Ever learn more than one language? Ever find that the second language might have (or probably has) too many grammar rules to remember? Ever been told that fluency means being able to speak to anyone about anything in that language? Ever hear of people who translate word by word, only to find that it actually doesn’t make any sense?

Chances are that, if you live in Quebec (and possibly Ontario), You might have been exposed to two or more languages. Here in Quebec, we learn English and French, and yet some of us can barely introduce ourselves in the other languages while sounding fluent.

Quand j’étais jeune, mon m’a corrigée les centaines de fois pendant l’école primaire et secondaire. C’était seulement depuis 4 ans que j’suis appréciative de ce qu’il m’avais dit en corrigeant mes amis internationaux qui veulent apprendre la langue. 

However, even with an educational background of both English and French, I still find it hard to translate between the languages, maybe because of all of des règles de grammaire. De plus, as I start to learn Mandarin and its rules of grammar, I start to quickly and frequently be reminded how translating n’est pas la même chose quand on le traduire mot-par-mot (That’s Google Translate… not the most accurate) and asking 中国朋友 are not as helpful since they suggest words a beginner wouldn’t know or recognize.

Funny thing is, while I might be considered as fluent in French, si tu me parles de la domaine de compatbilité, je ne te comprendrais pas un mot (If you were to talk to me about Accounting, I wouldn’t understand one word from you). It’s the same in English, where I wouldn’t understand anything in relation to physics.

When it comes to translation, word by word doesn’t mean that the context stays the same between languages. The closest is getting the equivalent from one language to the next with the least amount of context lost. And to be fluent? Practice in both familiar and new/foreign environments.