How to Translate “Communiquer”

Speech bubblesCommunicate is undeniably a convenient translation of the French term communiquer. It looks the same, it sounds the same, it even takes up the same amount of space on the page. But is it always the best choice?

As Grammar Girl puts it, “Communicate has its place, for example, when you’re talking about establishing the ability to exchange ideas.” But sometimes those old stand-bys, tell and speak, can get the job done without all the hubbub.

It’s rather heavy-handed to say, “Our team can communicate with you in French and English.” How about “Our team speaks both French and English” or “Our team can serve you in French and English” or even “We do business in both official languages”? Let’s get creative, folks!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t communicate with my doctor—I talk with him. I contact my insurance company, I call my lawyer, and I discuss my ideas with my co-workers. In fact, it’s rare that I ever use the term communicate in my day-to-day life. So why would I use it in a translation? Out of pure laziness.

It takes a half second to find a better term, but communicate is so seductively simple, so readily available, that it weasels its way into many a translation. Well, no more. I’m determined to eradicate it from my vocab—at least for this week!

Got any brilliant ideas for translating communiquer? Share them!


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