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Bilingual glossaries of French administration are released!

18 novembre 2022 フランス語
Vue 189 回

The French ministries of Culture and the Interior have just released bilingual glossaries of the French administration. Subtitled “For mutual understanding”, these first bilingual glossaries (French/Arabic, French/Persian, French/Soninke) are also built as a “message of hospitality towards foreigners welcomed in France” and translate most of the terms used in administrative procedures. Franco-Ukrainian and Franco-Russian glossaries are to be published shortly.

During Integration Week (“Semaine de l’intégration”) held in late October, the French government presented these new guides, published by Maison de la Sagesse-Traduire[1], with the help of the publisher Le Robert.


Understanding why we don’t understand each other


The first three volume in the collection have just been published (Arabic, Persian, Soninke) to help “those who arrive and those who welcome them to understand why they don’t understand each other”.

Indeed, the publisher made it clear that it is not a question of translation as an “immediate interpretation” or “an instantaneous search for the best way communicate the exchange”, but of translation as “know-how with nuances, which takes the time to perceive, to stop, to ponder what is difficult and to understand what resists”. The words and expressions used in French administrative forms “put a mirror of strangeness before newcomers as soon as they arrive on French territory”. In the same way, the individuals who welcome them may face “cultural differences for which they are not prepared”. For example, “the way of naming, of designating family ties, the day and year of birth” may differ in other cultures and it is then necessary “to invent new words in a specific language to designate these realities which are obvious to us, but not to everyone”.


An opportunity for mutual discovery


These new glossaries therefore highlight an original approach: translating to reduce misunderstandings, of course, but also “to develop the capacity for interaction, integration and support, to reap the benefits of diversity, to contribute to the circulation of ideas and the cohesion of territories”. These three glossaries thus aim to transform the difficult administrative process for newcomers to France and make it “an opportunity for mutual discovery”.

This is why they are aimed at different audiences:

  • foreigners arriving in France, of course;
  • but also the various reception organisations, associations and local authorities in charge of reception, integration and guidance processes;
  • not forgetting trainers in French as a foreign language.


Translators as relays


Based on a “careful examination” of a corpus of numerous administrative forms, the designers of the glossaries also consulted experts and specialists to arrive at a simple vocabulary and syntax.

The editors used “relay translator”, all of whom had migration experience A validation experiment was then carried out with an immigrant population, already settled in France, in each of the languages.

About 4,000 entries and their definitions, about a hundred entries on French culture and about fifty entries on foreign culture are thus available from alphabetical entries, with a definition in French being proposed, translated and explained in the foreign language. However, as the translators point out, “many neologisms had to be created in other languages to describe aspects specific to our administrations”. Updates should be frequently implemented as well as the digitalisation of the glossaries to make them more accessible.


 To know more

Press release from the French Ministry of culture

Press kit from the “Maisons de la sagesse traduire”

Presentation brochure


Photo credit: © deagreez


[1] Maison de la Sagesse-Traduire is an association promoting several mechanisms focused on translation as “know-how with differences”.


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