ProZ.com global directory of translation services
 The translation workplace
Ideas
KudoZ home » French to English » Social Science, Sociology, Ethics, etc.

laïcité

English translation: laïcité + translator's note

Login or register (free and only takes a few minutes) to participate in this question.

You will also have access to many other tools and opportunities designed for those who have language-related jobs
(or are passionate about them). Participation is free and the site has a strict confidentiality policy.
GLOSSARY ENTRY (DERIVED FROM QUESTION BELOW)
French term or phrase:laïcité
English translation:laïcité + translator's note
Entered by: Helen Shiner
Options:
- Contribute to this entry
- Include in personal glossary

13:15 Sep 10, 2008
French to English translations [PRO]
Social Sciences - Social Science, Sociology, Ethics, etc. / Academic paper on "laïcité"
French term or phrase: laïcité
This is a term that anyone living in France will not have failed to come across. In fact, I'm translating an academic paper on whether or not Belgium is a secular state. As such, the word "laïcité" occurs many times. My initial thought for a suitable EN term was "secularism", but I am now tending towards "secularity" - "secularism" seems to more accurately describe a kind of secular belief system (almost as another type of religion), whereas the FR "laïcité" describes the notion of being secular as an abstract concept.

I think my hesitation arises simply from the fact that "secularity" is a very uncommon word in English.

Here are some example uses in the source text:

- La ***laïcité*** reste en Belgique une composante minoritaire de la société", mais "sa visibilité sociale semble plus forte qu'en France.

- Un État peut-il être laïque sans pour autant inscrire la ***laïcité*** dans sa Constitution ?

- La Constitution adoptée par le jeune Etat indépendant en 1831 ne fait référence explicitement ni à la ***laïcité*** de l'Etat – l'expression n'existait pas encore –, ni à la séparation de l'Etat et de l'Eglise.

Would appreciate any thoughts - thanks in advance.
Rob Grayson
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:36
translator's note
Explanation:
See my comments elsewhere on this page - dicussion column.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 1 day21 hrs (2008-09-12 10:16:33 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

I have to echo Martin's comments. There are many other instances in academic writing/discourse when exactly that happens - a foreign term is employed and continues to be employed. Perhaps you need not do anything other than refer the reader to the author's own explanation - ie, see footnote 6, or some such. In fact to do otherwise - ie translate it - would fly in the face of the tenor of the argument and prove the author wrong!
Selected response from:

Helen Shiner
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:36
Grading comment
A big thank you to everyone for a fascinating and very helpful discussion, and particularly to Helen and Martin for their advice on handling this type of situation. After discussion with the client, we have agreed to use the source terms "laïc" and "laïcité" in the translation, with a suitable translator's note at the beginning.
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer



Summary of answers provided
4 +4secular nature; secular principle
Martin Cassell
4 +2secularism/secularity
swanda
4 +1translator's note
Helen Shiner
5laicismlachacel
4secularitymimi 254
4laicity
Drmanu49
3secular humanism
Eutychus


Discussion entries: 13





  

Answers


7 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
secularity


Explanation:
*

mimi 254
Local time: 15:36
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in FrenchFrench
PRO pts in category: 7
Notes to answerer
Asker: Thanks for your answer, although a little more explanation than "*" might have been helpful...

Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

6 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +2
secularism/secularity


Explanation:
*

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 7 mins (2008-09-10 13:22:20 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

http://www.wordreference.com/fren/laïcité

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 11 mins (2008-09-10 13:26:55 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

note to asker: see the link above, which I added

swanda
Local time: 16:36
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in FrenchFrench
PRO pts in category: 4
Notes to answerer
Asker: Thanks for your answer, although a little more explanation than "*" might have been helpful...


Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Ellen Kraus
6 mins
  -> thanks Ellen

agree  1045
30 mins
  -> thanks!
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

34 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5
secular humanism


Explanation:
Tempted by secularity, particularly in your last example in the question, but I think this makes more sense.

French "laïcité" is a unique animal in my experience.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 40 mins (2008-09-10 13:56:01 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Rob: I have just learned a French expression at your hands! (In fact I wonder if it's not a calque from the English).
I've often been called upon to attempt to explain French "laïcité" to English-speakers and this is the term I've used. It may not be specific enough for your paper, but I guess it's a toss-up between intelligibility and accuracy.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 1 hr (2008-09-10 14:25:31 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

/hmm, I tend to think that "laïcité" is as much as a belief system as any other.

Eutychus
Local time: 16:36
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 15
Notes to answerer
Asker: Hi Eutychus, would this not be "humanisme laïque"?

Asker: It's a bit like what I said in my question: to me, "secular humanism" is almost a religion, philosophy or belief system in itself, whereas "la laïcité" is more of an abstract concept.


Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Martin Cassell: with Rob, connotations of humanism as a belief-system are too strong here for the context // you're absolutely right, la laïcité inspires a very devoted following (esp. visible when M. Sarkozy's actions are seen to undermine it ...)
33 mins

neutral  Gabrielle Leyden: Belgium is not France; "laïcité" can also be a movement or group of people espousing that belief system
1 day8 hrs
  -> My opening comment was that French "laïcité" was unique, ie not the same as Belgian. As to your other comment, if anything, I would take that as an argument in favour of this translation!
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

5 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +4
secular nature; secular principle


Explanation:
I don't think there is one single phrasing that works across the board; but the term "laicity" largely provokes goldfish impressions from En speakers.

I use variations such as "(the principle of) state secularity / the secular state" also.



--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2 hrs (2008-09-10 15:31:58 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

To address your question about -ism v. -ity, Rob, I would definitely go for secularity (reserving secularism/-ist perhaps for the doctrine/thinkers which support secularity as a principle of government).

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2 hrs (2008-09-10 15:40:41 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Regarding goldfish: perhaps I was being a little to colourful and figurative there. I merely meant that most EN speakers are unfamiliar with the term (and so react «bouche bée» in incomprehension).

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2 hrs (2008-09-10 15:53:21 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Following on from Emma's link, interesting to compare the use of terminology in these two versions of a related article:
http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/france_159/label-france_255...
http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/fr/france_829/label-france_534...
I noted that "secularism" is used in the EN version in contexts where the emphasis is perhaps partly on the political/social movement as much as the mechanisms and institutions.

Martin Cassell
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:36
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Mark Nathan: yes
4 mins
  -> thanks Mark

agree  liz askew
39 mins
  -> thanks liz

agree  Clair@Lexeme: Yes, perhaps with the translator's note at the start, as suggested above
1 hr
  -> thanks Clair

agree  Emma Paulay: I had to translate a speech made by Chirac for my MA translation last year. I used secular principle and found this useful link http://www.ambafrance-uk.org/Secular-principle-PM-s-Office.h...
1 hr
  -> Thanks Emma - excellent link, too
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

1 min   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
laicity


Explanation:
IMO

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2 mins (2008-09-10 13:17:27 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

but it is the concept of a secular state.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 29 mins (2008-09-10 13:45:14 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Secularuty might be misleading and would provoke at least as many "goldfish impressions" if not more than laicity.
The word laicity should be used and the concept explained IMO.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 1 day8 hrs (2008-09-11 21:53:50 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

noun formal
the principles, status, or influence of the laity.

Drmanu49
Local time: 16:36
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in FrenchFrench
PRO pts in category: 4

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Beatriz Ramírez de Haro
3 mins
  -> Thank you.

neutral  Martin Cassell: maybe OK in highly technical contexts, but cannot be used without introduction for a general English-speaking readership // sorry, only meant it as an neutral observation // I really don't see Gabreille's basis for disagreeing
5 mins
  -> which is expressed in my comment, Martin. Neither do I.

disagree  Gabrielle Leyden: Laïcité means separate from religion and "the Church." It's secularity or secularism (the political system). The Belgian system adds a good dose of humanism (see Eutychus). English "laicity" means something else. Faux amis!
1 day8 hrs
  -> Not faux amis at all Gabrielle, and I mentioned the concept of a secular state before anybody else it seems.
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

1 day13 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5
laicism


Explanation:
Even though in English “laic” and “secular” are consider synonyms and it is more common to use “secular”, in French these two words are not synonyms and we could not say that a country has a “gouvernement séculier” much less “la sécularité reste en Belgique…”. Why not, then, use the same word in English “laicism” with a “translator’s footnote” if you consider it necessary.

See Oxford Dictionary

lachacel
Local time: 08:36
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in SpanishSpanish
PRO pts in category: 2
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

2 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +1
translator's note


Explanation:
See my comments elsewhere on this page - dicussion column.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 1 day21 hrs (2008-09-12 10:16:33 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

I have to echo Martin's comments. There are many other instances in academic writing/discourse when exactly that happens - a foreign term is employed and continues to be employed. Perhaps you need not do anything other than refer the reader to the author's own explanation - ie, see footnote 6, or some such. In fact to do otherwise - ie translate it - would fly in the face of the tenor of the argument and prove the author wrong!

Helen Shiner
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:36
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 11
Grading comment
A big thank you to everyone for a fascinating and very helpful discussion, and particularly to Helen and Martin for their advice on handling this type of situation. After discussion with the client, we have agreed to use the source terms "laïc" and "laïcité" in the translation, with a suitable translator's note at the beginning.

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Martin Cassell: this is all the more the approach to take now that the asker has mentioned discussions of the term, its polysemy and untranslatability, within the text
1 hr
  -> Thanks, Martin
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)




Return to KudoZ list


Changes made by editors
Sep 13, 2008 - Changes made by Helen Shiner:
Created KOG entryKudoZ term » KOG term


KudoZ™ translation help
The KudoZ network provides a framework for translators and others to assist each other with translations or explanations of terms and short phrases.



See also: