When we think of globalization from a translation viewpoint, the word conjures images of global interconnectedness and cross cultural communication. Viewed on another level, globalization also carries the risk of eluding complexities involved in overcoming linguistic and cultural barriers. In Canada, for example, where French is an official language along with English, the most prevalent regional variety is Quebec French.
The origins of Quebec French actually lie in the 17th and 18th century regional varieties and were shaped by historical influences. To avoid reduced interintelligibility with other varieties of French, the Office Quebecois of French language does not want to standardize Quebec French, thus linguistically isolating Quebecers.
Knowing the facts about the French Canadian language is the first step in meeting the obstacles of English to french translation projects. As a translator, I always felt that it was a language of its own and that’s what makes the beauty of it. The more I understood the process it went through, the more I became fascinated by it. The linguist in me wanted to dissect the variety and know it to the core. I had to if I wanted to capture the essence of it and translate efficiently. It is important that the translation appeals to the people for which it is intended. In a country where English is so predominant, the birth of Frenglish or Franglais is inevitable. I was often torn between using the more standard French of France, aiming for a more ‘universal’ translation considered ‘neutral’ by many. But often, I faced the same challenges while translating in Canada. I had to know the specifics of my audience to translate effectively. I was translating for the Canadian world and I couldn’t use a neutral approach.
Today’s translators must be experts in not just interlingual but also intercultural communication while possessing the necessary professional expertise, that is linguistic, cultural and subject area competence. Globalization has given rise to speedy processing and machine translations and the tolerance for less perfect translations, not taking culture-specific differences in consideration. In the area of intercultural communication, sometimes even between the varieties of the same language, as it is the case with Canadian French in Canada, a high degree of cultural expertise is required. Information cannot circulate unaltered across different linguistic communities, varieties and cultures.
Being a translator in Canada taught me a lot: there is much more to being a translator than just speaking the target or the source language. Learning never stops and unlearning is also part of the process.
Language is dynamic and cultures evolve.
Enough to keep the translator on her toes…