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French recommendations

I will be *gulp* taking my translation exam in November...which is scarily enough, only a few weeks away. While I've been working through French for Reading all summer, and have most of my grammatical forms down (damn subjuctif imparfait!), I definitely need to practice. Another member of my cohort and I are planning to meet once a week to study together. Rather then memorizing verb charts or vocabulary (though we'll both be doing that on our own), we're hoping to...err...actually begin to translate.

We want to pick a widely translated text: something from "modern" french rather than, say, ancient french (or whatever the ango-saxon equivalent might be!). We're also hoping that there are several good translations out there, so we can compare it with our own...efforts. I'm also hoping for a text with a wide variety of verb forms...the prof who'll be grading the exams warned me that he selects his text specifically on that criteria. Understand: neither of us are adept, and we're both incredibly slow....but it's a start.

On the test, I'll be given a choice between criticism and fiction (and I've been advised to pick the criticism, since the fiction is full of idioms that might be difficult to remember). 2 hours, a page, and a dictionary. (I was recommend this one)

What texts (either theory, or fiction, or both) would you recommend?
And please also recommend corresponding English translations. We're hoping for some points of comparison.


On a different note, is anyone else feeling grumpy about how much they're spending on purchasing books? I checked out whatever was available in the library, used and abused the ILL system, scoured the internet, and still ended up spending over $500. And the best part? I'm on the quarter system, so I'll be doing this thrice a year. Joyous. There isn't even a halfway decent used bookstore in the area, so the hit to my wallet isn't cushioned by a trip to a cool bookstore.



( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 30th, 2008 02:22 pm (UTC)
The French translation exam here has been using passages from de Beauvoir's Le Deuxième Sexe (The Second Sex) most recently. For us, we get a page from the text that we have to translate into idiomatic English, using a dictionary, of course. The great thing about de Beauvoir is that translations are readily available.
Sep. 30th, 2008 03:58 pm (UTC)
hmmm...the existentialists show up everywhere, don't they? Thanks for the headsup!
Sep. 30th, 2008 02:29 pm (UTC)
Here's a link to the English version, at least: http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/ethics/de-beauvoir/2nd-sex/index.htm
Also, if you wanted to start easy, you could translate Wikipedia articles from French into English where there are currently no English versions! :) Reading wikipedia in French is always pretty easy and instructive. I used to use it when I was translating articles about French food/restaurants into English for my job, since there were certain words (usually fish) that I couldn't find in a dictionary online, but that I could find on wikipedia, which is strange, of course.
Hmm, I'm going to have to buy myself a good dictionary, of course. When I'm online, I like to use
http://dictionary.cambridge.org/Default.asp?dict=F (It gives you the multiple dictionary definitions of the word.)
http://wordreference.com/ (The forums themselves are often useful, especially for idioms/phrases)
Anyway, I guess I better go drop a ton of money on a decent dictionary.
Sep. 30th, 2008 04:00 pm (UTC)
"Also, if you wanted to start easy, you could translate Wikipedia articles from French into English where there are currently no English versions!"

That's a very cool idea. I will give it a try, but I suspect that some french(wo)man will come along and complain--with good reason!-- about the awful translation.
Sep. 30th, 2008 03:14 pm (UTC)
Books are expensive. And at the graduate level, you pretty much end up keeping all of them. Very few sell-backs.
UCI doesn't give you a stipend for books and such?
Sep. 30th, 2008 03:56 pm (UTC)
as far as I know, stipends specifically for books are uncommon anywhere. We're given a general stipend, of course...but I also have to live off of it.
Sep. 30th, 2008 03:37 pm (UTC)
I actually would far prefer fiction. Although with you, there's a good chance you would have read the theory in English! It was the other way around for me. :)

Fiction, I had part of Madame Bovary, and the beginning of Candide and "A Simple Heart" are favorites of mine for starting translation--plus they seem to be popular choices for translation exams. Not too bad.

For our critical passage, we had Sartre on Baudelaire.

And, I still don't have the results back!
Sep. 30th, 2008 03:58 pm (UTC)
I'm terrified that I will be given Derrida. I can barely figure out the word-play in English. I just know that it'll be over my head if it's in French.

Thanks for the recs! I'll be grabbing those from the library.

(when do you hear back?)
Sep. 30th, 2008 04:08 pm (UTC)
I've noticed Candide appears on quite a few lists of prior translation exam exerpts.
Sep. 30th, 2008 08:39 pm (UTC)
I third Candide. It's a popular one for exams, and it's not very difficult. Even if you don't choose the fiction option, Candide is a great way to improve your French without struggling through the vocabulary of some other authors (Flaubert).

Theory: I would practice with Derrida and Sartre. Honestly, I find Derrida easier in French than English anyway. You might discover a whole new favorite way to spend your Friday nights.
Oct. 1st, 2008 04:40 am (UTC)
Thanks for the hint on Derrida. He was my breakfast companion this morning, and I suspect that that will be a trend in he days to come. We might as well speak in his language :)

Still, I'll probably hold off on Derrida for at least another week or two while I adjust to Candide (which hasn't been THAT difficult, to my surprise. My passe simple and imparfait skills are coming along nicely)
Sep. 30th, 2008 11:33 pm (UTC)
Oof--books are super pricey! It is very disheartening. Ah, well--I just keep telling myself that it is my job to build a library, no matter how painful it might be.

As for language exam advice, I have no personal experience with French exams, but here is the web address for my program's old language exams if you want to practice: http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~english/Graduate/main.html (You will have to scroll to the very bottom of the page, and the links are on the left.)

We also have the 2-hour translation exam with a dictionary, but we do not decide between criticism and fiction. So it looks like the French passages from the past few years have been Barthes, Voltaire, and Stendhal. Hopefully the Barthes passage will help you out!

Good luck! I am sure you'll do great!

Oct. 1st, 2008 04:39 am (UTC)
dottie: Thanks for the links, as well as the authors. Voltaire does seem to come up repeatedly. I've already started working through Candide. I'm shocked to learn that I actually can (sort of) translate...Candide provides a nice, gentle start.

How is your semester going?
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )