Here are more French words that tend to stump native English speakers. As we saw in Part I of this series, every linguistic group perceives and describes reality a little differently. What’s normal in one language (saying that a child has been “good,” for example) can seem strange in another (in French, well-behaved children are sage, or “wise”). That’s why it’s important to understand what makes a language tick. French is full of abstract concepts. English, on the other hand, loves verbs and compelling images. The more of them you use, the more your English will seem spontaneous and natural. Let’s look at a few examples.


English doesn’t have an exact equivalent for dépassement, whose abstract formulation hides the action taking place. To convey the same idea in English, you have to take a different approach.

Le rôle de l’opposition officielle est de pousser le gouvernement à l’action, au dépassement.
The role of the official opposition is to prod the government to do more, to do better.

Il a vraiment le goût du dépassement.
He has a real desire to excel.

Le sport appelle le dépassement de soi.
In sport, you have to push your limits.

Je vois dans cette décision un appel au dépassement.
I see in this decision an invitation to reach out to others.

Le président nous a invités au travail, au dépassement, à l’excellence.
The president urged us to work hard, harder and hardest.

Il nous a laissé un souvenir de dépassement.
He will be remembered for going beyond the call of duty.

Here, English expresses the notion of dépassement as a verb, which is why the language is often thought of as being more direct and action packed. If the situation calls for an English noun, think hard about the idea being conveyed, then name that idea.

On lui a décerné un prix dans la catégorie « Dépassement de soi ».
He won an award in the “Outstanding Achievement” category.

Cette loi comporte une incitation au dépassement.
This law contains a performance incentive.

Le respect des autres et le dépassement de soi sont des valeurs importantes.
Respect for others and selflessness are two important values.

Faire partie de cette équipe demande un dépassement extraordinaire.
It takes almost superhuman effort to be chosen for this team.

Il faut encourager l’excellence et le dépassement chez les jeunes.
We need to instill drive and excellence in our young people.


Encadrement occupies a semantic field that’s a bit too vast for English tastes. Best to find a more straightforward or descriptive way of rendering the term. When translating encadrement, keep in mind that it often refers to an act of control, management, or supervision.

Il nous faut un meilleur encadrement des activités.
We need to monitor the activities better.

Est-ce qu’on a offert un encadrement adéquat?
Were their needs properly addressed?

Il y a danger que cette loi fédérale évince le gouvernement du Québec de la réglementation et de l’encadrement du droit civil.
This federal law risks preventing the Quebec government from making regulations under civil law.

Elle a participé à l’encadrement du personnel.
She helped train the staff.

Depending on the context, encadrement can also be translated as a noun.

Cette entente prévoit l’encadrement du commerce du bois d’oeuvre par l’imposition de quotas sur les exportations.
This agreement calls for managed trade in softwood lumber, limiting exports through quotas.

Le rapport proposait un plan d’encadrement complet.
Our report proposed a comprehensive plan.

Il aurait pu y avoir un encadrement en ce qui a trait aux possibles conflits d’intérêts.
There could have been provisions regarding potential conflicts of interest.

Other possibilities include guidance, direction (for encadrement d’une activité); mentoring, tutoring (for encadrement d’une élève); framework; supervision, training (for encadrement de personnel); upbringing; atmosphere, environment (as in cadre physique), etc.


This handy word simply designates somebody doing something in a given situation. Unfortunately, English is devoid of a catch‑all equivalent. There are “intervenors” in a courtroom, but in any other context, you’ll need to be more specific.

Le congrès attirera de nombreux intervenants du milieu hospitalier.
The convention will attract many hospital practitioners/workers.

Les intervenants du secteur agricole comprennent ces enjeux.
Those involved/Those who work in farming understand this challenge.

Il faut consulter les intervenants de tous les milieux.
We need to bring stakeholders from all sectors to the table.

Comme d’autres intervenants l’ont fait avant lui, il a félicité le député pour sa contribution.
Like other speakers before him, he congratulated the member for his contribution.

Tous les intervenants ont reconnu ce fait.
Everybody acknowledged the fact.

Nous travaillons avec les intervenants de l’industrie forestière.
We are working with the forest industry.

De nombreux intervenants ont fait valoir leur opinion lors de la consultation.
Many people spoke out during the consultation.

Notre firme est avant tout un réseau de compétences qui réunit une trentaine d’intervenants (formateurs, consultants, conférenciers).
Our firm is first and foremost a group of some thirty skilled resource people (instructors, consultants, speakers).


Abstraction can give the best of us pause, but it’s not the only challenge for French‑to‑English translators. Some French words conjure up images that are impossible to translate concisely, because English just doesn’t use the same metaphors. You’ll find examples in our next post.