How do you translate English text into French? (2023)

Are you looking for the best way to translate text from English to French? In this article we summarise the different English-French translation tools and methods available, together with their advantages and limitations.

Why do you need to translate English texts into French?

Although English is the universal language par excellence, only 28% of French people can understand and speak the language, according to an IFOP (an international market research group) survey. Translating your English content into French is therefore vital if you want to reach a French-speaking audience in many countries (France, Quebec, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Gabon, Niger, Senegal, etc.), and for successful international business dealings. It is also important to remember that a prospect will always be more responsive to content written in their mother tongue.

Translating your texts from English to French also helps your brand’s growth. It helps to increase your brand awareness, your digital visibility and your competitiveness in global markets.

In addition, the English-French translation of your official documents (extract from the commercial register, power of attorney, certificates etc.) will sometimes be required by local authorities when you set up in a country where French is the official language. Finally, translating your content will be very useful to facilitate communication with your French-speaking business partners, collaborators and associates.

What are the specificities of English-French translation?

Although the translation of English-French texts is not particularly complex, there are a number of particularities to be taken into account. English, which belongs to the Anglo-Saxon language family, and French, which belongs to the Latin language family, differ in a number of ways, for example:

  • The distinction between being addressed as "vous" (you formal) and "tutoiement" (you informal) in French does not exist in English.
  • There are also many words that have a similar form but different meanings between English and French. Here are some examples: actually = in fact (not "actuellement"), a library = une bibliothèque (not "une librairie"), to assume = présumer(not "assumer"), college = université(not "collège") etc.

In English, the grammar is simple and the lexicon rather concise, whereas French has a very large lexical field, complex grammatical rules, long sentences and many prepositions.

Once an English text has been translated into French, the final word count is generally higher, which affects the layout. This can complicate an English-French translator’s work, particularly with regards to translations of advertising or marketing content (flyers, posters, etc.) which must be very faithful to a specific layout.

Finally, as with any other language combination, translation from English to French and vice versa involves respecting the local culture and customs of the target country. Cultural references, idioms and wordplay will differ from English to French.

How do you translate English text into French: our methods and advice

To translate English text into French, you have three options: machine translation; human translation; and neural translation with post-editing. The quality, costs and deadlines will differ greatly depending on which method you choose.

English-French machine translation

Some of the best-known machine translation tools include:

  • Google Translation: this is by far the best English-French machine translation tool and it can translate a wide variety of media including text, images, websites, etc.
  • DeepL: available both free of charge or for a fee and offers translations in about thirty languages, for many types of documents including pdf, .docx, .pptx etc.
  • Systran Translate: this tool is also available as a free and a paid version, and offers translation in 50 languages. It can translate documents, web pages, emails, Excel, PDF, Word
  • Reverso: this is collaborative instantaneous translation software, which takes advantage of a community of users who help to improve the translation results. Reverso offers translation in 18 languages for different media such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc.

Although machine translation is very economical, and often free of charge, it does have some major drawbacks.

The final text shows the translation process: it is not fluent to read, the syntax is shaky, the vocabulary is approximate and the text often lacks coherence. There can be many misunderstandings, solecisms, false meanings, etc. with machine translation software and it does not take into account the cultural nuances, which are central to the translation process.

This method of translation is therefore not suitable for the translation of documents intended for publishing as it could affect a company's reputation and brand.

Human translation English-French

Human translation involves the use of a professional translator who specialises in English-French translation. The professional English-French translator has extensive translation know-how and linguistic skills. This will enable them to achieve a smooth and error-free result and the translation process will not be obvious.

The costs of a professional translation vary depending on the word count, the type of text to be translated, the level of complexity of the content and the experience of the service provider.

Neural English-French translation with post-editing

Finally, you can use neural translation with post-editing to translate your English texts into French. This innovative method is very popular today. The neural machine translation is carried out first and then a professional translator proofreads the text. This technique has a number of advantages, such as competitive costs, shorter turnaround times and a much higher quality compared to an automatic translation tool.

Which method should I choose to translate my English text into French?

To translate a text from English into French that will be shared with clients, partners, associates, investors, employees, etc., it is strongly recommended that you use a professional native speaker.

The translator must be a native French speaker, have a perfect command of English and be familiar with all the linguistic and cultural nuances of both languages. This ensures that the final translation will be smooth and error-free, and the translation process will not be obvious. Neural translation with post-editing can also be an interesting alternative if your budget is more limited.

At Alphatrad, we offer translation services from English to French and from French to English, as well as in a hundred other languages. We have a large network of professional translators who specialise in the sector of activity concerned by the translation including financial translation, medical translation, legal translation, marketing and advertising translation, technical translation, and website translation etc.

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FAQ about translating text from English into French

To translate text from English to French for free, you will need to use free machine translation software, such as Google Translate or DeepL. Be aware, however, that these tools give you a literal translation, and the quality often leaves a lot to be desired. For a successful and immediately usable translation, use a professional native translator.

You have several options if you want to translate a website from English to French. You could use the Google Translate extension on your browser, which will give you an instant translation of the web page, but the result is often approximate and very low quality. To translate the pages of your company's website, it is best to use a professional English-French translator who specialises in web translation. They will deliver a high-quality translation, which takes the writing style, SEO, keywords etc., into account.

To automatically translate English text into French, you will need to use automatic translation software, either free or paid. There are a large number available on the market and the best known is Google Translate. You can also use DeepL, Systran, Reverso or Linguee. Keep in mind, however, that machine translation very often produces unreliable, low-quality results.

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