I'm applying for a dishwashing job here in Quebec, and have been using Antidote to sharpen my writing:

"Bonjour, j'appelle Zolani Stewart et je veux appliquer pour le poste de lave-vaisselle...[cont]"

It pointed out that "appliquer" was a mistake, calling it un calque de l'anglais, and recommended using "postuler" or "faire une demande d’emploi" instead.

What is a "calque de l'anglais", and how does it explain "appliquer" being inappropriate in this context?

  • 2
    As a friendly advice, you'll get even better results out of Antidote if its settings are set to your needs, if they aren't already. So you can set it so it knows French is not your first language and roughly knows your level, as well as you're in Quebec, since expressions here can change from across the pond.
    – Kareen
    May 11 '12 at 5:05

Literally, a calque is a reproduction, a tracing. In particular, (papier) calque is tracing paper. In linguistics, a calque is, well, a calque: a word-for-word translation of a phrase or a translation of words based on superficial resemblance rather than meaning. “Cette formulation est un calque de l'anglais” means “this formulation is a literal translation (a calque) of the English phrasing”. Here, it is meant negatively; this is usually, but not always, the case.

In this case, the English word apply can sometimes be translated to appliquer, and the two share a common root, but the word appliquer cannot be used in the sense of applying for a job. Postuler or candidater (or other formulations such as faire acte de candidature — which sounds really posh for a dishwasher's job) are the usual terms.

This isn't the only mistake in your proposed sentence. “My name is Zolani” should be “Je m'appelle Zolani”. A lave-vaisselle is a machine to wash dishes; the job is plongeur (meaning B). To wash dishes in a restaurant is colloquially called “faire la plonge”.

(Note: I'm French from France; what's wrong and incomprehensible for me may be correct in Québec, but I don't think this sentence would be said differently in Québec.)

  • 1
    Bonne réponse, mais j'ai jamais vraiment entendu "candidater" (surtout pour un poste de plongeur).
    – Bruno
    May 10 '12 at 22:33
  • 2
    @Bruno Je sais, ce mot n'est pas dans le Dictionnaire de l'Académie, donc certains le refusent. C'est pourtant une formation naturelle depuis le nom largement accepté candidat, je ne me gêne donc pas pour l'utiliser (et je suis loin d'être le seul). May 10 '12 at 22:37
  • 2
    @Gilles As a Quebecer, I can say your last sentence is accurate ;)
    – Kareen
    May 11 '12 at 5:02

Calque de l'anglais means a poor translation from English, where one has been mistaken by false friends, such as apply for a job translated to appliquer pour un travail instead of postuler pour un travail.


"Papier calque" is "tracing paper". It's an analogy to talk about the fact you've done a litteral translation of the word "apply".

It just doesn't work for a job application. "Appliquer" means "apply" in the "put something onto something else" sense. I'm not talking of "s'appliquer" which is completely different.

(I would also say "laveur de vaisselle" instead of "lave-vaisselle", which is the machine.)

  • Interestingly, Google Translate does a better job about "apply" but is a bit wrong on the dishwashing part.
    – Bruno
    May 10 '12 at 22:28

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