to link to the entry from blogs and other web pages, e-mails etc.

November 26, 2010

New survey on French spelling

Users of the French linguistics web site, both native and non-native speakers, may be interested in a filling out a new survey on the French spellings, which invites you to indicate which spelling you prefer out of alternatives (non-reformed vs reformed).

Correction suggester added to French-English dictionary

A correction suggester has been added to the site's French dictionary. Whenever you look up a word that is not found in the dictionary, the system will attempt to find words in the dictionary which would sound similar to the word that you entered.

This is the first version of the correction suggester, which will be improved over time. At present, it is designed primarily to cope with cases where you are not sure of the exact spelling, or where you are copying from a French document where the author has misspelt a word. Over time, it will be extended to cope more completely with other types of typos, e.g. where a letter is accidentally omitted or the key next to the intended letter pressed.

Feedback on the correction suggester is welcome in the form of comments to this blog entry.

November 24, 2010

Imperfect gremlins

Thank you to an eagle-eyed reader who has spotted a slight glitch with the imperfect tense of verbs such as peindre and craindre. The imperfect tense of these verbs takes the form peignais, craignais etc (with gn). A spurious extra n has slipped into the spellings produced by the system. This is being looked into, and a correction should be available within the next day or so.

Unfortunately the error affects conjugations given by both the French dictionary and the French verb tables sections of the site.

No other types verbs are thought to be affected.

November 21, 2010

This week on the forum

A recurrent theme on the French Linguistics forum this week has been the choice of auxiliary verb (avoir vs être) in the perfect tense (passé composé)-- a question which indeed applies to other so-called compound tenses in French.

For more information, you may like to consult:

- the French forum, where you are free to ask questions about the French language and French culture in general, and browse questions and answers already posted
- the site's French grammar section, which contains tutorials on this and other topics.

August 30, 2010

Interesting news about the OED

I found this interesting. Apparently OUP are considering the not unsurprising possibility of not printing a physical copy of the next "edition" of the OED.

Aside from questions about the utility of printing a work that in printed form spans several volumes and still requires a magnifying glass in order to be read, I find two things interesting:

- in today's climate, the editors still aoparently see the dictionary as existing in discreet "editions" rather than a work that continuously evolves over time;
- the task of formatting and printing a work (albeit a long one) that exists in electronic format is still seen as an arduous task.

The description of the OED as "the authoritative guide to the English language" is also intriguing. It is *a* dictionary produced by *one* set of human dictionary editors. I'm always perplexed by this image of certain people somehow being in direct communication with a mystical "God of Language" to which other mortals do not have access...

Interesting news about the OED

First audio recordings now available with the dictionary

I'm pleased to announce that the first audio recordings are now integrated into the French-English dictionary. This means that for the most common French words, a small "loudspeaker" icon will appear next to the headword. Clicking on this icon will allow you to listen to the pronunciation of the French word in question.

Automatic translation quoting now possible with docx files

The translation service quotation tool now understands DOCX files. Whilst many clients still submit their documents in the "traditional" DOC format, an increasing number are moving over to the DOCX file. Hopefully this update to the tool will assist those requesting quick translation quotes before deciding whether or not to go ahead with the translation.

If you require a translation of other document formats that are not supported (for example, French translation of a PDF or scanned document), then please make initial contact and potentially e-mail the file for quotation as indicated.

E-mail contact will also be necessary in the case of web site translation, where you may initially send the URL of the site. (A number of options are available: see the separate information page on website information for more details. Key issues are how you are able to provide the copy to be translated, and what workflow is best suited to your needs.)

August 28, 2010

French Linguistics translation service availability

Enquiries to the site's French translation service (also available in other languages) will generally be available as usual over the bank holiday weekend, including Monday 30th August.

Update to the French dictionary

Today's minor update adds a few basic "declined" forms of words previously missing from the French dictionary.

August 27, 2010

Maintenance work this weekend

I'm going to be carrying out some maintenance work this weekend on the French Linguistics web site which will probably mean that the dictionary and some other pages of the site will be unavailable for occasional 30-60 second periods.

This work is in preparation for work to be carried out next month to move the site to a new upgraded server. Most of the work will be done over weekends and at times when as few as possible people are using the site in order to minimise disruption. Thank you for your patience!

August 25, 2010

Fix to present tense exercises

A fix has been made to the interactive present tense exercise available in the French grammar section of the web site. If you're learning the present tense and are not aware of this page, then you may like to check it out and practise forming the present tense on line.

A full screen version of this and various of the other on-line grammar exercises is also available for classroom use.

August 24, 2010

Speech enabled on the verb conjugation pages

The French verb tables given on the site now allow you to listen to the pronunciation of the verb forms.

To listen to the forms of a verb, look the verb up in the French dictionary, then look for the list of verb forms that appears-- usually towards the bottom-- in the dictionary entry. Look for the link saying Click here to see the full conjugation. Clicking on that link will take you to the full verb table for that verb, from where you can click to listen to the pronunciation any of the verb tenses.


- Conjugation of avoir
- Conjugation of être
- Conjugation of aimer
- Conjugation of faire
- Conjugation of prendre
- Conjugation of finir

The French grammar page also gives a list of various common French verbs (regular and irregular), allowing you to get to the pronunciation of various common French verbs more quickly.

August 23, 2010

New worksheets: French grammar exercises

The French worksheets section of the web site now contains a new PDF with French grammar exercises. The exercises are based on the interactive ones available from the French grammar section of the French Linguistics web site. Further PDFs containing French grammar exercises will be added in the near future. As ever, your feedback on this and any content on the site is appreciated.

August 16, 2010

French dictionary update

The site's French-English and English-French dictionaries have been updated today. As usual, the updates come in various forms:

- various corrections to minor spelling mistakes which users have pointed out over the last few months;
- new vocabulary has been added, particular in the field of computing and new technological developments (words such as biclef, jailbreaké, smartphone);
- expansion of the entries to some common and basic words.

As usual, your feedback on any of the entries is appreciated and helps to ensure that the site's French dictionary is being continually improved.

August 3, 2010

Reaction: "High cost of interpreters hits local courts"

There has been predictably negative reaction among the linguistic community in response to an article published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution reporting on how some councils in the US are apparently bemoaning the cost of court interpreters. One councilman is quoted to have reacted to interpreters' pay by saying: "I need to get a Rosetta Stone [CD]. That's not a bad gig." Nobody on the other hand is reported to have commented on councillors' or lawyers' pay (or are people saying they really get paid less than interpreters?) by saying "I need to get myself a few law books."

The reaction from the translation and interpreting community echoes a longfelt feeling that clients and the public at large severely underestimate the high level of skill and training required to carry out this type of language work. Taking written translation first (and I should say that most of my own work involves this type of translation rather than spoken interpreting), it is worth reminding ourselves of what the task entails: one is generally expecting the translator to have a perfect understanding of the source text, to be able to convey the content of that source text in the target language not only extremely accurately, but with a quality of writing that disguises the fact that the new text is even a translation at all. The translator must be continually questioning their translation with issues such as, "what ambiguities am I potentially introducing into my translation that weren't there in the original?", or "in what way does my translation need cultural adaptation?". These can sometimes involve subtle nuances that take a great deal of linguistic experience and aptitude to spot and resolve.

When it comes to interpreting, the interpreter is generally expected to carry out much of this process on the fly, and in a courtroom, the potential implications of an accidental misunderstanding, omission or ambiguity may be all the more serious. As our learned friend embarks upon his "teach yourself Spanish in X weeks" course, I and many other linguists suspect he will discover that translating "anything thrown at him" to a standard admissible as court evidence is a bit more involved than ordering a coffee and asking directions to the station.

Surveys extended

Many thanks to all of those users who have filled in the three surveys currently running on the site:

- the French learner's survey is gathering some interesting, and in some cases surprising, trends on what aspects of language learning users find difficult, and will point the way for new material added to the French Linguistics site over the coming months;
- the iPad survey is also gathering feedback on how users would like to use their iPhones and/or iPads to help them with their linguistic pursuits, and will provide valuable input into future software offered for these two devices;
- in a slightly different vein, the translation survey is providing an insight into the expectations and requirements of those using the site's translation service.

I'd like to extend my thanks to all those users who have participated in the surveys so far. If you haven't yet taken part and have a couple of minutes to spare, then your feedback is greately appreciated. The surveys will be running for a little while longer, to give as many people as possible chance to take part.

July 9, 2010

New survey-- using your iPad to learn French

I'm currently conducting a survey of people who have or are thinking of getting an iPad to see what kind of language-learning activities you would use it for. The plan is to use the results of the survey in considering the possibility of providing new iPad and iPhone applications for users of the French Lingusitics site.

The survey is extremely quick to fill out and is your chance to vote for the type of apps you'd like to see provided, potentially free of charge, on the French Linguistics site over the coming months!

Translation survey

In addition to the French learners' survey mentioned earlier this week in another blog posting, the French Linguistics is currently runnin a translation survey to find out more about the needs of those who contract translation services (or are looking to do so but have doubts about how such services work). The aim is to improve the French translation service offered by the French Lingusitics web site. As with other surveys, this one is completely anonymous.

New exercise on 'du', 'de la', 'des'

In the French grammar section of the web site, a new exercise has been added to the page on using du, de la and des: see the new exercises on saying some in French.

The exercises follow a similar pattern to others in the grammar section: you must complete a number of boxes in which you are asked to provide the French for a particular phrase or sentence. As with other exercises, full screen versions are available for playing on a whiteboard, and the exercise provides on-screen vocabulary.

Feedback on the exercises and suggestions for improvement are of course welcome.

July 5, 2010

French learners' survey

Users of the French Linguistics site are invited to take part in a quick French learners' survey. The survey asks you about which aspects of learning French you find easy and difficult and will only take you a minute or two. The results of the survey will be used to improve the web site.

July 4, 2010

Site updates this week

A number of small updates will be applied to the site over the coming week (5th-9th July), including updates to some of the dictionary data plus modifications to the software that works "behind the scenes" to bring you the dictionary plus other parts of the site.

This means that if you're one of those fortunate to be spending their time this week using the web site rather than basking on a sun-swept beach, the site may occasionally be down for a minute or two. However, such outages are expected to be brief.

May 4, 2010

Translation mailing list

If you or your company has ongoing translation needs, you are encouraged to subscribe to this site's translation mailing list. To make things easier, the subscription tool is currently being displayed on the main dictionary page.

Those subscribed to the mailing list will receive periodic announcements about reductions and offers available from the site's translation service, along with other translation news.

Please note that translations are provided not only between French and English, but between various language pairs. In general, most translation requirements can be met; the best thing to do is contact the site's author for some no-strings advice.

March 8, 2010

Reminder about accents on the automatic French translation page

The automatic French translation system can be extremely useful in giving you the gist of a particular text. However, the system often does not give as good a result as it could because of missing accents on the text that uesrs enter into the system. When you are inputting a French text to be translated into English, it is important to try and enter the accents that appear on letters as accurately as possible.

If you are not using a French keyboard (or a keyboard designed for other languages that make regular use of accented letters), then typing accents can be tricky. To make life a bit easier, the translation system actually understands a few accent shortcuts, so that you can type the accents with an everyday UK or US keyboard. The shortcuts are as follows:

- to type an acute or grave accent (a slanting line above the letter), type either a slash (/) or backslash (\) after the vowel, to match the direction in which the accent slopes (i.e. slash for an acute, backslash for a grave)
- for a circumflex (a "hat" above the vowel), type a hat symbol (^) after the vowel
- for a diaeresis (the "two dots" that appear above a vowel letter, to indicate that it is pronounced as a separate vowel to the letter next to it), type a quote symbol (") after the vowel letter
- to type a cedilla (a line or hook appearing on the bottom of a letter "c", to indicate that it is pronounced as a [s] sound), put a comma after the c (c, or C,)

February 25, 2010

Recommended legal and business dictionaries

Many people working with French do so in a business environment. Perhaps you have to liaise with the French head office of the company you work for. Or perhaps your UK business is in the process of negociating a deal with another French company. Or maybe your Canadian business wishes to address both English-speaking and French-speaking customers. Finally, if you are a professional translator like myself, you probably get asked to translate business documents on a regular basis.

I've included on the French Linguistics site some information about three French business and legal dictionaries that I recommend for those working with business and/or legal documents in French and English. The first, the Harrap's, has good coverage of a variety of subfields such as marketing, commerce and finance, and covers a range of compound expressions along with clearly set out examples. It also contains auxiliary information on writing a CV and covering letter in French, plus various other business letters.

The second, a more compact work, will be of most use to those translating into their native language and, although it has slightly less coverage of compound expressions than the Harrap's, can be a good source of ideas for translating more "general" vocabulary encountered in business documents.

The third, Dahl's Law Dictionary, is a more specialist dictionary in specifically the legal field. It differs in approach from the other two in that many of its entries are encyclopaedic in nature, a valuable approach in legal translation where differences in legal systems mean that choosing the most appropriate translation can require a more detailed understanding of the concepts in question in the two countries.

If you use any other resources when working with French business texts that you think should be included in this list, then comments are welcome.

January 24, 2010

Updates to the French dictionary and translation examples search

The site's French dictionary has been updated today. As usual, the update includes various corrections and expansions to entries, plus various new words. Many of the corrections have been made on the basis of users' feedback, and you are reminded that feedback on individual entries is always available via the feedback link that appears next to each one.

Users of the dictionary may also wish to know about an update to the translation examples search engine that was made earlier this week. You may now search for complete phrases as well as individual words. The phrase search is still a little primitive in that only exact matches will be found. However, it is hoped that this new feature will still be useful in getting ideas on how to translate a particular phrase or combination of words, and is expected to be improved in the future. It is still recommended that, when searching, you enter the word or phrase in question without accents.

January 5, 2010

French language discussion forum reinstated

The French language discussion forum has been re-instated today after being temporarily disabled yesterday. The forum was disabled following various spam posts that were posted on this forum plus other forums by a bogus pharmaceuticals company. The situation is being monitored and I apologise to users for the inconvenience.

Users are reminded to be vigilent when using this and other forums. The French Linguistics site does not condone unauthorised spam and advertising. Although parts of the site are funded through advertising in order to offer a free service to users, only well-known, reputable advertising services are used, and advertisements are always placed in designated parts of the site. No legitimate advertising material will ever be placed inside forum postings. Should any other spam and advertising posts slip through the net, you are urged not to click on any links or pictures inside forum postings that appear to be advertising material.