I read English much better than French, however I want to read the Mécanique Analytique by Lagrange. Is it better to learn French and read the original or just read a translation? What is the benefit of learning more French (I probably have the French knowledge of a first grader) before reading French material versus reading the English translation.

  • 1
    All depend on the quality of the translation. My experience with scientific translation (but from other languages to French) is that far too often it is done by people who don't master the subject and thus are doing a bad job. I started to actively avoid translation after reading a book for which I had sometimes to translate back to English in order to try and make sense of the French. Mar 31, 2015 at 9:33
  • Also, note that the french version is freely available as an ebook.
    – Siméon
    Mar 31, 2015 at 13:10

2 Answers 2


I think that reading in English would be easier for you, especially for that sort of things.

Reading it in French would help you to get some scientific vocabulary in this domain (and God knows what a pain analytical mechanics is), but it should be easier for you to read the book in English, in order to grasp the concepts quickly. There should not be any significant loss between the translations, so you will not miss any of the concepts detailed inside the book.

Learning French before reading french material helps you to understand the meaning of the sentences, especially if you focus on the vocabulary. Some words are quite complex when you read scientific material.


Reading the original makes sense for literature (and journalism), but not for reading works of science. I wouldn't want to read Marcel Pagnol in English (bought a translation for a girlfriend once - disaster), but I think you'll be alright with Lagrange!

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