5 Replies Latest reply on Jan 30, 2019 1:59 AM by Ethan Kent

    Another (not-very-standard) French-language document in Letters to Lincoln

    Ethan Kent Adventurer

      Hello to all who will read this post (especially those who have been discussing French-language material in the "Letters to Lincoln" "campaign") : I was thinking of posting my mention of another French-language document in that "campaign" which the interface just "gave" me when I "agreed" to be offered "a new page" in 1 of the threads in which some of us transcribers have been discussing finding French-language material, but I feared it might be "lost" there.


      (And maybe a new thread should be established listing French-language material in "Letters to Lincoln"?)


      Anyway, this document seems to be a letter from US Minister to France (and former New Jersey Attorney General) William L. Dayton to someone (whose identity I don't think I have yet found via Google; perhaps Belgian?) identified by the Library of Congress as "Petrement Van De Leuf".


      I actually promised to work with a different French-language in another thread, and have only partly transcribed the 1st image (of 2) of this one; if someone else wishes to complete transcription of the (relatively-short) text of the page in question (I've finished at least half already, I think), feel free to go ahead.


      (Oh, yes: as I have alluded to in the heading, Minister Dayton's French is (well) not that of a native, and rather awkward (if someone will wish to translate the content into English, the awkwardness will probably be in the way of understanding exactly what Minister Dayton was saying in the letter.


      I do gather that the ambassador was asking something about that newfangled thing known as ironclad battleships/warships, but (as someone looking at the letter will see) he could probably explain what he was talking about better in English than in French (and the spelling is not-quite-standard French (at least sometimes,) either) )


      The following is a link to the document at the Crowd/By The People interface: https://crowd.loc.gov/campaigns/letters-to-lincoln/1863-civil-war-emancipation-proclamation-and-gettysburg-address/mal26… .


      Happy Reading and Bonne Lecture to anyone who wishes to look at (and/or work with) this document (I think I ran into another by Minister Dayton when browsing, but I am not going to search for that one now).


      Ethan (in New York City).

        • Re: Another (not-very-standard) French-language document in Letters to Lincoln
          Ethan Kent Adventurer



          I have completed transcription and translation (rendering what I believe Minister Dayton (who turns out to have been the Vice-Presidential nominee of the Republican Party in 1856) meant in English -- rather than the confusing result that native-speakers of French may have read from his note) of the 2 images showing the text of Minister Dayton's query about ironclad/armored vessels (seemingly being constructed in Europe, judging by his asking if they were being built in 1 of 2 major French ports (although he wrote in French the word for "door" or "gate" instead of the (1-letter-shorter) word for "port"  ) ) in 1863; my work has been Submitted for Review.


          (I would like some input from at least 1 Community Manager either before or after the transcriptions-with-translations are designated as "Completed" -- at least partly because this particular text posed its own special challenges to translation (largely unorthodox spelling and at least 1 anglicism ("sont a etre" -- seemingly stemming from thinking "are to be", although "vont à être" or "seront" would make more sense to a native-speaker of French for the same idea) ) ; partly because I would like to know which "rules" to follow with respect to placing these translations in the workspace (I have placed the translations as if they were "Marginalia" -- with rectangular brackets and asterisks around the content). )


          Signing off again; Happy Reading and Transcribing. [Smile.]



            • Re: Another (not-very-standard) French-language document in Letters to Lincoln

              Hi Ethan,


              A few notes: keep the transcription window as free from editorial notes as possible. For example, no need for '[text continues in next image] *]' because these pages will be presented together in loc.gov and available for download as a batch. In order to make the materials most useful for linguists and people doing machine learning, we want to preserve the original text. Translations are of course the exception, because these allow for better search. Anyhow, please remove all editorial notes where you can, i.e. '[*Translation (of author's intent) follows:'


              Using the marginalia convention to separate off the translation from the transcription is a good idea. We have not yet agreed on an appropriate convention in house, but feel free to use this for now and we'll try to get an answer about how to represent these.

              1 person found this helpful
                • Re: Another (not-very-standard) French-language document in Letters to Lincoln
                  Ethan Kent Adventurer

                  Dear Victoria (Dr. Van Hyning),


                  Thank you for your reply post about my translation of Minister Dayton's message (or the message attributed to him by the Library of Congress) written in not-very-"good" French, concerning armored/ironclad ships.



                  Both parts of my translation were Submitted for Review, and I don't think I can change them at this point, but I will keep your instruction that mention of continuation is not needed in mind with respect to any future translations I may do within By The People -- as well as your direction that I "remove all editorial notes" in future (with respect to translations).





                  I do hope that you were relatively-satisfied with my translation otherwise, and will (shortly) say a bit more about why I added "(of author's intent)" to my note "[Translation follows]".



                  (Should I not even add "[Translation follows]" -- and just place the parts of a translation within rectangular brackets with asterisks placed by the beginning and ending brackets??)




                  I thought that I rather-explained my basic problem with translating Minister Dayton's message in at least 1 earlier post, but I will say so again: he wrote as an English-speaker who had learned some French, but (apparently) had not (despite being named as an ambassador to France) either learned how to write "good" French (with spelling accurate and with accents/diacritical marks where they belong, for starters) or used a bilingually-competent secretary/aide to draft this particular message (since the message may have been too "sensitive" for a secretary to read, perhaps that explains that part of how the message came to be as it can now be seen).



                  I could pretty easily have "literally" translated Minister Dayton's note -- and it would have not only looked more confusing than in the translation which I created, but it would have less-successfully conveyed what I think the Minister meant to say; instead (especially with respect to his "sont a etre" before a past-participle (in French, "are" plus "have" (or "to")  plus "to be"/"being")  -- probably thinking of English "are to be" before "delivered", I tried to convey what the Minister might have said in the closest I could come up with to 1863 English.


                  Those readers who know French fairly-well (and who know English fairly-well)  -- and who will look at the original document as well as the translation -- will "get" this; others may not realize this without a stipulation such as I added.


                  If you wish for a translation in such cases to "just be present", then I will keep that in mind and not make "editorial" comment -- but I felt that (especially when guessing (for example) that Mr./Minister Dayton meant "les" ( "the" for plurals) when he wrote "et" ("and"; sounds like "les" without the initial "l") ) I wanted to make clear what I was doing.





                  I await a reply to this post of mine (to guide me and others in future) with respect to posting translations at Crowd/By The People.



                  Thanks for reading this (you and/or a colleague); I await a reply.



                  Ethan. [Smile.]

                    • Re: Another (not-very-standard) French-language document in Letters to Lincoln

                      Hi Ethan,


                      A short-term recommendation for how to represent translations until we have a firmer policy. If you could write ==Translation== and provide your translation below it, that would be helpful. Again, we're still in the process of trying to decide on a convention, and so in the meantime there may be a variety of ways for people to do things, but hopefully we'll get some clarity soon. I've made this change to your transcription, and resubmitted for review.


                      As for the question of your particular translation of Dayton's letter, the process and the considerations you describe make me think that this is all a natural part of the art of the translation. Any translator makes a series of assessments and judgments, and most translators render slightly or even very different results on the same base text. So use your best judgement, and feel free to share your process here on History Hub, and hopefully we can build a community of people here who are interested in these questions. I think we're seeing the start of that already.


                      A quick note about non-standard French, and English for that matter. Things are still really rather unfixed at this point. So it's true that this person's French may not have been idiomatic, but likewise it may have been squarely within the range of French usage at the time. I'm not an expert on the period to say, but certainly for English there was a wide range of spellings and usage that now appear non-standard, but which were perfectly normative 100-200 years ago. Spelling was in flux for a long time, and of course there are regional differences to take into consideration as well. In other words, I wouldn't infer much about level of education or intellectual capacity based on spelling. I appreciate that the points your raising in this particular case go beyond spelling and accent use.



                        • Re: Another (not-very-standard) French-language document in Letters to Lincoln
                          Ethan Kent Adventurer

                          Hi and Thanks, Victoria.


                          (I will try to keep your suggestion for marking translations in future. )


                          I don't wish to say much more about this particular translation, but:


                          1) I definitely am not wishing to say that Minister Dayton was either un-intelligent (I would expect that anyone who in his time had become a lawyer and had been both Attorney General of his State and (I just noticed this in the English-language Wikipedia article on him; I hadn't noticed before ) been named US Senator by his State's legislature would have been of at-least-average intelligence) or particularly-poorly-educated in general (although perhaps his instruction in French did not emphasize the written form of the language as much as mine in the 1970s did) -- and


                          1A) conceivably this text was written the way it was written precisely because it was a (possibly-secretive and to be kept from the notice of governments other than the US one) query concerning what would now be called "cutting edge" military technology (in this case, ironclad ships; in another era, a US official could have been asking about progress in manufacturing nuclear weapons) ;


                          2) upon review of my transcription of the original message, Minister Dayton did seem aware in some parts of his message of some French spelling conventions -- but


                          2A) (unless he was trying to deliberately make the message difficult for a French person to make sense of) there seem to be too many missing apostrophes and accent/diacritical marks (and at least 1 grammatical-gender error) -- and (especially) too many missing "silent" French letters (including those distinguishing singular nouns from plurals, and a conditional tense ("m'intéresserait") from a future one ("m'intéresserai" -- which actually wouldn't even make sense as the "ai" ending would be the first person singular, and something else would not be said to be interesting him with that "ai" ending -- but with a "a" (3rd person singular) ending) for me to accept that the variances from the norm (apart from the anglicisms, including putting 2 -- as opposed to 1 -- "d"s in "adresse" -- and the "sont a etre" which I have already noted) would have been within the range of what would have been acceptable for someone educated in French secondary schools (or for an official message to or from the French government of the time).


                          (For one thing, I'm pretty sure that (silent) "s"-es or "x"-es at the end of words indicating plurals were not something that had not come into general use yet, and I'm pretty sure that 1863 French was generally pretty-much the same as late-20th-century French with respect to most accent/diacritical marks in words (although a few words have indeed changed their spellings over the years since). )


                          2B) French has quite a few "silent" letters which cause a whole lot of words which sound the same but mean different things -- with the separate written spellings indicating the different meanings (although in oral French, you would have to distinguish the meanings by the knowledge of the language -- i.e., that "vaisseau" (singular) is not the same as "vaisseaux" (plural).


                          (I was really surprised at Minister Dayton's spelling the name of the major French port of Bordeaux without the final "x", though -- and I have found that that spelling was definitely established before 1860.)


                          I imagine that Minister Dayton may have had more experience with spoken French than with writing it.


                          3) I sympathize to some degree with Minister Dayton and/or to the writer of the note: gender and accent marks have long (and will continue to) vexed English-speakers learning to write French (when working with computer keyboards designed for "English only", there are times when I have sent messages to French-speakers without accents or diacritical marks -- and hoped to be understood), and the fact that there are so many "silent" letters and homophones in French can make things difficult... -- and


                          3A) I have had difficulties of my own trying to communicate in Spanish to Spanish-speakers (partly because I probably have a yet-smaller range of vocabulary in Spanish than Minister Dayton had in French) , and I can see how anglicisms could easily "pop up" (as they do in my attempts to speak Spanish -- although some mistakes stemming from my trying to use my knowledge of French to express myself in Spanish have caused errors.


                          I hope to not say any more about this particular document.


                          Thanks (in advance) for reading this; I hope that this post will be viewed in some way as helpful and/or constructive.