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No French Translation Needed for Brand Names in Quebec

The Quebec government has long been known for its stringent attempts to preserve the province’s French character. The Office québécois de la langue française has a controversial history of policing businesses of all sizes.  Inspectors with the Quebec “language police” issue tickets and fines for unauthorized use of English on signs, menus and the like.

In 2011, bothered by the impact of English language signs from multinational corporations on Quebec’s linguistic landscape, the OQLF began encouraging these companies to translate their brand names. In 2012, they began threatening to sanction companies that refused to at least add a generic French business term to their signs, such as “les cafés” for a coffee shop. So, a group of retailers including Best Buy, Costco, The Gap, Old Navy, Guess, Walmart and Curves sued to have the scope of the law clarified.

Now, a Canadian judge has ruled that under current Quebec law, the government lacks the power to impose sanctions on brands that refuse to translate their English brand names or to add French to their signs.

In an opinion quoted in the  National Post, Justice Yergeau wrote

“It is up to the Quebec legislator to show the way if he feels Quebec’s French linguistic face is suffering from a wave, a breaker even, of English trademarks on public signage and to impose, by legislation if necessary, the solutions he considers adequate.”

Lawyer Brent Tyler told CTV Montreal that he expected the government to appeal, but he doesn’t seem to think they have much of a case:

“I was a little amazed when the Office first came up with this interpretation. The OQLF argues that a company name is the equivalent of a trademark and that’s not the case…The OQLF took the position that a French description was not required and then, without changing the law or regulations, suddenly changed their position to say that it is required.”

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Language Fracas Heats Up In Quebec

In Quebec, Canada’s sole French-speaking province, language has long been a contentious issue.  Now, the results of a recent survey performed by research agency CROP have added fuel to the fire.

To perform the survey, CROP interviewed 560 people who live in Quebec but did not grow up in French-speaking households. The participants were a mix of Anglos (Canadians who grew up in English-speaking households) and immigrants from other countries.

In its write-up of the results, local magazine L’actualité portrayed the results as devastating for the future of French in Quebec. The magazine cover featured a frog holding a sign that reads “Ici, on parle English” or “Here, we speak English.”

Inside, the article claimed that the survey results showed that young Anglos living in Quebec simply do not care about preserving the province’s historically French culture.

For example, only 37% agreed with the following statement:  “The predominant position of the French language is the key component of Montreal’s originality. Without it, the city would lose its soul.” Young English speakers also didn’t recognize local, French-speaking Quebec government figures and celebrities.

However,  most of Quebec’s anglos do in fact speak French, and 83 percent wanted their children to learn the language, too. Plus, surveys like this can be unreliable and this one had a rather small sample size.

Nonetheless, the government of Quebec has already taken action, encouraging the province’s “language watchdog” to take action more quickly, and finding the funds for the agency to hire more employees. One legislator has also proposed more stringent language rules.

However, according to  Globe and Mail columnist Lysiane Gagnon, these measures don’t get to the root of the problem:

“Nowhere in L’actualité’s issue on “the future of French” is there a word about the main reason of the (relative) decline of French in Montreal: the fact that the French-speaking middle class is leaving the city in droves to settle in the nearby suburbs.”

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Quebec’s Controversial Video Game Language Laws

A recent law passed in Quebec forbids the sale of English only games if a French translation exists or will be released at some point.

Not many games are officially translated into French (or many other languages) and I doubt that gamers will want to wait for them as many games are released in English long before they are translated.

This could be the end of the road for games shops in Quebec as gamers turn to the internet to snap up the latest releases. The goal of the new law is to protect and promote the French language. It will be even harder for local game stores to compete with the internet giants such as Amazon.com which these laws can’t touch.

More and more companies are starting to release translated games, especially for consoles such as the Nintendo DS as many of the games have high text content unlike action games on the Sony Playstation 3 and X-box 360 for example. Although the process of translating a whole game into a different language can be expensive and after translation it must then be thoroughly tested again as code may need to be changed in line with the new text for the game to work correctly.

Games should be available in your choice of language and a professional translation company can help game companies achieve this within budget and on time.

Unfortunately for Canadian games shops the new law is bad news and it won’t be long until these small time stores die a sad and painful death and the internet giants take over.

A Language Law for Dogs in Montreal?

Language laws in Quebec have always been a somewhat contentious subject, but a recent news story had some people believing that the Montreal city government was “barking mad.”

The story, a radio interview from the show This is That with Montreal politician Benoit LaDouce, concerned a proposed new law in the city, which would require dog owners using city dog parks to train their dogs to respond to commands in both French and English.

In the interview, LaDouce defends his proposal, saying

“The current situation in Montreal dog parks in untenable chaos. Half the dogs are getting their commands in French, the others are getting their commands in English. And the various dog commands are incomprehensible to each other.”

LaDouce claimed came up with the law after an English-speaking dog got a little too friendly with him at a dog park, and refused to back off when ordered to do so in French.

As reported on The Province.com, the story was quickly picked up by other websites, including Yahoo! News, New York Magazine and Raw Story. There’s only one problem: it simply wasn’t true. This is That is the Canadian radio equivalent of The Onion, and Benoit LaDouce is not a real politician. New York Magazine and Raw Story updated to indicate that the story was satire, while Yahoo took their version down completely. Meanwhile, the story spread like wildfire across Facebook and Twitter.

In the aftermath, This is That released another interview with “LaDouce,” in which he claimed to have updated his proposal to instead make the dog parks “language free.”

“Thanks to the internet I have learned that dogs don’t respond to any language, rather tones and hand signals. My new bylaw will reflect that.”

The moral of this story? Just because it’s on the Internet, that doesn’t mean it’s true.

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