Friday, February 22, 2013

Blah Blah Blah: Foreign Languages in Books

One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes down to books is the misuse of foreign language in books. To be honest, it’s mostly the misuse of French that bothers me. I speak French, which means those mistakes are pretty hard to miss.

Many authors use different languages in their novel. Russian, German, Italian, Spanish, French…. I’ve seen all of these and more. When it comes to those languages, the mistakes won’t bother me that much, even though I’ve studied them all at least one year in college. Since my knowledge of those languages is not as extensive as my knowledge of French, I don’t really see the mistakes as easily. Most often, I will simply think I’m the one mistake, because I do want to believe those authors ask someone who speaks fluently to correct those passages.

Sometimes, I also give the author the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it’s a dialect I haven’t heard yet.

Still, I can be put off a book that I was REALLY excited for, simply for those mistakes, especially if those mistakes are obvious.

Let me share some examples:

“Excusez-moi, mademoiselle, mais peux j’ayez s’il vous plaît votre attention”
Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon p.12

This sentence here is one of the main reason I never reviewed Carrier of the Mark. It’s the only thing I could remember, when came the time to write the review. This sentence makes me cringe so badly. I hate it. This made me mad, and I can’t understand why no French speaker was asked to correct it before it was published. Maybe it has been corrected in later editions of the book, but the one I have has this sentence.

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me tweet about this sentence:

“Était-ce tout vaut la peine?”
Stolen Nights by Rebecca Maizel p.140

This sounds like a sentence translated with Google Translator. Sigh.

The last book I want to talk about is one that almost everyone raved about. I was one of the only ones who didn’t love it, and this might have been one of the reasons why.

“en français pour que la résistance malheureuse puisse me comprendre”
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein p. 189

The unhappy resistance? Wait, what?

“Résistance idiots sales, vous nous MASSACREZ TOUS”
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein p. 286

The “Résistance idiots sales” doesn’t work together. It should have been “Sales idiots de la Résistance”, or something like that…

There were also words that were simply written in a way I had never seen…

“ ésprit de vérité”
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein p. 131

Since when does “esprit’ needs a “é”

“la famille de grandmère”
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein p. 174

It’s “grand-mère”, not “grandmère”

I get it. People can make mistakes, especially when they are writing in language that is not their own. I make a ton of mistakes in English. It’s normal. English is my second language, and I often don’t see my own mistakes. That’s why there are probably many mistakes on my blog. Yet, when a book is published, I don’t get why they don’t simply find someone who speaks fluently that language to correct it. It is so easy to find someone online willing to check them for you. There are entire websites dedicated to that, as long as you are open to correct some sentences in your own language….

What do you guys think? Do these mistakes annoy you too?

What are some of YOUR biggest pet peeves?


  1. I've seen Spanish mistakes before, but I can't remember what the book was. I agree with you, these things should be checked, especially before finished copies are printed.

    What bothers me more, though, is when these things aren't translated. Sometimes you can figure it out from context, but sometimes you can't. I don't want to have to go to Google translate, and I hate feeling like I've missed things.

    On the other hand, when things are correct AND I know what they mean, I love seeing random snippets of other languages in books. That's just the language aficionado (or dork, whichever) in me.

    1. I love seeing those too when it's nicely done. I love languages too, and I love when authors take the time to do their research to get those words and sentence in their work. It's just sad that many authors don't take the time to find someone to proof read those things.

  2. I totally understand! While I'm not fluent in French (though I wish I was) or any other language, I can imagine it would bother me if it happened the other way around.
    My pet peeve is quite niche I suppose... it really bugs me when authors get styles of address wrong. Like it is Her Majesty the Queen, not Her Royal Highness. Or if you are going to get it wrong, at least then be consistent throughout.
    Like I said, pretty specific lol!