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Translating French Birth Certificates

September 5, 2015

Translating a birth certificate, c'est simple comme bonjour (easy as pie)--or is it? Over the years I've noticed at least five common mistakes in translations of birth certificates from France. The following birth certificate is not real, but since all birth certificates in France essentially use the same wording, it is a good example for us to consider. The problem terms areare in bold:



Le dix-sept juin mil neuf cent cinquante-neuf à quinze heures trente minutes est né à Paris (6e arrondissement), 141, boulevard de Saint-Germain, Frederic Yves DUROT, du sexe masculin, fils d'Yves DUROT, né à Paris le 14 décembre 1930, enseignant à l'université, et de Colette Alice DUROT, née à Brest le 18 janvier 1935, sans profession, son épouse, domiciliés à Paris, 141, boulevard de Saint-Germain.

Dressé le 19 juin 1959 à 10 heures sur la déclaration du père, qui, lecture faite et invité à lire l'acte, a signé avec nous, François DUPONT, Chef de bureau à la Mairie, Officier de l'État Civil par délégation.


1. Yves Durot, enseignant à l'université. Although enseignant looks like a participle ("teaching at the university") it is actually a noun here, and means "an instructor at the university," or even better: "a university instructor."

2. sa femme Colette Durot, sans profession. This is a common way of saying "housewife" or "homemaker" and should be translated as such.

3. fils d'Yves Durot….et de Colette Durot, domiciliés à Paris. Note that domiciliés is plural and thus means "both of whom reside in Paris." If you translate it as "who resides in Paris," you've suggested that only the wife lives there.

4. invité à lire l'acte. Although inviter can certainly mean "to invite," it is also a way of saying to "request" or "ask" someone to do something—so this means "asked to read the certificate" not "invited to read the certificate."

5. avec nous. This is an example of what we call the "royal we" in English, and obviously means "signed with me" not signed with us" because there is only one person listed (François Dupont). So in this case, "avec nous" should be translated as "with me," not "with us."

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