I am pretty good at Français. But I learned mathematics in English. Trying to translate mathematical statements from English to French can often be accompanied with many errors because the way mathematical statements are expressed is very different than the way usual statements in a particular language are expressed. Moreover, exact translation may often lead to errors.

For instance, one may be successful at finding the correct translation of "subset": "sub" is "sous" and "set" is "ensemble" $\rightarrow$ "sous-ensemble". However, if with the same logic, one wishes to translate "division ring", it would look like: "anneau de division", while the correct word for that is "un corps", which is totally unpredictable by the way.

What is the best way to learn French Mathematical words and expressions other than reading Wikipedia articles in "another language".

I thought about buying elementary school, high school and college level math books and read them as if I'm learning the concepts for the first time. This looks like a perfect plan from a pedagogic point of view, but it is very time-consuming.

Any suggestions? Perhaps people who had the same problem can tell me about some techniques which worked for them?

Thank you.


I would pick a (light, well depending on your level) French math book/paper and start reading it with this wonderful French mathematical glossary. Better yet, if the book (say Serre's) has an English version, you can cross check your progress with it.


As someone who studied math first in French then in English then in Chinese, I can say that mathematical language tends to be surprisingly uniform. It helps to keep in mind that most mathematical terms are translations from other languages, and it's easier to make sense of differences in expression if one keeps in mind the origin of the term. Your division ring example, for instance, in French is a direct translation of the original German term for field, with the idea of commutativity not strictly attached to the definition. Even within the same language some terms will have different appellations, division ring and skew field for instance.

But to address what seems to be your question, how to learn domain-specific vocabulary and idiom without investing a lot of time into it, you essentially already know the answer and there really aren't any shortcuts to it. You don't need to start with elementary math texts. Pick a subject you've already studied and wish to review, find a book on that subject and read the definitions and proofs. Elementary concepts will be used all throughout and can be learnt through context. You can also make notes in Anki as you go along if you want a structured way to review what you've learnt.

It will likely take less time than you envision since English and French share a ridiculous amount of vocabulary and the formation of math terms is virtually analogous. Even in Chinese where there are no Latin borrowings whatsoever, math terms are still remarkably similar and are easy to learn through context. Take some time to review math texts in French or study new material in French and you'll pick it up fairly quickly.


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