How do I translate these expressions?
August 10, 2005 5:14 AM   Subscribe

French speakers: how would you translate "pre-testing" (trying out potential exam questions on students before using them in an exam) and "standards-fixing" (ensuring the exam is of a suitable level of difficulty)?
posted by creeky to Writing & Language (10 answers total)
I discussed this with a native speaker of French for a few minutes. Neither of these terms are familiar to me (a native speaker of English). Our mutual suggestion is to directly translate the words since the terms don't likely exist in French.
posted by onalark at 6:22 AM on August 10, 2005

Following what onalark said, why not just drop the jargon and say what these words mean? If "pre-testing" means testing sample exam questions before they are included in the test, and "standards-fixing" means ensuring that an exam is suitably difficult, you could just say that.
posted by nyterrant at 7:03 AM on August 10, 2005

That's not a good suggestion. The terms very likely do exist in French, but they're part of a specialized vocabulary that doesn't show up in normal dictionaries (and isn't known to most people). That's why professional translators own shelves full of specialized dictionaries. As a first resort, I'd try Eurodicautom, which has a lot of technical vocabulary. Hmm, let's see:
the analysis and evaluation of advertising messages...before they are broodcast or published.

test préalable d'un film publicitaire auprès de certaines catégories de clients, en des endroits choisis, avant de passer au stade de la fabrication.

TERM préenquête
When I tried "standards-fixing" I got an application error -- Eurodicautom is no longer updated and getting a little creaky. Anyway, the point is, there are technical terms -- don't invent your own.
posted by languagehat at 7:06 AM on August 10, 2005

Evaluer l'examen / essayer l'examen - evaluate/try the test.

Evaluer les normes / fixer les normes - evaluate/fix the standards.

Disclaimer: French speaker, but not native.
posted by headspace at 7:07 AM on August 10, 2005

onalark, there's a reason for jargon. Every field has its specialized vocabulary. If we had to say "a post on the front page of MetaFilter" every time, we'd go nuts; that's why people use FPP even though Matt doesn't like it. Linguists talk about "phonemes," not "abstract units of the sound system of a language that correspond to a set of similar speech sounds perceived as a single distinctive sound." If creeky uses the correct terms, the target audience will understand what is being said; if not, they'll be (at a minimum) annoyed.
posted by languagehat at 7:09 AM on August 10, 2005

Apologies for my earlier curt reply...

I'm familiar with educational jargon, and neither of these terms are commonly used in the US. I agree that the best person to ask would be an educator from France, however, I'm fairly certain these words are also not in common use in France.
posted by onalark at 7:16 AM on August 10, 2005

A great resource for French -> English translations and vice-versa is the online dictionary provided free of charge by the Quebec's "Office de la langue française" (Office of the French Language).


They have a ton of really nit-picky technical terms and divide all their translations into subject/area-of-use categories.

They list pre-test as "pré-test" (believe it or not). That's a masculine noun whose definition is: "Épreuve que subit la première mise en forme d'un questionnaire d'enquête ou d'un test auprès d'un échantillon réduit afin d'en déceler les défauts et d'y faire les corrections qui s'imposent. "

They don't have "standards-fixing" as is, but do have "standards-setting" which is translated as "normalisation". That's a feminine noun whose definition is: "Établissement de normes, notamment en matière de comptabilité ou de vérification"
posted by elkerette at 7:40 AM on August 10, 2005

These terms are pretty common in standardized testing circles (SAT, MCAT, etc.). Perhaps that will help some of you in tracking them down.
posted by oddman at 7:48 AM on August 10, 2005

> "pre-testing" (trying out potential exam questions on students before
> using them in an exam)

You can call that 'un test blanc' -- that would be more of a dry run, but people will understand it's just to find out how the test feels.

> "standards-fixing" (ensuring the exam is of a suitable level of
> difficulty)?

Etalonnage de la difficulté -- Etalonner is to evaluate in order to correct if necessary.
posted by NewBornHippy at 9:09 AM on August 10, 2005

Right off the top, based on your description it is not at all clear whether a 'pre-test' is a test given to an individual to practice with or to acclimatize the test-taker or whether it is a preliminary version given to establish validity. It is likely that although we may use the same word for both kinds of test in English, in French they would likely have distinct terms.

Otherwise, elkerette has what looks to be a very good answer above, but I want to note two things: first, that yours are not universal meanings of those words in English (as mentioned above), so it is unlikely that there would be one universal term for each in French either.

Secondly, in the same way that you often need two English versions (or more) for different English-speaking parts of the world, it is likely that the usage in France and Quebec (etc.) is different.

I would seek out independent advice in both France and Quebec (as well as other areas if necessary) or contact a professional translator in Quebec, who would likely know the usage in France and Quebec and other areas.
posted by mikel at 9:20 PM on August 10, 2005

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