Translating for a French Canadian Audience
June 20, 2016 – Language Connections, as a Boston-based translation and interpreting services company, we are often asked to produce a French translation. The first question our project managers ask the client is: Which target audience are you translating for? Many people seem taken aback by this question as they assume that differences between French in France and that in Canada are primarily spoken ones, and that the written language must be the same. Since many of our projects deal with translating services for French Canadian or Québec French speakers, we often encounter this issue.
According to Leo Galperin, President of Language Connections, “Most linguists agree that the difference between Canadian French and that used in France (also known as Standard European French) is larger than that between British and US English, and comparable to differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese.”
But to understand the reason why Canadian French differs from European French, one must know a little bit of history. French colonies in Canada were first established by pioneers who brought with them Classical French. Later, as the British colonized part of Canada, they brought English into the areas they conquered. With strong influence from the British and the neighboring United States, over time Québec French adopted a large number of English words, especially informal spoken Québec French. One interesting example of this is the bilingual greeting: “Bonjour-Hi.”
Moreover, as interactions between English and French speakers in Canada increased over time, English began to greatly influence the French variation spoken in Québec, compare to the Standard European French which was developed with European influences. As a result, informal Québec French uses idioms, words, cultural references, and expressions that are unfamiliar to those who speak Standard European French. Of course the two varieties are most notably different in their spoken forms, i.e. intonation, pronunciation and vocabulary, an important factor when choosing an interpeter.
Although the two are mutually intelligible, and most educated Québécois are familiar with Standard European French, it is important to remember that localization plays a big role in translation for each target audience. Thus, grammatical differences must also be taken into account. For example, the informal form of spoken Québec French makes less use of specifiers, such as relative clauses where “que” is used as a relative pronoun in many cases. For instance, a Québécois might say “J’ai trouvé le document que j’ai besoin,” whereas a European French speaker would form the sentence as “J’ai trouvé le document dont j’ai besoin”, meaning “I found the document I need.” In fact some specifiers, like prepositions, are taken out altogether in Québec French. Another example is that subject and object pronouns are often not the same – for example the pronoun we is “on” in Québec French rather than the European French “nous.”
Below are some common phrases for comparison:
|English||Québec French||European French|
|my girlfriend||ma blonde||ma petite amie or ma copine|
|my boyfriend||mon chum||mon petit ami or mon copain|
|go shopping||faire du magasinage||faire les magasins|
|the car||le char||la voiture|
|fall in love||tomber en amour||tomber amoureux|
|have fun||avoir du fun||s’amuser|
About Language Connections:
Language Connections is a language service provider. We specialize in technical, medical and legal translation, software and website localization, simultaneous and consecutive interpretation, corporate language programs, and interpreter training. We provide certified, professional translation in 100+ languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, German, and French. With over 20 years of experience, we have expertise in all major industries including the life sciences, patent and immigration law, international business, global education, and advanced technology. Our cost-effective interpreting and conference solutions will meet your multilingual needs for all types of international events – business meetings, conferences, lectures or presentations.
For a free quote or to learn more about our services visit www.languageconnections.com.
Language Connections LLC
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Boston, MA 02135