I laugh every time I see it. I am talking about a popular television commercial which depicts a couple in a restaurant in Quebec asking the waiter about the cheese they are eating with their meal. The gentleman is trying to impress his wife by asking the waiter the question in French. The French is very rough, kind of like the way that someone would speak it if they were not familiar with the language. It’s not so much the words used, but the way they were used with the accent. The waiter answers back almost knocking the couple by replying in English with a thick French accent. Due to the fact that his accent was so thick the couple thinks that the city of Toronto referenced in the answer was near Quebec. I find the whole commercial very humorous and memorable which is exactly what I am sure is the idea of the commercial in the first place.
That got me thinking about translation in general. Many people do the same thing when trying to sound French when they really aren’t. They put the accents in the wrong place, change sentence structure, and speak a mixture of French and English that doesn’t sound right to those that know the language. Go ahead and try it the next time you are on vacation in a place where English is not the first language, we all do it? it may sound right for us but what about those that are listening to it and know the language as their first tongue? Are they laughing inside hysterically as they talk to you? Even worse are they laughing hysterically while they read your marketing materials? What kind of impression of your company have they been given? Are they getting your message in the way it was intended?
With the invention of translation programs over the internet, auto-correct capabilities, and commercials making it seem as though it was is okay to blend two languages into one slang language people feel comfortable thinking they can do translation themselves. Oh sure, your phone may give you a quick phrase that can help you on vacation, creating marketing materials that are business like and read properly to a population that knows the language like the back of their hands is another thing. It might be the difference between a good first impression and a bad one. So next time you are watching television look for that cheese commercial from Quebec. The next time you are creating marketing materials for the Province of Quebec make sure they are sending the correct message to your customers. It might make or break the sale!
About the Author
Carmen Outridge is a professional translator located in Burlington Ontario. She has been in the business for over 30 years and offers English / French translation services for the Quebec market. To learn more about Outridge Translation Services and services they offer please visit their website at http://www.outridgetranslation.com