Blog Competition 2011/12

And the winner is………..

Back in November 2011 we launched our Blog Competition to find a student as passionate about language as we are to contribute to our blog once a month for six months.

We are very pleased to announce that out of over 600 entries our winner is Emma Wilberforce! Emma is studying English Language and Linguistics at York University. Here is her winning entry! Check back in on the last week day of the next six months to read her contributions;

C’est la vie! – Our winner

I was talking to my friend the other day and complaining about this and that when I found myself replying “C’est la vie!”. It got me thinking is there not an equivalent English phrase that would have the same effect as this well-used French one? Somehow saying “That’s life!” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Some people have argued that we’re just too lazy to translate the French phrase into its English equivalent. However I beg to differ! I believe that this phrase has a certain charm to it which perfectly summarises the situation at hand. A je ne sais quoi you could say! Whereas our English counterpart fails to convey the same feeling. It’s odd how even though they both mean the same thing they can evoke different sentiments.

To me, if someone retorted “That’s life!” I would take it to be a rather blunt end to the conversation topic. It would convey more the sentiment of “get over yourself”. Whereas, if the reply was “C’est la vie!” I would be more inclined to think they were being sympathetic.


It is a well known stereotype that the English are usually very indirect about things, favouring “Would you mind possibly giving me a hand with this?” over “Help!” and this also ties in with how we perceive things. The difference between the French and English way of saying the same thing is perceived differently; where one is more direct and considered as being rather blunt, and the other less direct and seen as more friendly.

Having previously noted that the English prefer the indirect option, it seems like a paradox to say that the English phrase is the more direct one. However, it is a translation of the original French phrase and translations cannot always capture the same sentiment.

Sometimes it has to be admitted that another language just says it so much better than we do, and this is a case in point.