Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX French students learning language skills, history in translation project

November 21st, 2017
Students in French 327, taught by Dr. Edward Langille, pictured on right, are translating a 1,000-word article and submitting it for publication with the Encyclopédie de Diderot et D’Alembert collaborative translation project at the University of Michigan.

With laptops and notepads spread open in front of them, students in Dr. Edward Langille’s French 327 class are hard at work completing an assignment they term challenging, cool and helpful.

The 15 students in the class are each translating a 1,000-word article and submitting it for publication with the Encyclopédie de Diderot et D’Alembert collaborative translation project at the University of Michigan. The Encyclopédie was a 20-year effort (1751-1772) and one of the crowning achievements of the French Enlightenment, comprising over 20,000 individual entries.

Each student was asked to choose a 1,000-word article from the French original that hadn’t previously been translated and transcribe it into English.

“I believe that learning to write in a second language is good practice for writing in one’s own language. It’s a question of precision of thought and translation is an obvious means to acquiring skills in two languages,” Dr. Langille says.

“As a scholar of the French Enlightenment, I was aware of the Encyclopédie translation project. I thought it might give the writing class an interesting focus to participate in it.”

“It is interesting,” says Gilles Perrine, a second year environmental sciences student from Mauritius and a graduate of St. Andrew’s School - Rose Hill, who says he is enjoying the translation and how one must really stick to the subject and to each word and how it was applied back then.

“To me, that is a true research project. It’s not easy at all,” he says.

“This course is one of the best French courses I’ve ever taken,” he says, explaining he likes the tips and techniques given, being able to write an assignment every single week and being able to pinpoint mistakes and correct then.

“It’s really focusing on the small details and the correct way of trying to translate them. It’s interesting,” says Renee Morrow, a third year French student from Pomquet, NS, and graduate of l'École acadienne de Pomquet. “It’s really focused on one word, not just the definition, but learning the history of the word, the historical aspects of it. It’s pretty cool.”

She says it’s a little different for the students as they are more used to translating English into French.  She says the project is definitely helping her language skills as well as introducing her to many old French words.

Becca Ross, a fourth year French student from Pictou County and graduate of Northumberland Regional High School, says at times some of the words weren’t spelled correctly and she had to figure out the words in order to translate.

Amber Benoit of Antigonish, NS, also a graduate of l'École acadienne de Pomquet, and a third year psychology student at StFX, agrees it’s interesting to work with a French piece to translate it into English. “It is challenging,” she says, “but helpful.” It’s much easier just to talk in French, but it’s different to sit down and do some writing and to focus on grammar and the translation, she says, and that process helps a lot.

 

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