SimulTrans Localization Blog: SimulTips

French France v. French Canada: which one to choose for localization?

[fa icon="calendar"] November 9, 2016 / by Laura Vuillemin

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French is the first language of about 115 million people worldwide - in Europe, Africa, America and Oceania. Spanning four continents and two main variants.

While a native speaker from France and another from Belgium or Senegal will use a few distinct expressions, the difference is more significant between European French and Canadian French, or rather “French (France)” and “French (Canada)” in the localization jargon.


Mutual comprehension but distinctive features

Someone raised in France will usually and easily understand a Quebecois (from the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec), and vice versa.

Of course, the accent differs. There is actually a friendly debate about who actually has one: the cousins québécois or the maudits Français [1]? Regardless, conducting a discussion is definitely possible but some differences in vocabulary usage can lead to a few amusing misunderstandings.

 

Linguistic evolution

If we talk about two variants, this is notably due to the fact that the language evolved differently in both countries.

Quebec francophones use expressions that could be seen as archaic by French people (“camisole” or “breuvage” in the below table), but also terms showing that English influenced the language that is spoken there (“bon matin” or “bienvenue” in the below table).

The Saint-Laurent Valley was indeed discovered by Jacques Cartier, a French explorer (before French settlers arrived too), but places like Montreal and Quebec City fell in the hands of the British Empire during the French and Indian War that took place in the 18th century.

 

Locale-specific terminology

To refer to the same thing, a French native speaker from France may use a different word than a French native speaker from Canada.

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Here are a few examples:

 

English

French (France)

French (Canada)

corn

maïs

blé d’Inde

grocer

épicier

dépanneur

tank top

débardeur

camisole

drink

boisson

breuvage

expensive

cher

dispendieux

to talk

parler

jaser

you’re welcome

de rien

bienvenue

good morning

bonjour

bon matin

 

Different perception of English terms

A French person would sometimes use English terms while a Quebecois would avoid this. This is due to the fact that Quebec is thriving to protect its language in a country where the majority of inhabitants speak English.

Even if French people are not necessarily all in favor of English borrowings either, they will still be more inclined to adopt certain specific terms.

 

Let’s have a look at a few sentences:

  • English: I sent her an e-mail to tell her about this week-end’s party.
  • French (France): Je lui ai envoyé un e-mail pour lui parler de la fête de ce week-end.
  • French (Canada): Je lui ai envoyé un courriel pour lui parler de la fête de cette fin de semaine.

 

  • English: He took a selfie with his mother.
  • French (France): Il a pris un selfie avec sa mère.
  • French (Canada): Il a pris un égoportrait avec sa mère.

 

Punctuation

There are slight differences in terms of punctuation and formatting too. This is quite an important point to take into account when you are a linguist.

When translating into French (France), you need to notably make sure that you add spaces before question and exclamations marks, colons and semi-colons. This is not the case in French (Canada).

 

  • English: Warning! This file has been saved; others will be deleted. Do you want to proceed?
  • French (France): Attention ! Ce fichier a été enregistré ; les autres seront supprimés. Souhaitez-vous poursuivre ?
  • French (Canada): Attention! Ce fichier a été enregistré; les autres seront supprimés. Souhaitez-vous poursuivre?

 

While only one language is at stake, French, it is important for the target text to be adapted since both variants differ on several points. This way, you will most certainly please your audience.

SimulTrans is here to help you accommodate your needs, thanks to a large pool of French (France) and French (Canada) resources who are native, qualified and living in country.

Need to learn more for your French Localization project?  Send me more information  about this topicIf you are interested in language specific topics you might also like to read our blogs on Portuguese and Chinese.

[1] Nicknames French people and Quebecois give to each other.

Topics: International Business Strategy, Translation Services

Laura Vuillemin

Written by Laura Vuillemin

Laura has been serving as SimulTrans’ French Team Lead for the past 6 years. She holds an M.A in Translation Studies from Dublin City University, as well as a B.A in English from the Université Jean Moulin Lyon III. Passionate about her native language and its characteristics throughout French-speaking countries and territories, she assimilates the work of a translator to that of a writer – a translation should read as if it was directly produced in the target language. Laura also studied German, Russian and Spanish and is currently taking Portuguese courses.