Bilingual signs lost in translation problem in Canada

Bilingual signs lost in translation problem in Canada

Bilingual signs are a necessity in Canada

As a bilingual country, Canada provides a great number of services in both French and English. Labels, product descriptions, and road signs are therefore often bilingual. Sometimes, however, they get lost in translation.

The stop sign, most often found in Quebec and New Brunswick, is common in jurisdictions with significant francophone and anglophone populations. Translating the single word “Stop” seems somewhat unnecessary as STOP and ARRET could both be considered valid French words. But what about following sign found in Fredericton, New Brunswick:

The yellow warning sign reads: “Caution: Raised manholes/Attention: Trous d’homme sur éléves”. If we put this in the online translation service Google Translate, we get “Warning: Manholes on pupils”, which makes no sense at all. It’s almost worse if we literally translate it to “men’s holes over-elevated”! No doubt a professional translator’s help is the safest way to make sure the sign reads naturally in both Canadian English and French.

These bilingual signs need a precise translation

In regards to food labels, the legislation in Canada is even more strict. Companies have to show mandatory information in both languages. This is restrictively defined by the Canadian Consumer Packaging and Labeling Act. And let’s be honest, without some of these bilingual signs we would certainly be lost!! 😀

Some product designers use the bilingual labeling law with a sense of humor.

Although these bilingual signs might sometimes seem ridiculous or redundant, only a small fraction of the population speak both languages fluently. Professional translation services are therefore indispensable, especially in regards to more extensive documents and signs that affect public health and safety. These need an exact and accurate translation. And the best way to ensure a good translation is to ask a translation company! LingoStar specializes in translation from English to French Canadian and cooperates with highly professional translators that grant you a perfect translation avoiding any confusion or misunderstanding. Don’t hesitate to give us a call at 604-629-8420 or email us at to discuss your next language-related project. To get a free quote, click here. We look forward to hearing from you!