Part I: Quebec’s Language Law

We’ve sifted through our thousands of past tweets to compile this Essential Guide to Quebec for Translators. We will be posting it gradually over the next weeks by subject theme. Part I is about Quebec’s Charter of the French Language, also commonly referred to as Bill 101. Read our tips to learn about the Charter’s impact on translators.

1: The law covers Quebec government communications. If translating for anybody else, you can do what you want.

2: Think of it as a style guide for the Quebec government. It applies to that one client only.

3: All names of government departments, agencies, ministries, etc. always remain in French, even in English texts.

4: “Gouvernement du Québec” does not count as a government department, ministry, or agency name. It can be translated.

5: Quebec’s National Assembly and all the laws and regulations it passes have official English translations. Look them up here.

6: International Affairs is another exception. It may use other languages than French with foreign correspondents.

7: All professional orders must use their French names only when communicating with the public or their members.

8: Contracts signed in English require a clause saying the parties have agreed to use English. Suggest adding such a clause.

9: Place names chosen or approved by the Quebec Toponymy Commission must remain in French (but remember point #1).

Re 9: Notice we said Quebec Toponymy Commission, in English. This Twitter feed does not belong to the Quebec government so we can use English however we want.

10: Nothing in the law says you cannot translate the name of a Quebec government program into English.

11: Nothing in the law says you cannot translate a Quebec civil servant’s job title into English.

12: The law does not apply outside Quebec. For instance, all ministries in France have official English names.

13: Nothing in the law says you cannot translate the names of white papers, strategy documents, etc.

14: The only parts of Quebec addresses you must keep in French for the Quebec government are place names (street, city, province).

15: Other parts of Quebec addresses you may translate IF YOU WISH (Floor/Suite/P.O. Box/etc.).

16: Nothing in the law says you must punctuate addresses as in French. You may remove the comma after the street number and the parentheses around the province.

17: Nothing in the law says you cannot provide a courtesy translation of an official name that stays in French.

18: Nothing in the law says you cannot use italics to visually signal that a name is in French.

19: Nothing in the law requires you to follow French capitalization rules. Capitalize however you want.

20: It is completely permissible to invert an organization name and acronym to make your sentence more reader-friendly.

Interested in this subject? You can also take an online training course by Anglocom president Grant Hamilton, available from OTTIAQ, Quebec’s order of translators, terminologists, and interpreters. For details or to register, click here and open a session on the OTTIAQ portal.