Showing posts with label Economic Translation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Economic Translation. Show all posts

Economic Pretentiousness

La réforme du financement de l'État était consubstantielle à celle de la place toute entière. 'The reform of government financing entailed the reform of the whole money market.' The religious term consubstantiel, meaning 'of the same substance as' is as out of place in the English as in the French; 'was inseparable from' would be a closer translation than the above. There are normally more variations available in nonauthoritative than in authoritative texts, in particular where no one-to-one equivalents are available; positives are to be preferred to negatives (except for intentional understatements) as they make for stronger contrasts.


Peter Newmark (1993) Paragraphs on Translation, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, p. 156.

More on French Economic Translation

1. Top heavy sentences. Sentences that begin with long noungroups, premodified and post-modified by groups or clauses, appear to be typical of some French academic styles:

Instituéi par un décret du 9 janvier 1967, ce système de réserves obligatoires, déjà utilisé dans de nombreux pays étrangers, visait à . ..

(Literal translation: 'instituted by a decree of January 9 1967, this system of obligatory reserves, already used in numerous foreign countries, aimed to . . .')

(Close translation: 'This system of obligatory reserves, which was already widely used abroad, was introduced by a decree of January 9 1967. Its purpose was to . . .')

I suggest that translators should consider recasting top-heavy sentences.

2. Long sentences. Instinctive 'sourcerers' and 'immediate' translators like myself always have to reconsider and be prepared to recast long sentences in non-authoritative texts.

3. Key-words. The repetition of key-words within a TL sentence can sometimes help to 'ease' and clarify the translation:

A l'origine, le montant de ces dépôts non-remunérés était calculé en appliquant au volume des seules exigibilités de chaque banque un pourcentage fixé par la Banque de France à l'intérieur de limites définies par le Conseil National du Credit.

Literal translation: 'Originally, the amount of these non-remunerated deposits was calculated by applying to each bank's liabilities alone a percentage fixed by the Bank of France within limits defined by the National Credit Council.'

Close translation: 'Originally the amount of these non-interest bearing deposits was calculated by applying a percentage of the volume of each bank's liabilities, a percentage which was fixed by the Banque de France within limits defined by the Conseil National du Credit'.

(Acknowledgements to Jenny Marty, one of the awfully increasing 15%, i.e. the students who are brighter than the teacher.)

By analogy, a key word can conveniently be referred to (in the same sentence) by a hold-all word:

Le chômage engendré par la substitution du capital au travail accélerée par la hausse des coûts salariaux.

Literal translation: 'Unemployment engendered by the substitution of capital for work accelerated by the rise in wage costs.'

Close translation: 'Unemployment created by the substitution of capital for labour, a process which is accelerated by the rise in the cost of labour (or 'wage costs').'

4. Words ending in -ble. Generally, adjectives ending in -ble, -bar, -bile, -bil, etc., are intertranslatable, though Slavonic languages only appear to have a dual purpose past participle plus -yi suffix. If the TL equivalent is not as common as its SL correspondent, it can be replaced by 'which can be plus past participle'. (Ressources mobilisables, 'resources that can be called on'.) When -ble words are used in one of the two possible senses, they may have to be clarified in the translation. ('Unreadable' as 'illegible' as illisible, or as pénible à lire. )

Compare also: l'alibi dune zone de libre-échange soluble dans le marché mondial. Close translation: 'the excuse for a free exchange zone which can merge with the world market'.

5. The force of abbreviation. Who would think that an 'inaugural' meant 'inaugural lecture' (leçon inaugurale or d'ouverture)? Similarly, effets are effets de commerce, 'bills' or 'bills of exchange', and un commerce is un fonds de commerce, a 'business' unless it is 'goodwill'.

Translators sometimes have to look out for compounds with missing components.

6. Selecting the basic component of meaning. Faced with la datefétiche assignée au commencement du grand marché, I think the best one can do is to review the components of fétiche, viz. religious, symbolical, magical, beneficial, charismatic, obsessional. Here perhaps 'the charismatic date assigned to the opening of the single market'.

7. Vogue words. I don't think translators should encourage the diffusion of vogue-words like espace. Thus for ce que l'on est convenu d'appeler l'espace social européen, which is slanted who has agreed? and in which languages? I would translate as 'what we may refer to as the social aspect of the European Community'. Note also that liberal has become a vogue-word in the sense of 'free-market' rather than 'conservative' or 'right wing' (compare Thody and Evans's invaluable Faux-Amis and Keywords):

L'emprise de l'idéologie dite libérale sur l'esprit public ira s'affaiblissant: 'the hold of free-market ideology on main stream opinion is about to weaken gradually'. (N.B., to my critics, this text is far from authoritative; if de Gaulle had written it, my translation would have been different.)


Peter Newmark (1993) Paragraphs on Translation, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, pp. 85-86.

Metaphors in Economic Texts

A Revue des Valeurs ('securities review') article in Le Monde opens: Après avoir soufflé trois semaines, le vent de la baisse, à l'image des bourrasques de l'hiver, s'est éloigné ces derniersjours des rives de la Bourse de Paris, non sans s'être retourné, comme à regret, pourfaire encore unpeu plier la cote.

As for all metaphors, there is a choice, in principle, of two translations:

1. 'In the last few days, the wind of price falls (financial decline?), (like the squalls of winter?), after blowing for three weeks, has moved away from the Paris Bourse, but has returned (rather reluctantly?) and slightly brought prices down again.

2. 'After a three weeks decline in prices, the market stabilised, but recently there has been a slight downturn.'

Although the metaphor is prolonged and may be considered picturesque, I think it is rather daft, so I prefer the second version.


Peter Newmark (1993) Paragraphs on Translation, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, pp. 51-52.

Approaching an Economic Text

Many economic texts are built up on a balance between two agents, each represented by a number of key-words; thus you can have, on the one hand, actif patrimoine, entrée, recettes, revenu, dépôt, avoirs, credit etc., depending sometimes on whether you are looking at them from the lender's or the borrower's point of view; on the other hand, passif, dette, perte, exigibilités, investissement, placement etc. Or it may be between État, gouvernement, budget and fonction publique on the one hand, and, on the other, Commissariat général au Plan, Commission des Comptes and comptes de la nation. You are pursuing two thin threads, sometimes intertwined sometimes disentangling, going through the whole text.

Peter Newmark (1993) Paragraphs on Translation, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, p. 35.

Some Notes on (French) Economic Translation

I think the basis of a good economic textbook often resembles the bones of a human skeleton, where the main features are duplicated in strong oppositions or contrasts, and there are clear divisions and subdivisions. (Compare the 'Text' of Roget's great Thesaurus.) This is particularly so in a 'science' like economics, whose only purpose is to promote the welfare of humanity, but whose content is fundamentally mathematical, a constant balance or up and down of assets and liabilities, profit and loss, credit and debit, income and expenditure, exports and imports, input and output, etc.

It is these oppositions, and often the hierarchies which they head, that translators have to search for and preserve, say in Denise Flouzat's challenging and nicely written Economie contemporaine: Cette analyse a permis de préciser l'équilibre de parfaite concurrence de longue periode: celui-cisera atteint auplan de chaque producteur quandil aura déterminé une capacité productive telle qu'il y aura disparition du profit moyen (profit considéré comme anormal). Autrement dit, l'entrepreneur cessera d'investir quand l'investissement additionnel entrainera l'égalisation entre le prix (recette moyenne) et le coût moyen. Tant que le profit moyen subsistera, d'autres entreprises investiront et, suscitant une concurrence accrue, feront baisser les prix jusqu' au niveau où le coût moyen est minimal. (t. I,p.484). This is clear, but the cartesianism is dizzy-making. In the following version I make 'changes' only to bring out the contrasts: 'In this analysis, the equilibrium of perfect competition over a long period is demonstrated. A producer achieves this equilibrium when s/he establishes a productive capacity at the point where average profit disappears, and the profit is therefore considered 'abnormal'. In other words, an entrepreneur gives up investing when additional investment causes prices (average receipts) and average costs to become equal. As long as there continues to be average profit, other companies continue to invest, and as they invite increased competition, they bring down prices to the point where average costs are minimal.'

Grammatically, there are few problems in economic texts; one misses the syntactically contorted and lexically overblown sentences of the French medical press. What is sometimes perplexing is the abrupt use of an adjective or a past or present participle (e.g. Etendu à une large population, il réflète mal . . .) in the first position of a sentence, which can represent any kind of adverbial clause (when, if, because, although, whilst etc), where the context may not indicate what is intended. However, it is effectively used here: Difficile déja au plan national, l'utilisation des indices de prix de détail pour établir des comparaisons internationales est très discutable, car les structures de consommation different d'un pays à l'autre. ('The use of retail price indices is difficult enough (=déjà) on a national level, but when international comparisons are being made, it becomes extremely questionable, as consumer structures differ from one country to another.')

Lexically, an economic text consists of ordinary language, descriptive economic language, and standard (consacré) economic and institutional terms. As I see it, a translator is free to simplify or improve the ordinary or economic language, but the standard terms have where possible to be preserved in aspic (!), thus: L'indice des prix de gros qui comporte des décompositions (why not ventilations, one of my favourite words?) par catégories de produits . . . 'The wholesale price index, which is broken down in product categories' . . . Des révisions de cet indice doivent intervenir périodiquement . . . 'The index has to be revised periodically.' (I blow the syntax, the stresses and the order (i.e. the FSP), but the lexis is sacred.)

EC standard terms are immediately intertranslated, and the Commission produces invaluable French glossaries, but I have not seen any for German or other languages. Terms restricted to one country, such as 'junk bonds' (fortunately), 'en pension', 'market maker' (teneur du marché), 'at the money', 'back up lines' (see La Banque et les nouveaux instruments financiers, Revue Banque, 18 rue Lafayette, 75009 Paris), 'greenback' (when used technically; otherwise billet vert), are often transferred and defined, depending on the knowledge or the interest of the putative readership.

Some terms begin as descriptive before they become standard terms, e.g. les besoins de financement du secteur public, 'public sector borrowing requirement', with the help of an acronym (PSBR). In other cases, a metaphor such as circuit monétaire is continuously used, so that it may be best to translate it literally, enclosed in inverted commas, to denote its strangeness in an English text.

Loose 'stylish' use of synonyms in economic language has to be avoided: un abaissement uniforme du taux de l'impôt sur le revenu des personnes physiques has to be 'a uniform', not an 'equal', a 'unified', nor a 'homogeneous' 'reduction in the rate of personal income tax'. (Sur les personnes morales would presumably be 'corporation tax' in a wider sense than sur les sociétés.) However politiques inflationnistes is ambiguous: if it means 'policies that will cause inflation', it is 'inflationary'; if it means 'policies that favour inflation', it is 'inflationist'.

Peter Newmark (1993) Paragraphs on Translation, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, pp. 27-29.