Dateline: France -- and New France, or Canada, eh?
once wrote: "Woe to the makers of literal translations, who by
rendering every word weaken the meaning! It is indeed by so doing that
we can say the letter kills and the spirit gives life."
course, that's not what he really said. However you say that in French
is what he really said. And as French is not my forte, I admit I'm
simply trusting that this particular translation faithfully represents
the spirit of the original message.
that assumption, I also trust that were Voltaire alive today, he would
have a few bon mots for the makers of various fancy pieces of
communication gadgetry, who endeavour to render the wondrous subtleties
of his mother tongue more accessible to the masses. And some more for
the masses who rely on them.
technology stories currently making headlines -- one out of France, and
one from what Voltaire knew as Nouvelle-France, -- would surely have
escaped neither his eye, nor his wit.
The first centres on the town of Lourde, spelt L-O-U-R-D-E, in southern
France. With just ninety-four residents, this quiet hamlet nestled in
the Pyrenees typically doesn't attract a lot of visitors. But lately, a
number of tourists have descended on the village, drawn not by their
faith in God, but rather by their faith in their global positioning
systems. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these tourists are Catholic
pilgrims seeking the holy site of Lourdes, spelt the same as Lourde,
except for a pivotal 'S' at the end. Lourdes with an 's' is a full
ninety kilometres to the west of Lourde without an 's'. An easy enough
mistake to make, and one most G-P-S's are not equipped to pick up on,
Locals lament that
even French people number among the strays -- but as one villager
offered, "even without an 's', we are still a nice village."
I mentioned, the other story concerns Canada -- in particular, the
province of British Columbia. This week the N-D-P Official Languages
Critic was fuming over a directive by B.C.'s R-C-M-P that Canadians
wishing to view department news bulletins in French, should rely on
Google Translate for interpretation.
Godin insisted every effort must be made to ensure that all Canadians
are afforded the same quality of language service, no matter where in
the country they live.
think he's really saying is that the spirit of some expressions just
can't be accurately conveyed through Google Translate. Like, for
example, the expression "Pardon my French".