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La Rentrée And What It Means To Translators

One of the biggest challenges for translators is effectively conveying the meaning of a term or concept that is highly localized and specific to a single language. In France, la rentrée is a perfect example of this, and it highlights just how tricky it can be to complete a good translation and ensure that it fully gets the original point across.

What is La Rentrée ?

Literally, la rentrée translates into ‘the return’. But for those in France, the term goes much deeper than this. It is primarily a signal that day-to-day life has begun again. During the summer months, some aspects of French life practically shut down. Here are some of the things that occur during la rentrée:

  • School resumes after a summertime vacation period
  • The government returns to its offices and resumes work
  • Shops and restaurants that often remain closed throughout August reopen
  • New collections of clothing and items appear in storefronts

In short, it’s almost like a miniature New Year occurring after the August break. It’s more than ‘the return’ of school kids—it’s a rebirth of the entire city’s operations.

Parallels Elsewhere In The World?

At first glance, this seems to be fairly similar to what occurs in places like England and the USA, where the rhythm of changing seasons marks four distinct periods during the year. Most schools go on a break during the summertime, and workers often plan vacations and holidays during the summer months for a week or so.

But in France, things go much further. Stores close, sometimes for up to a month. The government stops operating outside of emergency services and law enforcement. Favorite restaurants may not be open. Some employees take extended holidays. It’s such a part of the entire culture of France that la rentrée is a term that can’t be compared to what occurs in those other locations, despite the fact that it is similar to some degree.

In France, this is the time when businesses welcome their customers and employees back—imagine countless ‘grand openings’ occurring at the same time each year. It’s when school resumes, and when the overall culture and society begins to return to normal. That’s a bit different from anywhere else in the world, and a concept that a good global translation service will be able to help you convey during the translation process.

The Challenge of Translating La Rentrée

So how, then, do translators complete the process of translating such a term? The trick here is to pay attention to the context. Since la rentrée is something elegant and inherently French which doesn’t have an equivalent word in other languages, translators can use several methods to convey the idea. In an advertisement for clothing, a translator might use transcreation to write “Save on back-to-school essentials.” In a more general text, she might say “As Autumn begins…”

Different situations will call for different terms, and a translator will be able to choose one that fits the best in a given scenario. Our global translation team understands this completely, and we’re here to help. Contact us to learn more about our translation services.

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