Language in the Canadian Parliament

The use of language in the Canadian government has continued to be fascinating. This internship gave me the chance to improve my French skills by knocking doors in French, making calls in French, and translating publications of the office. Because of the bilingual constituency, everything my office posts on Facebook or sends in an email must be in both English and French. This can present many issues, as translation is a fascinating but imperfect tool for communicating between languages.

The Canadian government also must publish everything in both languages; when they draft bills, there is a separate English and French bill drafter! This is crazy to me, because both versions of the bill still need to say the exact same thing by the time they are passed. When we visited the Senate of Canada, we heard from a staff member that Senators are very important proofreaders of bills, and that they have caught issues in the bills where the English version says one thing and the French says something else. Had it not been caught before being passed, it would have presented a huge issue in the courts.

All of this has taught me a great deal about what it is like to live in a bilingual society; it is a lot of work. Not only does my office write everything twice, but we spend hours making sure that the English and the French versions say the same things while still sounding natural in both languages. We also have to ensure that any government term we use is the same translation of the term that the official government texts use.

While working in a bilingual government presents additional issues, it is such a productive way to be inclusive. I wish they would also translate into Native languages, and I wish the United States would translate into Spanish and Native languages. Being respectful in this way makes government accessible for all. I will carry this with me as I return to the United States.

One thought on “Language in the Canadian Parliament

  • August 15, 2018 at 8:22 am
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    Before you could even read my questions on blog 1, you addressed them here. Thank you for sharing such a thoughtful reflection. Regardless of whether you work in politics or a bilingual office, continue to consider the importance of language. Whether written or verbal, words are worth considering and deliberating in order to craft the appropriate message.

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