Thursday, February 11, 2010

Vevelty Undergrowth

My French can use a lot of work. Its a painful topic for me, as I'm not nearly at the level of fluency I would've hoped or expected to be by now. I shamelessly blame my children: "Alas, I must sacrifice my learning French for their learning English..." (This is kinda true.)

Still, I persist. Friend Dana from high school, who has lived here for 15+ years and had a supporting role in Michael Moore's Sicko (she was one of the Americans in the focus group), once reminded me of a time when our French high school teacher asked us on an exam, completely out of the blue:
"Comment dit-on (how does one say): Rome wasn't built in a day?" He wasn't predicting a Morcheeba smash hit, but it turns out he simply wanted the French equivalent of this expression, not the literal translation.

So while we were all struggling over how to conjugate the verb for "to build", the correct answer was simply and un-obviously:
"petit-à-petit, l'oiseau fait son nid." (To me, that sounds more like: "little by little, the bird makes his nest," but I quibble. I guess the French don't think too much about Romans, having an ancient related civilization of their own called the Gauls.)

That was an early lesson, and I while my French slowly improves I continue to learn that translations mustn't always be literal. You wouldn't want to say, for example, upon meeting your future in-laws for the first time and after eating a wonderful meal together,
"Je suis pleine" (I am full).

Unless, of course, you really were pregnant and felt like that would be an opportune time to mention it.

So I'm always a little surprised, given how many English speakers you can find around here, that folks who wish to translate a pretty fine menu from French into English, wouldn't ask one of their English-speaking buddies to do a quick QA.

This menu is from a lovely-looking place in Montmartre (my all time favorite 'hood) called Le Moulin de la Galette. Check out their site for a great overiew of the history of the restaurant and the area (for example, I learned that Renoir painted Bal du Moulin de la Galette here.) The site is in French and English (sort of).

The menu in French sounds delicious. In English, it sounds adorable.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Bal du Moulin de la Galette, 1876

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