Ideas related to human relationships with animals remain highly contentious in French culture.
On the one hand, time-honoured traditions and beliefs assume human dominance to be natural, allowing human beings to own, control, exhibit and transform animals however they see fit, as long as those behaviours can be traced to “cultural heritage”. Until as recently as 2015, livestock and pets were treated by French law as “movable possessions” (like furniture). Hunting is a more popular pastime in France than in any other European country, and it remains legal to hold cockfights and bullfights, or to use bird lime to glue songbirds to branches, as long as these practices are part of an established local tradition.
On the other hand, many concepts of animal rights, as well as efforts to conserve species and ecosystems, can be traced to French enlightenment philosophy. This period in French history provided many of the earliest modern expressions of the continuity of human and animal consciousness. In 1747, for example, well before Darwin, Julien Offray de La Mettrie wrote, “from animals to man there is no abrupt transition.” This current in French culture has remained very strong, and it clearly influenced the decision in 2015 to alter the French Code civil, which now describes animals (515-14) as “living beings endowed with sensibility”, a description which goes beyond those found in many English-language jurisdictions. And a new law strengthening penalties for animal cruelty and exploitation passed its first reading in the French National Assembly in January.
This blog, the ninth journalism translation project by students of the MéLexTra JET master’s degree in English-French translation at the University of Lille, is aimed at readers of Mediapart English who wish to learn a little more about French media coverage of animal-related issues. It seeks to tease out some of the cultural tensions and accommodations in the French media’s reporting of issues relating to animal rights, welfare and conservation, both locally and internationally.
Who are we?
Eleven students completing their second year ‘JET’ master’s degrees (Traduction Juridique et Technique) specialising in legal and technical translation between French and English. This project is part of a module (Traduction journalistique) in which French journalism is translated into English. It is overseen and edited by the module’s teacher, applying a collaborative student-centred learning approach in the ‘newsroom class’.
- Hugo CHAUMETTE
- Laly DUFOSSE
- Stephen GHIDDI
- Naomi GNANA
- Grégoire HAGUET
- Quentin HANOT
- Charlotte HEBBOURN
- Bethany HINE
- Chloé LETELLIER
- Ambre POILVÉ
- Adèle RENARD
- Sam TRAINOR
What sorts of articles are translated?
The project has two main goals. The first is to allow non-French readers to delve a little deeper into debates surrounding animal welfare and conservation issues in France (and other francophone countries). The second is to provide readers with an idea of how local and global issues related to the broader topic are reported and discussed in the French press, and what this might reveal about the country’s news media. 6 groups of translators focus on articles covering 6 themes:
- Endeavours to extend animal rights
- Endangered species and extinction
- Animal welfare in agriculture
- Marine conservation
- Conservation of birds
- Animal condition in zoos, circuses and theme parks
Articles are taken from a wide variety of local, national and international French journalistic sources, appearing in print, broadcast and online. The project seeks, in part, to give non-French readers an insight into the various ideological leanings of the different sections of the French media and how these correlate (or not) with their positions regarding these issues. Articles have therefore been selected from sources with a broad spectrum of political leanings. An introductory ('standfirst') paragraph always provides some brief information on the source context.
Where can the original articles be found?
In every case, copyright and publishing details are provided in the translations: the original authors, photographers etc. are always indicated. Links are also provided to online versions of the original articles in their original publishing context, wherever possible.
What is our translation policy?
Translations are initially provided by pairs of students, one of which is the initial or lead translator. Following a 'strategic layering' approach, the other translator is responsible for sourcing and translating any quotations or other 'source level material' in the article, and the lead translator then adapts this material to his/her translation of the journalist's copy. These are sub-edited by the project editor, who also provides 'editorial level material' (like the headline, standfirst, notes etc.), and the article is then posted online. The article then potentially undergoes a final modification by the editors of Mediapart English before being moved to the club section of the paper’s front page. Stylistically, the translations are relatively close to the originals and there is a little less structural or syntactic reorganisation involved than would be the case in more general journalistic practice. Articles are not therefore modified to suit English journalistic ‘news style’, for example. One of the key goals of the project is to give non-French readers an idea of how the issues are presented in the French media. French journalistic style is therefore preserved in the translations. For a related reason, a number of terms are left in French, with links to a glossary article being preferred to explanatory translations. These include, for example, terms for local geographical areas, like département, and titles of political offices, such as député and préfet.
What kind of English is used in MéLexTra blogs?
Mediapart being a European publication, British English spellings are used throughout, as are predominantly British English grammar and vocabulary. However, the French constitution and political context being closer in some circumstances to the language culture of the United States than the United Kingdom, there are a handful of globally recognisable American English idioms that have naturally been incorporated in previous projects. Presidential candidates, for example, are said to be ‘running for office’ rather than ‘standing for election’. This contextual hybridisation of English varieties is likely to continue with all future projects.
House style meets the "Translation Bible"
The French term "Bible de traduction" is a concept borrowed from professional audiovisual translation practice, where the subtitlers or dubbing authors of a television series establish and share a set of fixed translation solutions and equivalences for recurring terms which, for reasons of continuity, all collaborators are asked to follow. One of the main features of this annual translation project is the continual expansion and renewal of what might be considered an expanded house 'style guide', specifically adapted to the translation of politically inflected French news journalism in English. In the 'editorial classroom', students not only pitch, discuss and choose between articles for translation, mirroring the activity of a traditional newsroom, but they also discuss specific translation choices and the possibility of adding a new, potentially recurring translation solution as a conventional equivalence in the project's style guide.