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better way of saying "first of all" and "as a second step"?
Thread poster: altar
Aug 22, 2008

Hi all,
a friend has asked me to improve the style of something that has obviously been translated from French.
There are 2 expressions that I find particularily ugly:

"First of all, the railway sector is going to be rehabilitated..."
"In a second step the company has planned to renew its rolling stock..."

For this one I was thinking of "Subsenquently, the company plans to renew..."

Do you have any suggestions?
Thanks in advance

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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:44
Member (2008)
Italian to English
simple Aug 22, 2008


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:44
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Simple indeed Aug 22, 2008

Many variants are possible.
As Tom says, "firstly ... secondly ..." seems simplest, but you could say "Initially ... next (or then ...)".
And yes, "plans" is better than "has planned" in this context.

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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:44
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Masses of suggestions Aug 22, 2008

There are lots of possibilities.

A) To begin with, the railway sector is going to be rehabilitated...

The railway sector is going to be rehabilitated first ...

B) Next the company has planned to renew its rolling stock...

After that, the company has planned to renew its rolling stock...

C) Following rehabilitation of the railway sector, the company plans to renew its rolling stock.

It's a long time since I have translated seriously from French, but I remember that the little fillers do sometimes tend to need a lot of revision to get a sentence to sound like English rather than a conversation with Hercule Poirot

Translating from Danish, reversing the order of clauses sometimes works wonders, while I find Swedish (sometimes) uses single-clause sentences that flow better if linked as a main clause and subordinate clause i English.

Whatever your language pair, there are probably no hard and fast rules, but it is worth watching the syntax and training your inner ear to adjust these little, not-quite-insignificant words.

It is necessary to consider what conjunctions and linking expressions REALLY mean in context. (Should you translate 'mais' with 'but', 'yet' or 'although', or can it simply be omitted altogether?)

The 'First... Next... Finally...' structure is sometimes useful, but sometimes it seems laboured or affected instead.

Best of luck with the revision. This is the sort of thing that marks good human translation out from machines.

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Thanks a lot Aug 22, 2008

Thanks a lot for your help.

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Harvey Utech  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:44
Member (2008)
German to English
Why the unnecessary 'ly'? Aug 25, 2008

Why say "Firstly" and "Secondly" when "First" and "Second" accomplish the same thing with fewer letters and don't sound so affected?

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Local time: 19:44
French to English
+ ...
First and next Aug 28, 2008

I come across this situation at least once a week and sometimes once a day as a French-to-English translator. (Dans un premier temps/par la suite, Premièrement/ dans un deuxième temps, etc. etc.)
I would go with something like:
"First, the railway sector will be rehabilitated..."
"Next, the company plans to renew its rolling stock..."

French seems more formal on the surface than English and I think we've all been tempted to translate it into more formal English than is necessary given the context. I know I have!

I had an intern once who systematically translated the expression "par ailleurs" as "moreover" until I made her stop.

"Par ailleurs" is used all the time in French and English has a number of ways to convey its meaning... it can mean "in addition to," "also," "as well." There's not a need for a stodgy word like "moreover" unless the context is quite formal.

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Sasha Barral  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:44
Member (2009)
French to English
Agree with Harvey: First and Second Sep 5, 2008

I don't think "Firstly" is as concise as "First".
However, to be honest, the last time I translated these expressions from French I actually mixed it up: "First"... then "Secondly".

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