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Localization tips for the Canadian market

Localization

Canada enjoys a healthy economy with significant growth in many areas, such as the tech and software scene. The Great White North is an excellent place to expand and promote your business thanks to its stable economy, even now. Here’s what to keep in mind when localizing your product for Canadian audiences. 

Canada’s economy shows significant growth in tech, software, apps, and game industries

Market research is an essential part of the localization process to see if it makes sense to launch into a particular demographic or not. That being said, Canada is one of the top places to promote a business, thanks to its position as one of the world’s largest economies and wealthiest nations. Even with the present downturn in the market both in Canada and worldwide, the country still holds a relatively stable, diversified, and well-developed economy. After all, Canada has been far less impacted by COVID-19 than its neighbor to the south, the United States. Among Canada’s top industries to see growth are software and e-commerce, cannabis, online gaming, and natural  resources. There’s a dip in the GDP, but it’s forecasted to jump back in an upward swing in 2021. See details at Statista, for example.

Software companies that invest in doing business in Canada are sure to take advantage of the same growth that others in the industry have experienced as of late. Software companies that operate in Canada benefit from strong market growth. There has been a 5.9% annual increase in revenues for Canadian software and computer service industries in past years.

As of 2020, the number of smartphone users in Canada jumped to 31.38 million. There’s an app for almost everything someone needs in their day-to-day life, and Canadians are known to make full use of them and try new solutions when they catch wind of a new hype. 

Mobile gaming is also seeing significant growth in Canada, with an estimated mobile gaming revenue growth from $US 309.23 million  in 2019 to $US 363.99 million in 2025. Companies who invest in localizing their game there can get a piece of the pie. 

Besides this, the Canadian population has a strong and large middle-class with good salaries, continuing to grow. In 2018, Canadian tax filers earned 938.5 billion Canadian dollars through wages, salaries, and commissions. If you haven’t thought about expanding to Canada, then you might want to consider it going ahead in 2021.

How to get started localizing for Canadian audiences

There’s more to localizing for the Canadian audiences than meets the eye. You need to consider strict linguistic laws, respect the linguistic uniqueness of both the English and French-speaking Canadians (by creating new style guides and glossaries), and use specialized translators who understand the target audience’s communication style. 

Canada is an officially bilingual country with both English and French, which means all federal documents and information must be published in both official languages. However, each of Canada’s ten provinces and three territories have its own linguistic laws:

  • There are only two officially bilingual provinces in Canada: New Brunswick and Manitoba. Packaging, marketing, and other public communications must be in both official languages. The provincial government must offer services in both languages.
  • Québec is officially French only, though Montréal is 50/50 French and English.
  • British Columbia, Newfoundland, and Labrador are English only.
  • The central provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, as well as Maritime provinces Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, are all officially English only. However, many companies and services are offered in both sectors, as there are also some francophone populations in those regions.
  • Ontario has a regionalized language policy. Some parts of the province are bilingual, while others are only English. 

Canada and the US: Are they not the same?

Though Canadians and Americans share a lot in media, pop culture, and commercial products, they are two very distinct nations. Each has its own strong sense of cultural identity. There are some significant differences when it comes to linguistic, cultural, and societal norms. 

For example, Canadian English spelling is the same as British English spelling, and differs from American English in many cases. 

  • Words ending in “-or” in the US end in “-our” in Canada, such as in colour, favour, flavour, and behaviour.
  • Instead of words ending in “-er”, they’re spelled with an “-re” like in “centre.” 
  • Nouns like defence and offence end with a “-ce” instead of “-se.” Also, to differentiate between the noun and verb forms of some words, like practice and practice, you use an “s” for the verb or a “c” for the noun. 
  • The final “l” is doubled, like in “travelled” and “cancelled,” whereas Americans only use one “l.” 
  • “-og” in words like “catalog” change — it’s spelled “catalogue.”
  • Words like esthetic in the US are written with an “-ae,” as in “aesthetic” in Canada.

Canada also used the metric system and Celsius for temperature instead of the Imperial system and Fahrenheit, which are used in the US. There is some crossover of these American measures of units into Canada, however, especially with older generations. Canadians adopted the metric system as the standard form in 1970.

Canada has its own slang, just like in the US. Suppose you want to get local and colloquial, like in the case of a targeted marketing campaign or website translations, including some local slang and jargon for comedy and familiarity. In that case, slang could be a thoughtful addition. For example, Canadians’ ultimate favorite coffee provider, Tim Horton’s, is often referred to as Timmies by Canadians. A beanie hat used for the winter is called a toque. 

Here’s a list of other terms that you should know if you want to write content for Canada:

  • Washroom: restroom or bathroom.
  • Pop: the equivalent of “soda” in the US.
  • Chocolate bar: as opposed to a “candy bar” in the US.
  • Click: another way of saying kilometer.
  • Runners: as opposed to saying “tennis shoes” or “sneakers” in the US, or “trainers” in the UK.
  • Loonies and Toonies: the way Canadians refer to their one and two Canadian dollar coins. The word “loon” comes from the bird by the same name.

Canadian French vs. European French

The French spoken and written in Canada differs quite heavily from that spoken in Europe — an important consideration when translating any type of content. The French language there has a large spectrum, from heavy dialect to a more academic and standardized French. 

The French spoken in Québec specifically is called “joual,” while each region has its own way of calling the language, like “Franco-Albertain” in Alberta or “Fransaskois” in Saskatchewan. Acadian French is another form of French Canadian spoken by up to 350,000 people, mostly in New Brunswick.

Canadian French differs from European French in grammar, writing style, vocabulary, and of course, pronunciation. The dialect has a broad spectrum, ranging from a very strong dialect to a more “academic” French. Using the dialect could help you reach a wider audience when used in marketing copy or game localization. 

How much slang you use depends on which audience you want to attract. The general population is likely more receptive to a happy medium between strong dialect and standardized French-Canadian. For voice-overs and video content, it’s also better to use French Canadian pronunciation and steer clear of France French.

Here are some differences between French and French Canadian:

  • Canadian French uses a lot of English words, more than are used in France.
  • Canadian French incorporates Aboriginal words from Canada’s First Nations peoples.
  • Canadians are generally more informal and use the “tu” form instead of “vous” when addressing one another; something that is not socially acceptable in France or French-speaking European countries.
  • French Canadians will more frequently use the form “on” for we, as opposed to “nous.”
Vocabulary differences between France and Canada
English French (France) French Canadian
car voiture  char
underwear culottes bobettes
hot dog hot-dog / saucisse chien-chaud
washing machine machine à laver laveuse
mosquito  moustique maringuouin

 

Localization strategy for Canada

When entering the Canadian market, there are some cultural and linguistic factors to take into consideration. A tailored approach to the content and realizing the country’s uniqueness next to the US will make all the difference.

To avoid being fined for not adhering to each region’s language laws, it’s essential to know which languages are used in which areas to be on the safe side. When entering the Canadian market, it would be wise to localize your product in both Canadian English and French to abide by the laws and reach both language groups. 22.8% of the population speaks French, while 75.4% speak English, so you’d be cutting out a significant amount if you’d target one linguistic group.

Create style guidelines and glossaries. By creating a glossary of all expressions and terms native to Canadians in both English and French, your translators will be able to localize the content in a way that will appeal to the demographics there.

Hire Canadian translators. By working with French Canadian and English Canadian translators, you’ll be sure not to commit any faux-pas. It’s particularly important for French-Canadian. For example, good translation vendors would only use French Canadians to translate for the francophone population there to make sure it is correctly translated. Recruiting the right translation talent is an important step for any company. On the other hand, non-Canadian English natives could do translations for Canada, but they’d have to follow a style guide.

Remember, Canadian culture is not one-to-one with American culture. Though the neighboring countries share a border and many similarities, there are some striking differences between the two countries from a language and norm stand-point, not to mention an entirely different political and economic system. A word of wisdom: when launching in Canada, don’t copy your American strategy. You’ve got to localize for Canada just like you would for any other country. 

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Loïe Favre is a localization expert at Alconost, a US localization company that specializes in software, apps and game translations whose aim is to disseminate useful information about the translation industry for language professionals, localization managers and companies. Originally from Canada, she has worked for ten years as a translator and translation manager.

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Insights from Managing Canadian Indigenous Language Projects

Language

When we think of the translation landscape in Canada, the first thing that comes into many people’s mind is the unique English-French bilingual environment. The vast majority of the translation requirements in Canada are from English into French. However, there is a small but steady amount of translation required into Canada’s Indigenous languages.

Managing Indigenous languages projects are very different from managing French ones. In some languages, there are very few speakers left; often translators don’t have consistent access to a computer or internet. Additionally, cultural differences between mainstream business and Indigenous traditions can create confusion or potential conflicts.

Elvire Mekoudjou is a project manager at wintranslation, a Canadian translation company that has an Indigenous language practice covering 40 of Canada’s 60 Indigenous languages. She shares her insights and lessons learned from managing Indigenous projects such as the Federal Indian day school class action lawsuits, and Canada’s Food Guide.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Elvire Mekoudjou, and I am from Cameroon in Central Africa. After I graduated with an M.A. in translation, I worked as an English-French translator for more than five years before being recruited as a project manager in a start-up company. I later became a project manager at Wintranslation, where I have been working since 2018.

What are the top Indigenous languages in Canada based on the number of speakers?

According to the 2016 Census done by Statistics Canada, the main Indigenous languages in Canada would be:

For a COVID-19 related document, what are the languages that should be translated in order to reach a maximum number of people in Canada’s Indigenous population? 

Before answering this question, it is important to mention that when making recommendations to a client seeking to reach a national audience, we take into consideration the number of speakers per language, and also the representativity per province. This is why, in order to reach the largest audience possible, we will recommend the most-spoken dialects of the languages mentioned earlier, but also perhaps a language like Mik’maq, as this will allow our client to reach the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick Indigenous communities who might not have been included in the most-spoken languages.

Based on your experience dealing with government departments that translate into Indigenous languages often, what are the most frequently translated languages?

It really depends, but usually, a federal organization with a national mandate would ask for languages like Inuktitut (many dialects), Cree, Mohawk, Mi’kmaq, Dene, OjiCree, Michif and even Stoney. They will try to reach the maximum number of Indigenous communities, not just to cover the most spoken languages. However, when it comes to provincial governments, they will target the languages spoken in their specific province. For instance, an Ontario government organization will translate into Cree (one of the two Ontario Cree dialects), Ojibway, Inuktitut, OjiCree, and Mohawk, whereas a Quebec Government will request the translation to be done in Cree (Quebec Cree), Inuktitut (Nunavik), Innu, Atikamekw, Mohawk and Naskapi.

What are the misconceptions about Indigenous languages you encounter most often?

The most common misstep is when clients want a specific language that will be understood by all Indigenous communities. We have to explain to the client that there are many Indigenous languages in Canada, and that there is not a “national” Indigenous language.

Another faux pas is when clients try to make a comparison between the English/French structure and an Indigenous language structure. Here again, we have to explain to the client that most concepts are new to Indigenous languages, so our Indigenous language expert has to use his/her creativity to find the perfect way to express a completely foreign reality in a way that won’t be misleading for the target community. This is why a single word in English or French can be translated by a sentence in an Indigenous language, or the other way around. For example, to translate the term “digital device,” our Inuktitut language expert had to look up the meaning of the different words and use general descriptions to convey the meaning of this foreign concept in his language. For digital, he used “ᖃᕆᑕᐅᔭᓕᕆᔾᔪᑦᑎ” which means involving or relating to the use of computer technology and for device, “ᓱᓇᒃᑯᑖᖅ,” which simply means a tool.

What are the most memorable things you learned about Indigenous language or culture in the course of your work?

Oh, this is a great question! I must say working with Indigenous languages has been the most challenging yet fulfilling experience I have ever had. With every single project we manage, we learn something new about the Indigenous culture. Indigenous resources seize every opportunity to share some interesting aspects of their culture or language with us, and this is absolutely amazing!

I am often in awe when I see some similarities with my African culture. The world is definitely a global village! A great example is religious beliefs. Just like most African tribes, Canada’s Innu people, for instance, believe in the power of ancestors. Ancestors have the power to intercede for us with God. This is why it is important to honor them and convey our prayers through them. However, we should bear in mind that Indigenous people have different cultures, and this aspect of the Innu culture might not exist among other Indigenous cultures. 

Are all Canadian Indigenous languages based on syllabic scripts?

No, all Indigenous languages are not based on syllabics. Syllabics are used for some Inuit languages, Cree languages and Algonquian languages. Languages like Mohawk, Mi’kmaq, and Innu use Roman letters. I was also given to understand that for some languages like Dene, the Cree syllabics were adapted to write them at some point since they were basically all oral languages, but today it is written differently. I would also like to mention that nowadays, the tendency is also to write syllabic-based languages in Roman orthography, but just like dialects, the choice of the writing system would depend on many factors.

 

 

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MultiLingual creates go-to news and resources for language industry professionals.

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Quebec to Introduce Expansion of French Language Law

Language in the News

If passed, the new measures will extend a French language mandate in Quebec to federally-regulated businesses and companies with 25-49 employees, an expansion from the law that previously applied to businesses with 50 or more employees.

Following decades of legislation to protect French as the official language of Quebec, Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette will present a linguistic action plan this week aimed at expanding the mandate to federally-regulated businesses.

Since 1977, any businesses that employ over 50 people have been subject to Quebec’s Bill 101, which mandates use of French among the province’s government, businesses, workplaces, and education system. Though the bill has maintained support since it passed decades ago, it has also received its share of criticism.

When the bill first passed, Quebec experienced a mass exodus of anglophones and allophones. Furthermore, the unemployment rate spiked in the years following the bill and remained above 10% until almost 2000. Since then, however, the province has seen a steady decline in unemployment, though a disparity remains between Quebecers and immigrants.

Still, despite the setbacks Quebec has faced following the bill’s passage, many lawmakers laud the bill for how it has promoted the French language in Quebec. “Without Bill 101, Montreal would be an English-speaking city predominantly right now,” said the former Bloc Québécois MP Jean Dorion, who was the minister in charge of implementing the charter.

Indeed, as opposed to a 14.6% allophone French school attendance in 2015, that number had reached 85% by 2015, according to a 2017 article published in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “Bill 101 was especially effective in directing immigrants to the French school system. That was the main merit of the law,” said Dorion, who is also the former president of the Societé Saint-Jean-Baptiste, which promotes and protects French language and culture.

Among the entities impacted by the linguistic policy, companies with 25 to 49 employees may be required to adopt the Frenchification programs, though it is not yet clear whether Quebec plans to impose the same obligations on those companies as they have on larger ones.

Along with this expansion, Jolin-Barrette announced a further measure that targets federally regulated businesses like banks and VIA Rail, which could create some logistical challenges with the Canadian government. The minister also has announced a project to impose French as the exclusive language of communication between government entities and corporations.

“It would be wise for companies under federal jurisdiction to be subject to the Charter of the French language. Quebecers have the right to work in French,” he said. “We are looking at the different modalities that could be put forward. I am not excluding anything at this stage.”

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MultiLingual creates go-to news and resources for language industry professionals.

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Third Localization Unconference Canada. Now a Tradition!

Blogos, Language in Business, Language Industry News and Events

Oleksandr Pysaryuk (@alexpysaryuk) reports:

It was the third time we held the Localization Unconference in Toronto. And our Canadian edition was again absolute fun and a success! Shout out to co-organizers Jenny Reid and Richard Sikes, and to Charmaine Cook of Moravia who sponsored our afterparty – the networking dinner.

Achievers welcomed an especially close and intimate group of professionals. Some flights and road trips got canceled due to weather. But, those who did make it came from as far as Colorado, California, Boston, and up-state New York!

John Weisgerber of XTM was there, offering his unique perspective of the vendor, client, and translator side of the industry. It was great to have Ariane Duddey there again too, with quite a diverse background in the localization industry. We also had translators in the room – Beatriz @biafigueireddo, Catherine Christaki aka @LinguaGreca and Burak Benk of Dragoman Translation. From me as a new Canadian, who came here 9 years ago: congratulations to you all on recently becoming new Canadians. Welcome to Toronto, colleagues!

Localization Unconference topics for decision and discussion

Localization Unconference Toronto topics for decision and discussion

Conversations went on about the build or buy options for translation management tools, educating clients and meeting their (un)realistic expectations, the importance and best practices in terminology management, machine translation post-editing, and reviews and quality management (hello Ocelot, we did talk about you with much praise!). Toronto’s own, and now also quite global company, Wattpad offered expert opinions about how to build the case for localization, and about i18n product management. Interesting recommendations came in from Qlik’s globalization architect on harvesting localizable source text from web and mobile apps’ multitude of file formats. @BeatBabel and Translations.com were spotted among the attendees, talking about building teams, retaining great employees, and managing global localization programs. We got some good advice from young-at-heart localization veterans on what a career path in the industry could look like. Someone even mentioned @localization as an example career – going from translation manager to director of global UX at Oracle!

The biggest discovery of this unconference was Eric Bigras (pronounced with your best French accent). Eric is the recent graduate of York University’s program in translation studies. Did you know that Glendon College offers MA in Translation Studies? It claims that it’s “the only graduate program in Toronto and southern Ontario dedicated to the advanced study of translation”. Having the privilege of knowing Eric now, I know that program must be really good. Hear that MIIS? Canada’s got translation talent, too!

Localization Unconference dinner and audience session

Localization Unconference dinner and audience session

Thank you all for coming and supporting the Canadian Unconference with its true Northern spirit. And if you missed this unconference, see you at Localization World! I hear Montréal is so beautiful in autumn.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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