When translation goes wrong

La Clusaz restaurant menu (French to English). Image copyright LeFrancoPhoney blog 2008.
If you can shed any light on some of these dishes, I’d be grateful.

I started off looking at the “Salad and Starters” section. “Salad of goat” takes the number one spot on the menu. I’m picturing a goat’s head with those funny square eyes sitting on a bed of lettuce, or maybe some goat’s legs sticking up between some tomatoes. Further down, a “Salad tomatos mozarella with the pest and Parmesan” is available. Can someone please get the pest out of my salad tomatos (sic)?

The “Spéciality of wood burning stove” options are a little better. “Crozet” is actually a Savoyard pasta, which might help you interpret this: “Roasted of crozet (svoyard pastes) with boletus and green salad”. Err, what is it?

Meanwhile, the “Sea food” options sound far more interesting. You can order a stove! Yes, the “Stove of st jaques in vegetable julienne”. Now, I’m not sure if st jaques is related to St Jacques, and whether he really wants you covering his stove in sliced vegies and attempting to eat it. I imagine the waiters would have a hard time bringing it out to the table too. No problem — you can order “Coco – curry of St Jacques to zucchinis”. Again, what?

Obviously, a restaurant modern enough to have a separate English(?) menu offers more than the regional specialties. Wok dishes are available too. What delights await us? Who can resist “Noodles jumped to the gambas and crunching vegetables”? Are the noodles crunching the vegetables after jumping to the gambas? I have an image of noodles in karate outfits bouncing all over the place, with thinly sliced vegetables breaking under their weight.

Meanwhile, the “Specailities” section offers something extra special: although orders are for a minimum of two people, the menu also announces: “price by anybody”! Great! I’ll just order my favourite dish, even though I’m not sharing it with anyone, and charge myself a Euro twice. Bargain for two! I might avoid the dodgy-sounding “jumped spotted potatoes” and the “Molten with the farm reblechon”: a stove is hard enough, but an entire farm named after a misspelt cheese is too much for anyone.

I’m a little concerned for the butchers of La Clusaz, as the “Meats” section offers “Rib steack of the butcher”. Ouch! And “Paving of beef”. What’s that all about?

LIke any great meal, the highlight is the dessert. This menu lives up to my expectations. I could have “Greedy coffee”, which comes with a description: “coffee and his preciousness”. Not convinced his preciousness was for me, I found another option: “Ministrone of vanilla fresh fruits, jelly of barley water”. Now, if I could just figure out what vanilla fresh fruits are. Someone “spilt” the almonds on the “Strawberry melba” (double points if you can guess what’s wrong with this dessert name). Alternatively, you can buy “2 balls” in a variety of flavours. I think I might give the balls a miss.

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I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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9 comments on “When translation goes wrong
  1. Naren Ubi says:

    That’s a nice find! Good read 🙂

    What’s the translation for French Crepes?

  2. Lilly says:

    Trop drole!!!

  3. Geoff says:

    That is an amazing set of translations!

    Are you ready to order, Madam? No, I’m still laughing at the menu…

    But it is reassuring to find a restaurant that serves “Duck breast of duck”. The implication clearly being that most restaurants serve duck breasts hacked from the side of a pig or something.

  4. Simon says:

    One of our local bistros offers ‘raped’ carrots….


  5. jess says:

    Love this entry – I haven’t laughed so much whilst in the office for ages! Particularly as i spotted this menu too the other day and also had to take a photo! As you say though – fair play to the restuarant owners for trying.

  6. Alan Parker says:

    Brilliant, I had tears in my eyes before I reached dessert.

    Someone just took a dictionary and slapped down a word-for-word translation. e.g. “Magret de canard” Magret = duck breast; de=of; canard=duck

    “saint jaques” are scallops

  7. Matt D says:

    It’s funny… I think some of those translations (Molten, for example) are pretty apt.

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About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by wendyhollands.com, my other site.

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