Germany and France are much closer geographically than they are linguistically. This becomes apparent immediately when you need a German-to-French translation. It’s worth making the effort, however, because French is still a world language.
Foreign language blues
Most people don’t have very fond memories of French lessons at school. Why is that? In principle, foreign languages that belong to language families that are very distinct from our own mother tongue are harder for us to learn. Since French has its origins in Latin, many French words are not intuitively understandable for speakers of Germanic languages. Having to learn the gender for nouns is also a challenge because the genders in French do not usually match those in German, for example, and genders do not exist at all in English In addition, French has many verb forms that do not have an equivalent in German or English. The only option that remains is for students to memorise words and conjugations – an unpopular task that unfortunately spoils the fun of learning French. And that’s a shame because French is a world language spoken by 300 million people in over 50 countries. What’s more, French is an official language of many international organisations such as the UN, the European Union, and the African Union. So, if you can communicate in French, you definitely have an advantage.
World language with local quirks
As with all world languages, the local culture and dialects shape the evolution of the language on the ground. For example, close ties to the English-speaking provinces and proximity to the USA are noticeable in Canadian French, whereas French-speaking Switzerland is strongly influenced by German-speaking Switzerland. And when it comes to political and legal documents, the federalist Swiss system has its own terminology that differs greatly from that of centralist France.
German-to-French translation – which French are you talking about?
Both Switzerland and Canada are more tolerant of loan words than France, where the “Académie française” has been keeping a very watchful eye on the purity of the French language since 1635. This has enabled France to keep English terms at bay with clever creations of its own, such as “couriel” for e-mail.
So, if you are ordering a German-to-French translation, you need to know where your target audience lives, because it makes a big difference whether you are addressing a nurse in Paris, an architect in Geneva or a doctor in Québec – even if you want to sell the same product to all three of them.
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