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Here is a Google translation of "téléphone malin" from French to English:

enter image description here

Would this be an accepted translation, for example in an academic paper? Considering malin can have various meanings according to Wiktionary:

  • smart and quick-thinking, and often a trickster
  • Intelligent, bright.
  • (medicine) Malignant.
  • (Quebec) Said of an aggressive animal or a petulant person.
  • (chiefly dated or biblical) Malicious, sadistic; which likes to do or say hurtful things for fun.
  • (obsolete) Nocive; pernicious.
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I would never use téléphone malin in an academic paper. Moreover I think it is a bad translation. "Smart" in "smartphone" means equipped with such digital technology as to make the object clever. Malin contains a hint of maliciousness or ruse that intelligent doesn't have.

Smartphone is rarely translated into French, and when it is, téléphone intelligent is the most common translation and one I would adopt if forced to use a French term.

France Terme, the website that catalogs the official translations advised by the Commission d'enrichissement de la langue française, gives terminal de poche and ordiphone as the official French translations. Very few people use those in France.
I do not know what Quebecers use most, all I can say is that the Office québécois de la langue française advises on terminal mobile.

Edit to include Alexandre Vaillancourt's comment:
We use téléphone intelligent in Québec. We never use the term "smartphone".

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    We use "téléphone intelligent" in Québec. We never use the term "smartphone". – Alexandre Vaillancourt Sep 5 '17 at 13:45
  • Thank you Laure for your detailed answer. I wanted to precisely convey a "hint of maliciousness or ruse", that is why I thought about "malin". But your documented answer shows it is indeed a bad translation. – Paul Rougieux Sep 5 '17 at 14:05
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    @AlexandreVaillancourt I've added your comment to my answer. (comments don't last...) We know you do a lot in Quebec to protect the French language from Anglo-Saxon invasion. – Laure Sep 5 '17 at 15:44
  • Le terminal de poche ou mobile est un hyperonyme dont le sens englobe celui du téléphone intelligent, entre autres. Perso, je préfère les anciens termes cell., mobile, ou portable, pour le téléphone cellulaire ; ce ne sont que des téléphones avec des fonctions qui n'ont aucun lien avec la téléphonie et rares sont ceux aujourd'hui qui n'en veulent pas... (à mon avis la précision est inutile ds. ce contexte). Merci ! – user3177 Sep 5 '17 at 18:42
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    J'adore l'ordiphone. Je suis Français et je compte bien l'utiliser couramment maintenant! – Ratbert Sep 6 '17 at 22:50
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If you leave smartphone unsplit, google doesn't try to translate it:

enter image description here

There is no standardisation among the French speaking countries to name a smartphone and even less a mobile phone. The latter can be portable, mobile, GSM, Natel, cellulaire

If your academic paper is written in a French (of France) context, you might simply keep smartphone. This is the most common term. Smart has already been adopted since more than one century in French and the -phone suffix is standard French. If you really want to stick with the formal recommendations, that should be ordiphone or terminal de poche but the former is very rarely used and the latter is imprecise (a terminal de poche might not be a phone at all.)

If you are writing in a Canadian context, you should follow the local recommendations and use téléphone intelligent.

In an unspecified context, you might use whatever term. French Canadians will definitely understand what you mean with smartphone and téléphone intelligent while uncommon here is perfectly understandable.

Whatever your choice, you might add a footnote explaining what you mean, for example like this:

Cette étude s'intéresse à la durée d'utilisation des smartphones1 en fonction de l'age.

In any case, don't use malin in an academic paper. Malin might be used in advertising or for fun, but might not match smartphone at all, see for example that page which call Un téléphone malin à un prix attractif ! a wireless home phone without any functionality expected from a smartphone.


  • Update (Jan. 11, 2018)

Today's Journal officiel 2 contains an updated list of some official telecom sector French terms with their English equivalent.

The previously recommended terminal de poche has been dropped and now a smartphone is expected to be named mobile multifonction or simply mobile. I find these new recommendations much better than the older one.

1 ex: de type iPhone ou téléphone sous Android.
2 The Journal officiel is a daily government publication containing new laws, decrees and various other legal and informative texts.

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    @Qu'arrhesrententsanshune Oui, smartphone est toujours prononcé ici « à la française ». Le sens « chic » de smart est désuet (comme chic d'ailleurs) et probablement inconnu de beaucoup des jeunes générations qui diront plutôt « stylé ». Smart est plus souvent utilisé pour dire « futé, malin » mais aussi « élégant » au sens figuré dans « c'est pas très smart de sa part ! » – jlliagre Sep 8 '17 at 7:08
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    @Qu'arrhesrententsanshune race condition ne fait pas partie du vocabulaire courant en France mais quand il est employé dans mon entourage, la prononciation ressemble à « resse condichonne », ce qui est loin de la prononciation de l'homographe « race » et du mot « condition ». – jlliagre Sep 9 '17 at 19:51
  • réf: prononciation fr. \smaʁtfɔn\ vs. ang. \smɑːrt.foʊn\ pour le terme en France; smart en français, sens familier chic, qc non doc. gentil, interf. homoph. smart fun etc. ; réfl. étendue prononc. master, toast(er), race condition ; attributif bright. Merci ! – user3177 Sep 17 '17 at 20:55
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I would say it depends on the context. In my engineering school (telecommunication engineering school) we use "téléphone intelligent", when we really need to differentiate from a normal phone. The technical translation for smart in many contexts, is "intelligent" and never "malin". (réseau intelligent, terminal intelligent etc. )

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