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  • The Beginning Translator’s Workbook: Or, The ABCs of French to English Translation by Michele H. Jones
  • Richard Mansell
The Beginning Translator’s Workbook: Or, The ABCs of French to English Translation. By Michele H. Jones. Rev. ed. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2014. xxii + 291 pp.

This book is aimed at translation courses for ‘beginners with a proficiency in French ranging from intermediate to advanced’ offering ‘methodology and practice concurrently’ (p. ix). As such, it endeavours to provide an account of the strategies used by professionals when translating, as well as the significant differences between French and English. Regarding the latter, it lies firmly in the current of comparative stylistics, in which Jean-Paul Vinay and Jean Darbelnet’s Stylistique comparée du français et de l’anglais: méthode de traduction (Paris: Didier, 1958) is canonical. Indeed, the core of Michele Jones’s book is based around Vinay and Darbelnet’s seven translation procedures (from borrowing to adaptation). However, it is disappointing that Jones does not refer to the Canadian authors at all, apart from a reference in the final section on further reading; specific reference to the Stylistique comparée would clarify some of the issues that Jones presents, such as the difference between modulation and equivalence as procedures. Vinay and Darbelnet’s emphasis on the situation of the text would significantly help Jones to overcome one of the main deficiencies of this work as a tool for translator-training: it is not until p. 184 that a significant fragment of text is offered as an exercise. Until this point the exercises are isolated sentences that focus on just one translation procedure at a time, and are designed to admit only one response, offering a rather prescriptive method. This is indicative of a greater problem with the text as a method, but also where its main strength lies: Jones frequently deals with obligatory (and arbitrary) shifts between French and English. These lists of common differences between French and English have value, and are particularly useful as raw material for undergraduate language classes (and possibly as revision for postgraduate students of translation). However, their classification according to Vinay and Darbelnet’s procedures means that they share the same criticisms, especially that the ‘procedures’ are not actually procedures for translation at all (and thus are not translation strategies), but rather labels placed on differences between the two languages. So, the list of French verb phrases that become single-word verbs in English (and vice versa, p. 3) is useful, but it does not indicate any sort of underlying approach apart from having to learn all examples by rote. [End Page 428]

Richard Mansell
University of Exeter


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