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Aïcha T.
Writer, Musician, Artist and Bilingual
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French
TutorMe
Question:

When translating from French to English and vice-versa, one must be more careful with conveying the message than translating the words literally. Why is that?

Aïcha T.
Answer:

French and English, despite their structural differences, share many similar words; in fact, they share so many words that one would be mistaken, understandably, in thinking that translation would be straightforward. In reality, however, the meaning of some shared words can be very different in both languages, and this is something that many people struggle with. The term "glissement de sens" roughly means "shifting of meaning", signifying that while the words may have meant the same thing at one point in time, the respective cultural contexts have made them slightly differ. In French, the word "sens" means "meaning" or "direction", while in English, it generally has more to do with either "sensation", or else "common sense". While they share some aspects (meaning, common sense, to make sense), they don't strictly mean the same thing, and translating the word literally would give a strange connotation to the sentence. This is a common example of the dreaded "Faux-Ami", which literally means "False Friend": many words fall into this category, as demonstrated above, and highlight the subtleties of translation. Other faux-ami like "sens" pepper the French language: a "déception" is a personal blow, a disappointment, while in English, a "deception" is nothing more than a ruse, a clever subterfuge. The meaning of the word is much more weighty in French than it is in English. "Actuellement" and "actually" are another common mistake; while both are adverbs, their respective meanings diverge slightly. The latter is usually used to emphasize a contradiction or something that was not expected while the former usually means "presently, at the moment". A last example are the words "money" and "monnaie", to highlight how, in some cases, the connotations of the words can almost be contradictory. In English, to have money is to be rich; the word itself implies wealth of some sort. In French however, "monnaie" is nothing more than change, little coins and cheap bills, and has a more pejorative implication. The key to a good translation lies in the corresponding meaning being taken in account more so than the corresponding word. Because of the differences in sentence structure and grammar, among many other details, a translated text may end up looking nothing like the original: it may be longer, it may have very different words, but as long as the essence of the work is preserved, the translation is successful.

Writing
TutorMe
Question:

Should writers practice their craft for themselves, first and foremost, or for the audience that will potentially follow? In other words: are writers artists of self-expression and self-exploration through their writing, or are they relevant in the manner with which they connect with others and establish a legacy?

Aïcha T.
Answer:

As with almost every form of art, there is a concern, with writers, on the subject of longevity. The "Great American Novel" is an ideal that many aspire to, because it immortalizes the writer through the craft; by pursuing this goal, however, many may end up consciously or unconsciously, stifling their individuality and writing with others in mind. Of course, any writer who wants to be published will have to be aware of this audience, and may end up interacting with it in unexpected ways: the likes of J.K. Rowling, for example, have shared rather personal relationships with their loving fans. But a line must be drawn when one starts to trade their own voice for another's in the hopes of achieving a desirable status or emulating literary idols. Many people write for themselves, with no audience in mind: they express the sort of personal things that would not find much success in a mainstream setting. To them, writing is almost akin to a confession, or a release of some sort, and publishing these stories are not always the goal. It would be rather simplistic to see only the writer who writes for others and the writer who writes for him, her or theirselves, but in reality, there are many nuances in between. There is something to be said for touching lives and connecting with others through writing. Art is at its best when it brings people of the world together in shared experiences, and in the same way, there is something liberating about writing for yourself, with no inhibition regarding potential readers. But rather than being one or the other, I think it truly comes down to doing it for yourself. Many fear that if you are not published, you are not a real writer; yet, so many have found posthumous success, and countless others have had their most bizarre, unconventional and raw stories hailed as masterpieces for the ages, against all odds. Sylvia Plath, or else Guy de Maupassant are some examples. In the end, there is no formula for success, despite what stereotypes, trends or the "Great American Novels" tell us: people will always connect with authenticity, and will recognize something that was written from the heart and with passion, however odd and disturbing. "Do what you love, success will follow" is an advice which sums up the answer to the age-old question of success versus authenticity, and the proof that it is possible to do both: follow your instincts as a writer, and leave a lasting imprint in the world, as long as it is done with truth.

European History
TutorMe
Question:

Is it accurate and realistic to say that the First World War (1914-1918) was sparked when Gavrilo Princip, a young Bosnian Serb, shot and killed the Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria, and his wife Sophie, in Sarajevo in June of 1914?

Aïcha T.
Answer:

While Princip's actions have indeed been cataclysmic in their consequences, one must differentiate between a Root Cause and an Immediate Cause. The former is often cast aside in favor of the latter, when in reality, deep-seated motivations had as much to do, if not more, as the ones which resulted in the bloody assassination. Between the beginning of the 20th century and 1914, the Austro-Hungarian empire, whose allies included Germany and Italy, fell into conflict with the Kingdom of Serbia, which was allied with Russia, France and Great Britain. As the Austro-Hungarian empire annexed the Bosnia Herzegovina province in which many Serbs resided, nationalism, as well as an ardent desire to separate themselves from the empire arose among young Serbs like Princip. When he shot the archduke Franz Ferdinand, he only expected it to trigger the separation he had wanted, but instead, it precipitated the beginning of World War I, as diplomatic tensions and long-held grudges between empires and kingdoms were finally given an outlet. This is consistent with the political and social atmosphere of his era, where nationalism was rampant, and had been for quite some time. Nationalism, unlike a moderate patriotism which inspires feelings of pride and benevolence towards one’s fellow citizens, is often fueled by xenophobia, resentment and most importantly, superiority. History has shown that it can be irrational and very dangerous when it inspires people in a position of power and dominance. While his actions were not blameless, Gavrilo Princip was little more than a convenient scapegoat which, in a sense, allowed historians and/or negationists to ignore the uncomfortable truths that must have factored in the conflict, such as bigotry, tactical and diplomatic blunders and a thirst for revenge. It is erroneous to assume that he was singlehandedly responsible for a conflict which was, in reality, much bigger than him. Had he not pulled the trigger, there would have been another Princip who would have unhinged the tremulous peace in Europe, leading to a war which seemed inevitable.

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