well... not exactly.

French people don't go home and speak English at night, contrary to the beliefs of many. In the same way, a someone who's first language is french doesn't translate French into English, then understand it. They see "Oui maman! Je suis grand maintenant" as just that.

Translations simply help people who don't understand the language. French doesn't translate well into English because it's a different language. That's the thing about translations, and about languages in general. They weren't designed with the intent to translate. That's why there's so many words that have no direct translation to English. Hence, in English it's boring, but in French it makes as much sense as "Mommy, wow!..."

This is also the most interesting thing about learning a new language - at a certain point in your process, you stop having to translate and simply start understanding it as French, as opposed to "an English word in French."

The cookbook that came with my Crock Pot is printed in both French and English. The slogan "Cooks all day while the cook's away" is rendered in French as "Cuit toute la journee sans surveillance". Contrary to moongirl's comments, I think it lacks the punch of the original, and evidently the company did too, since the English phrase is trademarked, but the French phrase seems not to be. Something is lost in the translation; in this case that something is some combination of the rhyme, the meter, and the emphasis on the cook being elsewhere and (presumably) doing something more fun than sweating over the stove. The moral of the story is that language is more than just a sequence of stand-ins for dictionary definitions; often what you say is less important than how you say it.

For real fun, however, try translating a sentence like "This sentence is difficult to translate into French" into French.

I have a lovely t-shirt I picked up whilst working for Mobshop Germany, which reads "Ich mobse gern!" The intended meaning of this phrase is "I enjoy mobbing," but given that mob is an English word, the closest translation is actually "I enjoy titties."

I wear this shirt at every opportunity.

You can also play the old 'confuse babelfish' game at http://boldra.com/garbleboy/

Some of my favourite double-machine translated phrases:
  • "Nick cave and the Bad Seeds" becomes "Cut cave and the false initial values for random number generator"
  • "Each of the primates, a spider monkey this time, spent one month in space." becomes "Everyone the Primas, a spider drop hammer of this times, spent one month in the workstation."
  • "I cant even remember if we were lovers or even if i just wanted to.i held her in my arms" becomes "I tilt remind even, of if we loving was, or even, if I required even, to. I she in my levers continued."

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