Part III: Quebec Geography and Place Names

We’ve sifted through our thousands of past tweets to compile this Essential Guide to Quebec for Translators. Part III is about Quebec geography and place names. It also provides advice on how to translate the actual words Québec and Québécois. We hope you’ll find it instructive.

The Geography of Quebec

1. Quebec City has no “downtown” in the traditional sense. Try saying city center/center of town/heart of the town/historic center.

2. If a French text from Canada says fleuve without naming the river, it’s probably the St. Lawrence. Give the full name in English to avoid confusion.

3. Even though the St. Lawrence is a river, we talk about its shores, not its banks. So Montreal’s Rive sud is the “South Shore.”

4. Quebec texts say fleuve majestueux and translators write “majestic St. Lawrence,” but we actually say “mighty St. Lawrence” more in English.

5. The Quebec government says en région for everywhere except Montreal but it wouldn’t cross the mind of someone in Ontario to say “in the regions” for everywhere except Toronto. Try “in rural/remote areas,” “in outlying regions,” or “in rural Quebec.”

6. Capitale nationale: In Quebec this can mean “Quebec City” (most often) or Ottawa (sometimes). Don’t send readers to the wrong city!

7. Estrie: This Quebec region is referred to as the “Eastern Townships” in English. Except in Quebec government texts, it’s usually best not to leave it in French.

8. Grand Nord: “the North” or “northern Canada/Quebec.” “Great White North” was a Bob and Doug McKenzie invention.

9. Île-des-Sœurs near downtown Montreal is generally called Nuns’ Island by English Montrealers, but remains Île-des-Sœurs in official texts.

10. Métropole: Does not mean “metropolis” or “metropolitan area,” but a geographic area’s biggest city. In Quebec, la métropole is Montreal.

11. Rivière des Prairies, which flows along the north side of the Island of Montreal, is sometimes called “Back River” in English by locals.

12. Québec in French refers to both the city and the province. Be sensitive to context and add “City” as needed in English.

Place Names in Quebec

13. In Quebec capitale nationale can mean Quebec City. Don’t blindly translate as “national capital” or people may think you mean Ottawa.

14. In Quebec if Capitale-Nationale has capital letters and is hyphenated, it refers to a Quebec administrative district. Keep in French.

15. Ville de Québec: “Quebec City” if naming the geographic entity in English, “Ville de Québec” if referring to the municipal apparatus.

16. 89 geographical names stay French in Quebec but are used in English in neighboring provinces. See them here.

17. It’s often wise to check the official spelling of Quebec place names. Do it here.

Putting an Accent on Quebec

18. If you are not translating for the Quebec government, YOU decide whether to put accents on Quebec and Montreal.

19. Most English-speaking Quebecers and private businesses use “Quebec” and “Montreal” without accents and pronounce them as English words.

20. In some business contexts, such as tourism, it can be a good idea to use the accent to draw attention to the “Frenchness” of Quebec.

21. In some business contexts, using an accent can draw unnecessary attention to the fact that Quebec is not English.

22. Our advice: Keep the accent on Quebec when translating for the Quebec government or a tourist account, take it off for private business.

Naming the Province and Its People

23. The English word for Québécois is “Quebecer,” with no accents. It is sometimes spelled “Quebecker,” particularly outside Quebec.

24. If you write Québécois in an English text, your readership may, perhaps wrongly, think you’re referring only to French speakers.

25. Translating Québécois? Always check context to see whether it refers to the province (Quebecers) or the city (Quebec City residents).

26. Québécois has 3 translations: Quebec(k)er (province), Quebec City resident (city), or Québécois if you mean only French-speaking Quebecers.

27. Québec: If used as though a country (les ports du Québec et du Canada), dispel the confusion in English (“ports in Quebec and across Canada”).

Does your text talk about Quebec? Or need to talk to Quebecers? Feel free to call on our translators for help—they’re ideally located in the heart of Quebec!