What you need to know about Canada’s 2 Official Languages
Canada is one of the first countries that U.S. companies look to expand to when they explore doing business abroad. In 1994, NAFTA got rid of most tariff and non-tariff barriers between the U.S. and Canada, making it much easier and less expensive to do business in Canada.
What some companies may not realize is that Canada has 2 official languages – English and French. And, there are language laws in Canada (depending on the province) that require businesses to translate all their content, materials, and anything customer-facing into French. Canada is culturally rooted in its French ancestry, and it is imperative that companies position their product and provide accurate translation with that in mind.
Official Languages Act
Laws in Canada about officially incorporating both languages at federal level started in the year of Confederation. In 1867, the Constitution Act allowed both French and English to be used in Parliament debate.
A century later in 1969, the Official Languages Act passed. This law allowed equal status of both languages throughout the federation, with the intent of giving Canadian citizens the choice to use either language to access federal services.
Quebec & New Brunswick
Since then, some Canadian provinces and territories passed their own laws that protect these languages. Some of these laws include requiring private businesses to present all content in French, with the option of providing other languages as the business sees fit.
Quebec is a notable example. With a population of approximately 8.18 million, there are 79.7% French speaking citizens. That is over 6 million people! Quebec passed a mandate making French its official language in the province, and requires that it is the “everyday language of work, instruction, communication, commerce, and business.” Businesses, foreign or domestic, must translate everything they present to those customers in French.
32.5% of the New Brunswick population also speak French and they do not have such strict laws for businesses like Quebec has. Businesses can publish all their content and advertising in English, but it would be strategic to have a French option. The rest of Canada’s provinces have 5% or fewer French speakers.
French translation will benefit companies
One-quarter of Canada’s 35 million population speak primarily French. That is a HUGE portion of the population that make up the consumer base for businesses to target.
When considering an international business expansion strategy into Canada, companies need to partner with business translation services to provide accurate and culturally appropriate translation. Their document translation services take care of translating product labels & descriptions, user manuals, marketing & advertising content, and even offer website localization.