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French Society: Dr Cecile Deer

French Society: Dr Cecile Deer


On Tuesday evening, January 26th, Dr Cécile Deer- a lecturer in French at Balliol College, Oxford - gave a talk in the Modern Languages department on the problems and the art behind translation. The lecture, entitled 'Comment bien traduire? (Traduttore traditore?)', explored our approach to translation and the way in which different cultures, contexts and concepts can help us to translate more challenging phrases. For example, Dr Cécile Deer pointed out 'les intraduisibles' - a variety of words, phrases, puns and idiomatic expressions which are almost impossible to translate directly from French, because they are so specific to the country, its culture and its history. 

With linguists from the Shells and Removes all the way up to the Sixth Form attending the event, around fifty in all, boys were encouraged to question their approach to their own language when translating from a foreign text, rather than looking for a direct translation to each and every phrase that they encounter. 

A message to draw from Dr Cécile Deer's talk might be that, although there is no substitute to investing time and effort into learning the vocabulary, discourses, themes and rhetoric of a foreign language, the joy of language and translation is that it makes one feel as though they are leading two lives at the same time. 

Report by Oliver Donaldson, F Social 6.1

 

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