Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Message: "We Care" (but we need a translation)

"Care" seems to be the new watchword of the Socialist Party. Unfortunately they're going to need a good French translation. Sollicitude doesn't quite have the cachet of that English "care." Souci: too much worry in that. Solidarité: trop ringard. But "care": very chic and modern and Anglo-Saxon without being neoliberal. As in: I could care less.

Of course there is already a theoretical treatment:

Le terme de « care » s’avère particulièrement difficile à traduire en français car il désigne à la fois ce qui relève de la sollicitude et du soin ; il comprend à la fois l’attention préoccupée à autrui qui suppose une disposition, une attitude ou un sentiment et les pratiques de soin qui font du care une affaire d’activité et de travail.

10 comments:

brent said...

Perhaps Aubry & Cie should leap right past the untranslatable "care" and get right to the core of bathetic American liberalism by telling the French voters "We feel your pain."

Boz said...

Pretty lame. On the other hand, I'd pay money to see an American campaign run on Sollicitude.

Anonymous said...

how about "Yes, we care"?
Obamesque and understandable in three syllables


Chris P.

Passerby said...

Even France Culture as given-up on translating "care". They ran a quite a few programs on the topic over the last couple months; but always using the english word (each time stating they couldn't find a fitting translation).

Anyway, I wonder what triggered this buzzword in the first place.

MYOS said...

@Passerby: my interpretetation of that sudden buzz: Le Monde wrote an extravagant piece about it, as if it was the second coming of the Left.
IF Le Monde touts it, it means it's important, seem to think a bunch of journalists, while others seem to believe that since Le Monde think it's important, it must be some pseudo-babble for the elite and thus it must be bashed, both attitudes resulting in buzz with no understanding - In French, "le care" is pronounced "le cairrrr" and sounds like the Egyptian town. :p

Passerby said...

@MYOS: I haven't read the piece by Le Monde on le "care" (you are right it does sound like the Egyptian capital). So I'm not how they defined it.


All the discussions I heard about that "care" notion, was presenting it as not only care as in "healthcare" (i.e. soins), but all kind of services, as in "taking care of people".
The idea being that "care" has a huge place in our society and economy, yet it's not well defined and understood. For example, municipal employees, although not registered as such, are part of the "care" sector.

Interesting concept. But I still fail to see what point these people debating and measuring (?!?) "care" are trying to make.

Anonymous said...

When I worked for the French Embassy in Washington, one of the biggest communication problems for Americans was trying to convey to the French "diplomats" the paradigm / concept of the disinterested caring for the well-being of fellow human beings, of doing good for its own sake, without an eye to advantage or reward. It was hard to translate the meaning and sense of English words like virtue, care, empathy, altruism, fair play, or even mercy. And it was nearly impossible to get any French person to act on these principles. The broader idea of "commonwealth" - a society of all for one and one for all - is alien to many French minds, trained in an ultra-competitive education system, where the only way to get ahead is by self-punishment, favoritism and amoral Machiavellianism. I am not religious, but I could see that France's modern history of "secularism" - a negative definition, which boils down to a shrugging indifference to common ethical values, and a scoffing allergy to Christian tenets - had created a ruling class of selfish, divisive, often cruel egomaniacs. This cultural split is one of the main unspoken reasons why the French are often regarded as shifty, fickle and unprincipled by so-called Anglo-Saxons, be they American, Canadian, or British. And frankly, I think it is also one of the reasons the French are privately so miserable, behind their smooth public gloss. Pride won't let them admit it openly, but inwardly they hate their system and the fact that much of the world treats them like pretty but poisonous snakes. Thankfully via globalism the French are starting to shake off their smug insularity and wake up to their crippling legacy of superficial politesse, cynicism and ethnocentrism (treating other nations and races as undeveloped protohumans who may one day evolve into Frenchmen, if they are lucky). France is slow to realize that it is not enough just to boast about being "exceptional" (= not German or British or American), without being able to show some positive common values with benefits to the happiness and well-being of its society and citizens.

Unknown said...

Anonymous, That's a pretty sweeping indictment of the French and, I think, quite an unfair characterization. It's merely the obverse of the equally sweeping indictment of "Anglo-Saxon neoliberalism" that one sometimes hears in France. The French may not have a word equivalent to "care," but they have long had a tradition of solidarité and a far more generous social safety net than we have in the United States. Competition, by the way, is not unknown here. Indeed, it is usually touted as one of our virtues. But thanks for your comment.

Passerby said...

@Anonymous: it looks like you really enjoyed your years at the French embassy...

I won't try to debate, as it seems you made your mind a while ago, and it's unlikely anything will make you think differently. However, I can't resist to point out how ironic that to define the "commonwealth" concept that is so unknown to French people you use "all for one and one for all", which is the notorious motto of Alexandre Dumas' characters.

rain said...

Great post.Just a quick note it is important that French translation being accurate and efficient can indeed not be overstated. Especially in the ever faster moving world of globalized business, successful information and technology transfer within multinational businesses can make the difference between win or lose.