Sage Advice

Happy St. Jean Baptiste Day

Canada is a melting pot of nations - no matter where you go across the country, you can always meet people from various backgrounds who have experienced interesting cultures and life events. This is just one way Canada is unique - there are opportunities for everyone and so many different individuals can bring varying views to the table.

Perhaps the biggest example of intersecting cultures is the fact that there are two official languages in Canada, English and French. As such, the nation follows a number of interesting traditions from Anglo and French cultures. This is something that almost everyone across Canada is aware of, and seeing government documents, street signs and product labels in both languages is second nature.

But this is something that needs to remain at the forefront for small business owners. If they’re located in Quebec, it might be easy to fall into the habit of only writing corporate documents in French, while the opposite could be said about entrepreneurs in Ontario.

On Quebec’s “National Holiday,” St. John Baptiste Day, business leaders should be cognizant of all copy - they need to prepare to feature information in both English and French.

What needs to be featured in both languages?

While the specifics will likely vary from industry to industry, it’s generally a good idea to include English and French translations on consumer-facing products. We live in a bilingual country, so there’s a good chance that even if you don’t operate in Quebec, you’ll probably still sell to Francophones at some point.

It’s a good practice to include both languages on packaging and written materials in general. On top of that, it might also be smart to offer employees the opportunity to read and review internal documents in French as well - some staff members might be more comfortable and even productive when they’re dealing with French content.

Most importantly, business owners need to make sure they’re aware of the industry-specific and local, provincial and federal laws revolving around language policies as soon as possible. This way, before materials are set in stone, translations can be added. Plus, it can help with budgeting - French copy can be up to 50 per cent longer than its English equivalent.

There are many benefits

This shouldn’t scare company owners. Including both languages on products, websites and other mediums means opening the business up to another audience of customers. Moreover, this may not only ensure the startup is compliant with the law, but it can help show shoppers from various backgrounds in Canada that the business cares about them and wants to engage with them.

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