I work in France as a Java programmer, mainly in French, but am a native English speaker. My level of French is pretty good (French wife!), but one thing I have problems with is working out whether to use English terminology or a French equivalent.


  • lock (as in a synchronisation lock) - do I use the verb "locker" or do I use verrouiller?
  • shard (databases) - "un shard" or "un tesson" (which means a shard of glass)

...and so-on...

So, what do people recommend? Can anyone point out some good websites for translating this kind of terminology? The usual online translation tools are a bit too everyday English/French, not the slightly more specialised version that I find myself needing.


5 Answers 5


How about using the Microsoft translation Glossaries? This should give you good context.

For example, your 'lock' question:

lock - verrouiller - Ensure that two processes do not affect the same file or project in a database at the same time.


  • It may not have everything (eg sharding) but it's otherwise up-to-date and you know the quality is going to be higher (than the software they produce (!))
    – Rich
    Feb 7, 2011 at 14:11

I think only common words have to be translated : database > "base de donnée", function > "fonction", parameter, firewall, network...

For specific terms like "lock", "shard", "trigger", "class", "mock", "debug" : unless you're forced to translate them I would not advise to search for the correct French word too much.

First because THE correct French word may not exist. Second because the correct word may referer to another term and then bring confusion.

About the "frenglish", its only works when you'r french :) We do it because of simplicty and lack of english vocabulary. My I guess is that an English person may not use "frenglish" terms in the right way ;) And in fact, we'r not always using them in the right way ;)

As a french developper/architect, my advice is to use the English terms if specifics and explain them in French if needed.

About a translator, I personnaly use Reverso which provides translations in a context and help me a lot when I'am confused. I use it for French->English and English->French as well. Unfortunately Reverso is often really slow :/

  • Thanks - I often find myself wondering how to pronounce English-langauge error messages - like my French colleagues (with often poor pronunciation from the point of view of a Brit) which may look like I am parodying their accents, or correctly, in a way that they may not understand?
    – Rich
    Feb 4, 2011 at 15:37
  • It's another point : pronunciation. But in a French environment, we -French people- don't have to pronounce well, because the audience is 100% French, prounouncing the English terms in a French way = more people will understand them. Its easier for the speaker and the audience. About your feeling, my guess is : English error messages are in english, WE -french- don't pronounce them well by laziness, but you don't have to change your prounounciation for us. Juste speak slowly and try to don't force on your british (which is difficult for us that's true) accent too much ;)
    – JoeBilly
    Feb 4, 2011 at 18:19

The grand dictionnaire terminologique from Quebec is often very good when you search domain-specific technical terms. However it's not always up to date for IT concepts such as database.

Alternatively you can look on Wikipedia en: and follow the link the french page (if it exist). The title is then the consensual use.

In France, usually "frenglish" terms such as "locker" are user informally but not in a written document. There isn't general rule, it depends strongly on domains and availability of a good word in french.

Listen to your colleagues to know the right usage in your workplace.


I often use Termium, a Canadian government terminology database. It'll often output several entries for a search term and with lucky you can find the right context. As with any translation, be careful. Sometimes a word or expression is not at all appropriate for the context. I've had long arguments with my former boss about the correct English and French terminology to use! The one recommended by Clement J. is another very good resource.


http://www.its.qmul.ac.uk/foreign/eng-french.htm -- potentially atrocious definitions in here.



Google worked for me. However, I speak no usable French, so you'll have to evaluate the quality of the Google results for yourself.

  • There are some really atrocious translations in there (the first link especially.) Feb 4, 2011 at 12:48
  • The problem with the Google translations is that, especially for newer terminology, the translation has not caught up with the new use. The perfect example is "sharding" (partitioning data in databases across multiple servers) - if you use that in Google, it's very very very unlikely it will understand the context, and will think of shards as in the bits of glass. So will a non-technical human translator, of course. It's a difficult problem!
    – Rich
    Feb 4, 2011 at 15:35
  • @Rich: I didn't use Google to look for words. I used Google to look for Informatique French-English resources.
    – S.Lott
    Feb 4, 2011 at 16:25
  • Don't understand MetalMikester comment. The first link is pretty good. Well don't call a browser "un butineur" ! :D A browser is "un navigateur" or "un browser" (pronounced "brother" :p horrible I know) ;) corrupt = "corrompu" and not "corrumpu". slot is not "créneau", it's rather "un emplacement" or "un port" but we call it "un slot" too.
    – JoeBilly
    Feb 4, 2011 at 18:42
  • sorry, I should pay more attention!
    – Rich
    Feb 5, 2011 at 11:49

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