Revision: Your safeguard against the common mistakes translators make

Revision: Your safeguard against the common mistakes translators make

They say two heads are better than one. Well, that is certainly the case in translation, where translators and revisers often pair up to deliver the best possible finished product.

Revision is the process of comparing a translation with the original document to check that it is faithful to the author’s intention and that nothing has been left out. Since even the best translator can make a mistake, a reviser will carefully scour the page for the minutest of oversights. The reviser will also look out for heavy, awkward or unnatural phrasing and polish up the style as needed.

Here are some common translation traps any good reviser will be on the lookout for.


Interference from the other language

Translators sometimes find it hard to remove themselves from the structure and wording of the source text. This is especially true when they are immersed in that language, as English‑to‑French translators are in North America. The result is a text that reads like a translation, as opposed to something a native speaker would write. In French-to-English translation, these kinds of mistakes are called Gallicisms. Loanwords (words borrowed directly from another language, such as café) are easy enough to spot. However, there are other, more insidious Gallicisms that creep their way into the language. The following are just a few examples of this type of interference:

False friends

A semantic loan can become so ingrained in our vocabulary and so seemingly English that it is barely perceptible. When two similar words exist in the languages of Molière and Shakespeare, few people will question their equivalence, even when they mean entirely (or at least somewhat) different things. French and English words that look alike but have different meanings are called false friends.



  • money for monnaie (small change)
  • deception for déception (disappointment)
  • important for important (in the sense of large)
  • entrée (a main course) for entrée (appetizer)
  • passing an exam for passer un examen (writing an exam)
  • library for librairie (bookstore)


Yes, all of these words are in the dictionary, but using these English “equivalents” will alter the meaning of your text, sometimes dramatically.

Calques, or “translationese”

With a calque, it is not the word itself but the actual syntax that is carried over from the source language. Like false friends, calques can make their way into the target language and go under the radar.


There are more obvious ones:

  • Shut the light for fermer la lumière (turn off the light)
  • Take an appointment for prendre un rendez-vous (make an appointment)
  • You miss me for tu me manques (I miss you)

And then there are sneakier ones:

  • Marketing phrases like Vous avez envie de changer de fournisseur? rendered as You want a new service provider? rather than something along the lines of Need a new service provider? or Looking to switch providers?
  • The use of we rather than you when the French uses on generally (e.g. We are supposed to wear helmets when riding a bicycle, instead of You are supposed to…).


Improper use and overuse

Another kind of mistake occurs when a word is used incorrectly or far more often than it should be. Translators and revisers have to check themselves to insure—er, ensure—that they aren’t committing these fatal errors!


  • All the sudden for all of a sudden (particularly common in U.S. English)
  • Literally used for emphasis rather than to mean something exactly as described, as in My head literally exploded when I heard that!
  • Sneak peak for sneak peek


Translation errors

Above all else, translation is about conveying meaning. Whatever words are chosen, or whatever style is used, the meaning of the original message has to be conveyed as faithfully as possible. Translation errors can be broken down into several sub-categories: misinterpretations, mistranslations, meaning shifts, and nonsense translations.

The hardest to spot are probably meaning shifts. Unlike the other types of errors, shifts in meaning can be ever-so-subtle. If a translator does not catch on to a particular connotation of a certain word or phrase, the translation may still read well even though the meaning has completely changed. Having a solid grasp of the source language will help, but to steer clear of these mistakes you have to be extremely discerning and know when to question your own understanding.


Revision is the ultimate exercise in meticulousness. In addition to calques, improper usage and translation errors, there are countless other details that call for a reviser’s attention: typographical conventions and rules of grammar, proper spelling, formatting, linguistic idiosyncrasies and client preferences, to name just a few. All the more reason to work with professional translators and revisers!

Finding the translation company that’s perfect for you

Finding the translation company that’s perfect for you

You need the services of a translation company, but how do you figure out which one is best for your business’s needs? Finding the right fit can require some research. After all, the company that you select will have the difficult task of conveying your message and image in a different language, and making sure it resonates with another culture. Before you partner with a translation services provider, it is wise to look carefully at your options. Here are some things to consider to make sure you ask the right questions.

A company that demonstrates professionalism

Choose a company that takes pride in providing quality services. Its fees may not be the cheapest, but its team will be made up of language professionals, including certified translators, whose extensive schooling will have equipped them to skilfully render your message.

Be mindful that any respectable translation company will assign your texts to professionals translating into their first language, guaranteeing that they have a perfect understanding of its nuances and subtleties.

A company that listens

A translation company that cares about its clients takes the time to assess their needs and ask key questions in order to provide custom solutions. To make sure you’re supported through every step of your language-related decisions, choose a translation company that communicates clearly and effectively.

A flexible company

Flexibility is critical for last-minute and long-term projects, or those involving multiple versions of a document. A reliable company will put simple and effective processes in place to be able to quickly adapt in any circumstance. A solid network of external and internal resources will guarantee on-time delivery of your projects.

A specialized company

Communications, education, food, health, retail… Every field has its own particularities and distinct vocabulary, and only a translator with knowledge of your industry will be able to lend projects the credibility you should be able to expect.

A company committed to respecting your confidentiality

Did you know that the content entered into certain online translation tools becomes publicly accessible? Be wary of translation companies that use these products. Professional tools that meet your confidentiality standards do exist.

Inquire about the company’s security policy and related systems, as well as the types of software it uses. Also consider having the company sign a confidentiality agreement to protect yourself from any indiscretions.

A company that offers all-inclusive service

What’s one of the greatest advantages of working with a translation company? Being able to depend on a whole team of qualified professionals! Enjoy peace of mind, with project managers, translators, adaptors, revisers, proofreaders, terminologists, desktop publishing specialists and IT specialists all working together to offer you end-to-end service.

Have you found your perfect match? Don’t hesitate to share your questions or concerns with your new team of language services experts. Your business’s reputation should be as important to them as it is to you. Once that relationship of trust and respect is firmly established, you’ll know you’ve found the ideal language partner.

Understanding French on both sides of the pond

Understanding French on both sides of the pond

“Max arrive sur Montréal dans deux jours. Du coup, je vais lui louer une chambre dans mon appartement.”

If you’re not fluent in the language, all French may sound alike, but there are some subtle (and not‑so‑subtle) differences between what you might hear in France versus in Canada. Even if you leave slang out of the equation, the French use some very particular expressions and structures that really stand out when they show up in writing. One such example would be the omnipresent du coup (which essentially means and so), a phrase that is applied especially liberally in the spoken language. Or (yet), a favourite way for European French speakers to start a sentence, is another dead giveaway.

When a Canadian visits Montréal, they arrive à (at) the city, not sur (on) the city, as a Frenchman might say: three little letters that nevertheless speak volumes.

One other telltale sign that a writer may be from across the pond is the heavy use of loanwords from English, something Canada’s French translators are taught to avoid from the time they start their training. After all, French-Canadians are a minority in a predominantly English‑speaking continent—a far cry from the situation in France—which explains why translators here are so meticulous about rooting out Anglicisms.

Just for the fun of it, let’s look at a few more examples.

  • In France, cloud is a widely accepted word in the IT world and in general usage, whereas a Quebecois would use nuage or infonuagique.
  • The cosmetics industry is rife with such variations, France’s stick and eyeliner being bâton and crayon pour les yeux in Quebec, to name just a few.
  • In spoken language, a Quebecois with a sweet ride may brag about their late model char, while their French counterpart would go on about their caisse.
  • In France, they don’t chew gomme, they erase pencil marks with it. In Quebec, we chew gomme (gum) and use an efface (eraser) to rub out written text.

We could even go on ad nauseam about the countless regional variations in the way words are spelled, but our goal isn’t to bore you to death. The point we’re trying to make here is that there are a multitude of linguistic details that affect how an original or translated French text is received.

That is precisely why it is so important to go with a local translation services provider, one that will be able to tailor your message perfectly to your target audience.

Doing business with a Canadian agency is worth it! Professional translators in Canada have degrees in their field. In school, they learn to skillfully work around the traps associated with the linguistic interference typical to places like Quebec. A French translation from La Belle Province will always read better to a French-Canadian than one concocted on the other side of the Atlantic.

The same goes for English and Spanish. Any company hoping to break onto the North American market would be wise to opt for a Canadian company over a European one. Canadian, US and British English are not the same, nor are Latin American and European Spanish. A Canadian company will be well aware of those regional differences.

Choosing a Quebec-based translation firm such as Idem means:

  • working with a team of professionals who truly get your communication and business needs, your message and what it is that makes your target markets unique; and
  • being able to count on translators with a keen understanding not just of the words, but of the many possible nuances and underlying meanings.


All of the French examples may be eloquent, but they may not all be right for your audience. How about these two? Which would speak to you?

My bonnet’s on fire!



The hood of my car’s on fire!

Oh my gosh!

Becoming a translator: Tips from the pros

Becoming a translator: Tips from the pros

That’s it, you’ve decided your professional future lies in translation. Excellent choice! Your next move is to find the path that’s right for you among a wealth of possibilities. Here are some things to consider that might make it easier for you to settle on one.

Working languages and academic programs

First, you need to consider your working languages, meaning your source and target languages. In Canada, the main language pairs are English to French and French to English. As translation requires mastery of the output language, translators here generally translate only one way, into their first language.

French is my first language, so I translate into French.

English is my first language, so I translate into English.

Translation programs at Canadian universities focus largely on those two languages, and offer everything from certificates to PhDs, although a bachelor’s degree usually provides the most well-rounded education. The typical curriculum will cover the history and theory of translation, software tools, writing techniques, terminology, linguistics, specialized translation, applied translation and more, and will enable you to hone your understanding of the source language and expertise in the target language.

There are plenty of universities to choose from. To make an informed decision, it’s worth taking a close look at what each of their translation programs has to offer. Keep in mind that some universities have CEGEP- or university-level courses as prerequisites and may use English and French proficiency tests as part of the selection process.


If you are interested in translation and already have a degree in, say, law, finance or pharmacology, why not put that knowledge to use and become a specialized translator in that field? There are several ways to make that leap, including with an advanced graduate diploma, bachelor’s degree, major, minor or certificate in translation.

In contrast, if you don’t fit that profile but would like to, you can study specialized languages as part of a bachelor’s degree in translation. That way, in addition to getting a solid grounding in general translation, you will learn the fundamentals of your discipline of choice. Typically, your options will include scientific, technical, biomedical, pharmaceutical, economic, business or legal translation.

The little extras

Universities all compete to provide the best opportunities for translation students to add more feathers to their caps. For example, some have co-op programs in which students complete three semester-long work placements. By the time they graduate, these students already have 12 months of real-world translation experience, as well as relationships with professionals in the field.

Some universities even have study abroad programs. What could be more exciting for a future language professional than spending a semester improving one of their working languages in London, Paris or some other great city?

Job prospects

To some people, just being bilingual is enough to become a translator. Then why bother going to school? Well, although it’s not impossible to jump right into the workforce, it is risky. An education in translation goes beyond the study of languages, and many employers will not even consider candidates without formal training. Plus, to earn the title of certified translator—which gives job seekers a real edge—it’s better to have a degree under your belt.

If you take one thing away from this post, let it be this: a trustworthy translation company will only hire applicants with the proper academic credentials. In other words, you can’t just pick up a pen, so to speak, and become a translator. For employers, a degree or certificate in translation is an additional guarantee of quality, so it is the best way to get your foot in the door.

In the cosmetics business, translation is priceless

In the cosmetics business, translation is priceless

In the cosmetics business, translation is priceless

You’ve given careful thought to how to market your product: the colour scheme, slogan, fonts… Nothing’s been left to chance. Now, you want to venture into new markets. Once again, you need your message to get across seamlessly. You want potential customers to feel that your product is for them, but that may be a problem if they can’t understand what’s on the packaging! Fortunately, there are professional translators who specialize in the cosmetics sector to help you make your mark on shoppers.


Using the reader’s language: a sign of respect

A population’s identity is defined by its language. For consumers to buy in to your brand, you need to speak to them directly, in their native tongue. A French-Canadian, for instance, will be less enticed to buy a product if the label is in English only.

If a business cares about its customers, it will make the effort to use flawless grammar and style to get through to them. Simply put, if packaging has to be translated, it has to be well translated. French-Canadians care a great deal about their language. Mistakes in ads and packaging can tarnish a brand’s reputation, as consumers immediately—and often subconsciously—equate sub-par French with a sub-par product.

Let’s not forget that, now that the beauty industry has decidedly joined the digital age, cosmetics companies are faced with new challenges. Anything posted on social media is now picked apart by thousands of readers, so companies have everything to gain by using impeccable French on web platforms to set themselves apart.


French as a matter of law

In Quebec, French is protected under the Charter of the French Language, so translating information about cosmetics is not just a matter of respecting consumers – it is required by law. To sell your products in Quebec, the following content has to be in French:

  • Packaging: the product’s common name, net quantity, warnings and directions for use. In addition, the list of ingredients has to feature the correct INCI names. Although you aren’t required by law to translate trademarks, it will give you a significant edge with your target market. French and English can appear either together or separately on your packaging.
  • Commercial documents: The documents included with the product, such as the instructions inside the package, obviously have to be translated.
  • Promotional materials: All signage has to at least be bilingual if not exclusively in French. If you’ve gone the bilingual route, the French has to be more prominent, for instance with a more noticeable font colour or larger font.


Adapting to the market

Each market is unique. Using professionally trained translators who are in tune with the local culture and experienced in adaptation and localization is a wise move.

Take eyeliner, for example. In France, no one would bat an eyelash if they saw the words eyeliner or waterproof on a French label, but in Quebec it would be considered a carry‑over from English. Same goes for blush, which is accepted in France, whereas fard à joues would (and should!) be used in Quebec.

Cosmetics usually have catchy or cute slogans, but beware of familiar traps:

  • A badly translated punchline can really flop.
  • Puns or wordplay translated literally will garner raised eyebrows rather than laughs.
  • An image that’s harmless in one culture may be provocative or outright vulgar in another.

Luckily, competent translators can find pretty ingenious ways to render your message to make you look good; this is called adaptation. Your translation company of choice should be able to provide you with advice on these kinds of considerations.


In a globalized world, translation has become a necessity for any cosmetics company looking to expand their reach overseas. If your sights are set on Canada, look into the regulations governing the use of French and have a firm that specializes in your sector translate for you. Your brand’s image depends on it, and it will definitely pay off.