French Language Blog

Blank Page Anxiety – Writer’s Block In French Posted by on Sep 14, 2016 in Culture, Vocabulary

L’angoisse de la page blanche, the anxiety of the blank page, the French way to say writer’s block. The direct translation paints a pretty picture, but how much is lost in translation?

"Writer's Block I" by Drew Coffman on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Writer’s Block I” by Drew Coffman on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

While writing mon mémoire, I had to deal with l’angoisse de la page blanche all the time. I would write as long as I could, and then reach a moment where I felt like I couldn’t write anymore.

One time while dealing with cette angoisse (this anxiety), I needed to look up une expression (an expression, an idiom) I wanted to use in mon mémore : lost in translation.

To my surprise, there is no equivalent in French!

I found few suggestions, intraduisible and perdu à la traduction, but there doesn’t seem to be une expression française (an French expression/idiom) that directly matches it. L’expression was lost in translation.

I thoguht to look up la traduction of the 2003 movie, Lost in Translation, to see how le film (the movie) was translated.

En France, the title is the same as in English: Lost in Translation

Au Québec, the title is translated, and provides an idea for how to say it: Traduction infindèle

The most important thing to take away was how une traduction littérale (a direct translation) ne sonne pas naturelle (doesn’t sound natural) to French speakers. Learning not just how to say what you want to say, but to make what you want to say sonne naturel, is a big part of learning French.

It has also been the hardest part of writing mon mémoire and dealing with l’angoisse de la page blanche !

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.