If any of you copywrite, edit or translate for federal clients, you’ll know that most department, agency, union and attraction names have official translations.
Department of National Defence
Canadian Media Guild
Canadian Museum of History
National Gallery of Canada
National Arts Centre
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
La Guilde canadienne des médias
Musée canadien de l’histoire
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada
Centre national des Arts
Citoyenneté et Immigration Canada
Gendarmerie royale du Canada
The same is true for some provincial ministry, agency, union and attraction names:
Ontario Science Centre
Kouchibouguac National Park (NB)
Murray Beach Provincial Park
Science North (ON)
Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (NB)
Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (MB)
Parc national Kouchibouguac
Parc provincial Murray Beach
ministère de l’Éducation et du Développement de la petite enfance
ministère de l’Agriculture, Alimentation et Développement rural
However, most ministry, agency, union and attraction names in Quebec have no official translations.
Autorité des marchés financiers
Barreau du Québec
Commission des normes du travail du Québec
Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail
Ministère de l’Éducation, Enseignement supérieur et Recherche du Québec
Place des Arts
Quartier des spectacles
Sûreté du Québec
Union des producteurs agricoles
What’s an editor or translator to do when no parallel English equivalent exists? What capitalization usage should prevail? How should French be treated in English copy?
The Editors’ Association of Canada’s Editing Canadian English recommends using the official French title, paraphrasing as necessary. The guide also recommends using parentheses when paraphrasing:
Office québécois de la langue française (the government agency enforcing Quebec’s language laws).
This practice is often adopted in daily national newspapers such as The Globe and Mail. In fact, most journalists paraphrase the title, offset it with a comma and use the official language acronym. It’s common to read something along the lines of “the government agency enforcing Quebec’s language laws, the OQLF … ”
When providing an unofficial translation, both the Translation Bureau’s The Canadian Style and The Chicago Manual of Style have different rules with respect to how translations should be treated. The Canadian Style recommends placing the translation in square brackets. The Chicago Manual of Style, however, suggests parentheses.
Sûreté du Québec [Quebec provincial police]
Sûreté du Québec (Quebec provincial police)
Notice that the generic “provincial police” is lowercased. Since the Sûreté du Québec has no official translation, the generic need not be uppercased.
This brings us to the next question: What capitalization usage should prevail when dealing with French in English copy? Answers vary depending on in-house style. In the federal and provincial examples that opened this article, you noticed that most parallel French titles are written with an initial uppercase letter, while other words are lowercased, unless these words are a denomination or a proper noun. However, a few organizations in Quebec capitalize all major words:
Les Grands Ballets
Le Cirque du Soleil
When should you capitalize? Consult the organization’s website. Chances are, the usage you see is the in-house norm.
What’s the rule governing ministère (ministry)? Editing Canadian English says: “Follow the official capitalization for the rest of the name, but uppercase Ministère.” Use a capital letter in official government ministries such as:
the Ministère du Tourisme Québec
the Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l’Occupation du territoire
the Ministère des Transports
the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications
As in the official French examples above, all ministry, agency, union and company names are written in roman characters. This practice must be followed in English copy.
Can you use English equivalents and French acronyms in the same text? Such a practice is defended by taking a glance at the province’s health portal. The official name for Quebec’s health and social service centres is Centres de santé et de services sociaux, or CSSS. However, in English copy, the English equivalent may be used, provided the official French acronym be predominant throughout. The Canadian Journal of Public Health follows suit. Most health and social service centre names have no official translations. But in some areas of the province, you may see parallel English translations with official French titles.
Centre de santé et de services sociaux de l’Ouest de l’Île
West Island Health and Social Services Centre
Centre de santé et de services sociaux – Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Sherbrooke
Health and Social Services Centre – University Institute of Geriatrics of Sherbrooke
Of course, when translations are available, follow traditional English capitalization usage, i.e., use capitals on all main words (nouns, adjectives, verbs).
What about places, streets and structures? For places, use official French names. You would therefore write Trois-Rivières instead of Three Rivers and Sept-Îles instead of Seven Islands. Do you retain written accents on cities like Montreal and Quebec City? According to Editing Canadian English and The Canadian Style, they must be kept in federal publications. As for street names, they may be translated or kept in French at the translator’s discretion. For instance, Montreal’s boulevard Saint-Laurent may be written Boulevard Saint-Laurent, boulevard Saint-Laurent or Saint-Laurent Boulevard. (It’s common to abbreviate Saint or Sainte in French; common abbreviations are St or St for masculine names and Ste or Ste for feminine names.) With respect to structures such as bridges, names may be translated or kept in French, again at the translator’s discretion, e.g., le pont Cartier-Macdonald can be written as Pont/pont Cartier-Macdonald or Macdonald-Cartier Bridge. Rule of thumb: Whether or not place, street or structure names are translated, they must retain written accents or other relevant punctuation such as hyphens.
Next topic: Mind Your Noun Strings, Please!
Previous topic: English Editing in Quebec: False Cognates, Syntax and Interferences — Oh My!
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 NB = New Brunswick.
 ON = Ontario.
 MB = Manitoba.
 Editing Canadian English, 3rd edition, Editors’ Association of Canada, p. 247. 2015.
 Ibid, 247.
 Ibid, 248, 249.
 Ibid, 249.
 Santé Montréal Portal, <http://www.santemontreal.qc.ca/en/where-to-go/health-and-social-service-centres-cssss/>, last updated 26 June 2015; date accessed: 14 July 2015.
 Mylaine Breton, Jean-Louis Denis, Lise Lamothe, “Incorporating Public Health More Closely Into Local Governance of Health Care Delivery: Lessons from the Québec Experience” from Canadian Journal of Public Health. <http://journal.cpha.ca/index.php/cjph/article/view/1929>, accessed 14 July 2015.