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TABLE OF CONTENTS.
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III. An Account of the Destruction of the Alexandrian
Library (Harris). . . . . . . .
ENGLISH INTO FRENCH,
AN INTRODUCTORY ESSAY ON TRANSLATION.
In a translation from English into French, the great difficulty is to give back not only the equivalents of words, but the very spirit, idiom, and accent of the original author. In order to attempt this, even with a small chance of success, the student should pay great attention to the grammar, perspicuity, and harmony of both languages. To facilitate his task we have given a few fundamental rules upon Expression, Construction, Accuracy, Grammatical correctness, Clearness, Euphony, and Idiomatic phrases.
§ 1. A dictionary, even the very best, cannot always be an infallible guide to the translator, for the true meaning and value of the expression have to be studied. If the first word is used that the pupil finds in the dictionary, he will nearly always make a gross blunder.
Let us take, for example, the following passage from Lockhart’s “Life of Sir Walter Scott.” “ There was," says Walter Scott, “a boy in my class who stood always at the top, and I could not, with all my efforts, supplant him. Day came after day, and still he kept his place.” If we were to translate it, “ Il y avait,” dit Walter Scott,“ un garçon dans ma classe qui SE TENAIT DEBOUT toujours au SOMMET, et je ne pouvais pas avec tous mes efforts le supplanter. Le jour VENAIT après le jour et cependant il gardait sa place,” we should make several mistakes. First, se tenir debout means literally to stand upright, and Sir Walter Scott did not intend to describe the attitude of the boy, but simply to mention that he was at the top of the class, hence se tenait, or even était, was, would do. Top is in French sommet, but only in the sense of the highest point, the summit; here we better translate à la tête, at the head, or à la première place, in the first place. With is literally avec, but the French language demands here certainly a more correct expression than the English, for a boy does not supplant another with all his efforts, but let him do whatever he likes, in spite of all his efforts he cannot supplant him ; hence we must use in French malgré, in spite of. The verb to come, venir, always expresses motion, and is generally applied to persons, hence we better translate day came after day by les jours se succédaient, literally the days succeeded each other.
It is therefore clear that a pupil who wishes to translate accurately should first take the trouble to examine the sentence carefully, then consider the relative value of the words, next study carefully the context of the passage he wishes to render into French, and, in one word, grasp