“The problem with the French is that they have no word for entrepreneur” – one of George W Bush’s many ridiculous utterances.
Of course, he was quite wrong. The English word entrepreneur is derived from French and there are plenty of French people out and about starting up companies – including in Asia, as it turns out.
Last autumn I translated “On Asia’s new frontier, 40 French entrepreneurs in the East,” a book by Anne Garrigue, a French journalist based in Singapore.
It’s a bilingual book – the text is in both English and French – and it’s free to download as an e-book at the bottom of this page.
Most of the entrepreneurs selected for the book seem to be concentrated in the former French colonial domain of Indochina – Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos – but there were others in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand. They were into a mix of fields such as architecture, hospitality, IT, helicopter hire, manufacturing etc. There’s even one firm making samurai swords in Phnom Penh.
As a translation job it was pretty straightforward. It was all written by a journalist and so, even though the French style differs somewhat from the Anglo-Saxon style, the texts were clear and concise. The only time I really had to diverge from the original in order to maintain the meaning was for the phrase:
“On ne crée pas son entreprise a l’étranger si l’on n’a pas la passion des voyages, de l’ailleurs, et l’appel du grand large inscrit au fond du coeur et dans la paeau.”
Which ended up as:
“You don’t launch a company abroad if you don’t love travelling and the call of the wold isn’t echoing in your ears.”
This line went on the back cover of the book (above). The literal translation would be something like: “… if the call of the wide horizon isn’t engraved in the depths of your heart and skin.”
It’s a fun book and the 40 entrepreneurs have some good stories to share.