Here at Edgar, almost everyone works with both English and French on a daily basis. But to say we use each language the same way isn’t quite accurate. Our English-to-French translators spend most of their time reading in English and writing in French, whereas French-to-English translators do the opposite. So what happens when we step out of our comfort zone and into someone else’s shoes?
At this year’s training day, dynamic duo Aurélie Burelle and Aimee Wall teamed up for a second edition of Des deux côtés du miroir. Unlike most other training sessions that took place that day, the workshop held by Aurélie and Aimee relied on group discussion and encouraged Francophones and Anglophones to work together to find solutions.
The recipe for the activity was simple. We started by analyzing part of an English translation produced in-house. We collectively picked out what we did or didn’t like about the translation and suggested improvements. We then examined the equivalent segment from the source text and compared it with the translation. We repeated these steps with new chunks of text until halfway through the seminar, when we switched to French translations.
Throughout the workshop, we explored idiomaticity and practised our revision skills. When inspecting the English translations, we focused on transforming the target text into something lighter and less noun-heavy, despite the dense source text. As for the French translations, we criticized some of the expressions chosen, but ultimately gave the anonymous translator a pat on the back, considering the *ahem* questionable wordplay from the original English text.
This bilingual exercise not only revealed the linguistic challenges that our French or English counterparts regularly face, it also allowed us to compare the types of texts we produce with those we receive in the same language. As a French-to-English translator, I noted some not‑quite‑idiomatic phrasing in the English source text that I myself would never use, as well as commendable expressions that I never would have thought of using. Overall, Aurélie and Aimee prepared an enlightening activity that got our gears turning in an engaging way.