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Some fun French phrases

Our translation services are mainly used for video translation and video localisation. As a creative company, we work closely with many businesses to provide the best translation solutions. However, there is also often a need to translate to a less professional tone, and work out how to translate from the colloquial voice. With marketing translation, for example, it is key to keep the tone light and friendly, as if a real person is speaking to you.

During our translation work, we have come across a lot of interesting idioms in French. While “it’s raining cats and dogs” is common to us, the French have their own unique and quirky sayings. Here are some of our favourite French phrases:

“Ce n’est pas terrible” This is a strange one, because it literally translates to “It’s not terrible”, but the French use it when something IS terrible. Oddly enough, “terrible” in French can either mean “terrific” or “terrible”! In the negative, “terrible” is seen as a positive!

While you’re getting your head around that, there’s “se creuser la tête”, which literally translates to “to dig into your head”, or to think really hard about something.

In English, we have “cost an arm and leg”, but the French say “coûter les yeux de la tête” – to cost the eyes from the head! It is key to pay attention to the language in audio translations to make sure you get the client’s true meaning across!

The French love to use food as idioms. “Mettre du beurre dans les épinards” literally translates to “to put butter on the spinach”, but it refers to making ends meet, or improving one’s financial situation.

We like “sucrer les fraises”, which translates to “to sugar the strawberries” but means to be doddery. “Caser du sucre sur son dos” literally means “to break sugar on his/her back” but means to gossip behind someone’s back. And “Appuyer sur le champignon” translates to “press on the mushroom” but means to drive very quickly or accelerate!

The French also like to use animals in their phrases (similar to us!). “Avaler des couleuvres” is a rather amusing one, translating to “swallow grass snakes”, but meaning to put up with a lot.

Finally, “Manger de la vache enragée” literally translates to “to eat an angry cow”, but strangely refers to going through hard times!

This is just an example of one language but it shows why it’s important to use human translation over machine translation because no matter how much information is fed into machines, they will never beat the precision of a professional linguist. If you’re looking for a French voice-over or French subtitling, please click the links to be directed to these pages.