If your business needs French translation services, don’t make the mistake of thinking that Canadians speak the same French as in France.
Most linguists agree that the difference between Canadian and European French is larger than that of British and US English.
Now for the Canadian French History portion – stay with us.
The Talk in French site lays out the French-Canadian timeline as follows:
Standard European French developed with European influences, while Canadian French was infused with significant influences from the English language.
In 1760, British rule of the New World began which isolated the French colonies in Canada, particularly those living in the modern-day Québec region. The vocabulary of Québec French gives evidence of its isolation from France during the British rule in the 1700s.
Fast forward to modern day Canadian French – to the late 1800s where Canada shifted towards industrialization in the Canadian Confederation. The interaction between the French Canadians, English-speaking Canadians, and the United States Americans increased.
Most business deals were made in English, forcing French Canadians to use English alternatives for words that were missing from the French-Canadian vocabulary at that time. These words were mostly adopted from the fields of manufacturing, trade, law, and the government.
Fast-forward again to the 1960s when French Canadians began to embrace their cultural identity. In 1977, the Charter of the French Language was drafted by the Parti Québécois with the purpose of protecting the French-Canadian language, also known as Québécois.
Did we lose you? This concludes our history lesson for now.
The Main Differences in Canadian French Today
The two dialects of spoken French have different accents and intonations; just like British and American English. European French speakers will probably understand formal spoken Québécois but may get confused with informal spoken Québécois because informal Québec French uses idioms, words, cultural references, and expressions that are unfamiliar to those who speak Metropolitan French.
Differences in grammar, vocabulary, vowels, pronunciation, and conversation should be taken into consideration when translating for your business.
Québec French vocabulary is distinctive from Metropolitan French primarily due to the strong influence of the English language. These borrowed English idiomatic expressions, slang words, and cultural references are called Anglicisms. Anglicisms are prevalent in spoken Québec French. Some words are also borrowed from the aboriginal languages early settlers were exposed to during colonization.
Recently, a burgeoning sense of Québec nationalism has led French Canadians to intentionally limit the use of Anglicisms in formal speech. In fact, when a Québec French person uses too many Anglicisms, it is considered franglais which is a derogatory term.
The most noticeable differences between Metropolitan French and Québec French are vowels. These differences include the intonation of vowels and the speed in which the vowels are pronounced in speech.
In Metropolitan French, the letter “R” is pronounced with a trilled or a flapped “R.” While this is also the case in Québec French, many French Canadians still pronounce “R” with a uvular sound, much like Classical French hundreds of years ago.
Québec French pronunciation of the letters, “D” and “T” as “DZ” and “TS” when they occur before the letters “U” and “I” is different than European French.
Québec French speakers often use the second person pronoun tu more often and in a greater variety of situations than speakers of Standard European French. This may not pose a problem in French-speaking Canada, but it is perceived as impolite in France.
In Québec, an elderly person may be offended if the tu is used when addressing them, especially when it comes from someone serving them. People who use tu instead of vous are considered rude.
Sales-people and government personnel in French-speaking Canada are often instructed to use vous instead of tu when communicating with clients.
Industry-Specific Terminology and Language Regulations
Terminology differs between the various types of French when it comes to specific industries such as healthcare, education, and legal. For example, although Quebec’s legal system is based on French civil law, some traditional French-Canadian terminology has different meanings than in France.
There are also different language restrictions that govern translation between France and Canada. Quebec’s famously strict Charter of the French Language governs when and how businesses can use English words on signage, public displays, and menus, etc. In France, the Toubon Law mandates the use of French in a variety of professional and business contexts.
If your business needs French translation, LinguaLinx has a team of native-speaking experts in various industries ready to help. Contact us to learn more about our French language translation services.