Friday 4 September 2009

Yours sincerely

I’ve just received a letter from the French Electricity Company informing me that if I don’t pay the bill in the next 24 hours they will be forced to suspend the service, probably forever.

I had been ignoring them but they are VERY persistent.

The letter finishes with, and I translate literally – “would you please accept the assurance of my most distinguished consideration.”

In England I would probably get a “Yours cordially” - or just a direct judicial summons.

In most cases the French will use 25 words where 3 would suffice in English and usually translating or helping students with essay writing is a process of constant editing – with less paper at the end of the day.

I have only been surprised by French brevity once.

In an early effort to improve my French I bought a translated copy of one of Agatha Christie’s novels and set myself up in the local café every day for two weeks, a note pad and pencil at my side to jot down all new vocabulary.

I chose Agatha because I like detective stories enough to want to finish and I figured the language level was approximately appropriate.

Just to be certain that I didn’t miss anything I bought the English version too. But vowed to finish the chapter in French before checking the English version.

I think the book was They Came to Baghdad, and in the French version the first chapter ended with the line – She sat down and thought about all the things that had happened that day.

In English there were another two and a half pages after that!

The French translator had clearly decided that those reflections on what had been an eventful day were simply superfluous.

Judging by today’s photo though the Japanese have got both of us beat for simplicity.


Martin Mackenzie said...

Autrement de votre "blarsé-apparent" le CUT-OFF c'est IMPORTANT, QUOI!
Il faut enterrer tous vos appareils éléctriques avant les éléctriciennes vont passer avec leur trucs experimentals.
Bonne Chance, tu l'a besoin!

popps said...