It is almost compulsory for a translator to translate into their native language for practical reasons, like being better able to come up with meaningful and idiomatic phrases. Therefore, it is essential, especially for a purely French translator, to be aware of the existence of different dialects of the French language.
Of course, Belgians do speak the same language as their French neighbors. Moreover, all the different regional accents in France, no matter how disturbing they might be sometimes, include and respect the same grammatical rules.
So far, so good. However, there is a French-speaking community, far from its motherland, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean : the Quebeckers.
People from Quebec speak with a frustrating accent eating up half of all their sounds, leading any European French-speaker to want to give them French lessons. But, let’s keep it peaceful. After all, it is said that diversity makes the world richer. Furthermore, this particular accent is no doubt very charming if you take a little time to get used to it. You will even find some musicality in it which will not be a problem for the translator, as any cinema or television production is dubbed into the most neutral French accent there is.
Unfortunately, the accent is not the only divergence between French from France and French from Quebec. Indeed, not only do the Quebeckers have a tenacious accent understandable exclusively to experts, but they also have their own vocabulary, which must be taken into account by the translator when fulfilling their task. “My girlfriend” for instance, which will be translated into ma petite amie (my little girlfriend) into French from France, will be translated into ma blonde (my blond woman) in Quebec. Over the centuries, influence from the English language has brought a lot of changes, and expressions such as “to have fun”, which in French means s’amuser, in Quebec they say avoir du fun which is an exact mirroring of the English version.
But let’s not forget some subtle differences which ought to be acknowledged. Amongst the numerous examples, there is the date format. In French from France, the exact format is DD/MM/YYYY while in Quebec you must write it YYYY/MM/DD ; the usage of the pronouns, lui meaning “him” is replaced with y in Quebec. Punctuation has even more subtle variances in spacing changing from one dialect to another. Last but not least, there is a real difference in writing the acronyms ™ and ® which respectively translate into MC (Trademark) and MD (registered mark).
There are so many elements in localization, a major step of translation, which requires awareness from the translator in order to produce a good quality work in the suitable dialect. Furthermore, there are some less-well-known French-speaking dialects in Canada, but they are much closer to Quebecois than to French from France. Knowing all this, a translator would surely avoid major localization mistakes by distinguishing European French (France, Belgium, Switzerland) from Canadian French.
As for you, fellow translators, even if French from France is the official dialect in the world of translation, it is easy to educate yourself a little in the Canadian ways in order to avoid offending our Quebecker friends and to offer them an adapted content to make them feel at home.
Translated by Gildas Mergny