Dodgy French in books

Warning: Contains Language

Novel writers occasionally like to use foreign language to convey the fact that their character is in or from another country. Unfortunately these writers often don’t research said foreign language in any depth before sending their work to the printers – or so it seems to me. Some you can tell have tried hard to get it right and only fail occasionally, usually getting the gender wrong but others clearly have never seen, heard or studied French in their life and it is very painful to read. I came across one of those yesterday and it put me off the book straight away.

The book I read yesterday had some weird and sometimes plain bonkers sentences such as these:

“Très bien! Je vais être droit il y a,” a woman yelled.

“Quel est votre pressé?”

Whatever that woman yelled in the author’s head, we shall never know. I was more than a little pained when I read the second one which, as far as I can tell, translates as ‘What is your pressed?’. And I might have forgiven Paris’ Sacré Coeur Basilica being spelt ‘Sacré Couer’ once, but it was spelt wrong throughout the entire book. OK so it was a freebie Kindle book, not War and Peace but even so it is hard to take a book seriously when sentences make no sense whatsoever. Despite 5 years of studies and an A-Level, my German is non-existent and I wouldn’t dream of putting German in a book without checking with a native speaker. Not being a writer, I don’t know how these things are done but it shouts lazy writer and pretty much discredit the author (and editor) to me.

I am genuinely curious to know how writers deal with foreign language in books. And if anyone has funny experiences of dodgy foreign language in books, please do share!


3 thoughts on “Dodgy French in books

  1. This is so my pet peeve too! I can’t count the number of times I’ve shouted a a book “that’s not how it’s said!” Great post, thanks for showing it’s not just me!

  2. Hello there! Thanks to your comment on my blog I have found yours.

    I don’t remember coming across dodgy French in a book but I’m reading a self-published book on Kindle at the moment which is excellent, but wasn’t properly proof-read and has loads of errors. The author uses ‘bought’ instead of ‘brought’ throughout the book which irritates the hell out of me, and there are others too.

    I feel like leaving a comment on Amazon that he should have proof-read the damned book before unleashing it onto a literate public but no one else has even mentioned it in the reviews.

    1. I have also come across loads of the errors you mention on Kindle books. The team of people they use to convert books are awful and should not be allowed anywhere near books as their proof-reading skills are non- existent!

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