“Le thème anglais expliqué”

MAURY, Virginie. (2012). Le thème anglais expliqué. Paris: Ellipses. 

This book is meant for students appearing for entrance tests in France and/or those who have to study translation from French into English. Thus said, it is for amateur student-translators and wouldn’t really appeal to (nor to those aspiring to become) professional translators.

Personally, I found this book pretty useful as a teacher, as it provided blocks of text that can be used in a classroom with students. It is easy to use and its structure is thematic. The first fifty odd pages deal with certain grammatical aspects that need to be taken into account when translating. The aspects dealt with are tenses (la perception du temps), modal verbs (les modaux), conveying one’s wishes (le souhait, le regret), causative structures (la traduction de “faire faire”), translating “dont” and articles. The next section provides literary passages in French with its English translation, and the third section has passages based on what the French call Thèmes de civilisation. These are passages that relate to politics, culture, history, or society in general in the US and in the UK. What is even more interesting is that the translation provided for the passage is followed immediately after by a commentary on the various grammatical aspects used (which structures have been used and why), which is, in turn and at times, followed by a vocabulary bank around the theme of the passage.

This might interest students who would like to practise translating passages themselves and have an in-depth understanding of which grammatical aspects to use where. On the other hand, what disappointed me was the quality of the translation proposed in English. I can’t really find fault with the translation per say, but with the quality of the language used. For example, on pages 96-97, “Comment allait-il expliquer à son directeur qu’il serait en congé…” has been translated as “How was he going to explain his boss that he would be on sick leave…” You explain “something TO someone”, you don’t “explain someone”. Minor mistakes like this might influence students to write incorrect English if they are not proficient in the English language.


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