Language changes when it moves to new places. This is one of the reasons why someone from London is not necessarily going to understand someone from Texas, despite the fact that they both theoretically speak English. It’s the same for people from Portugal and people from Brazil, even though Portuguese is the language that is native to both. Given enough time with a new, developing culture, the roots of language can change.

The same is true for French. This language is confined largely to Europe, and France in particular, but there is still a sizable population of native French speakers in Canada. This is because Canada was the original colonial destination for France, in the same way that what would become the United States was the region of choice for colonization by England.

Canadian French is similar to the Portuguese language in use in South America because they both share a unique trait; their separation from the mother tongue for a few centuries has allowed for some older linguistic conventions to remain intact, while the modern mother tongue language has rendered those conventions obsolete and no longer in use. The modern French phrase for “because” is “Parce-que,” while colloquial French Canadian will still use the much older form “À cause que.”

Another differentiator between European French and French Canadian is the proximity of French Canada to a region that is primarily English.

Another differentiator between European French and French Canadian is the proximity of French Canada to a region that is primarily English. This has had much influence over the generations on some of the grammar and terminology that French Canadians use, which means that even if French Canadians didn’t take European French as a contemporary linguistic parallel, they were more than willing to do so with their English neighbors. This is why the European French still use names like “Une pastèque,” while French Canadians use the much more literal “Un melon d’eau,” which is grammatically parallel to the English “Watermelon.” In the same way, the indigenous people of Canada have also had an influence on French Canadians, as they refer to certain animals as “Caribou,” whereas English speakers call them “Reindeer,” and the European French use the name “Renne.”

All of this is to say that if you want the best possible results for comprehension, you should probably localize your content for both European and French Canadian, rather than trying to use one translation for both. Fundamentally, the language structure will be the same but, depending on the content, there may be enough differences in grammar and vocabulary that a native of one region will have some difficulty smoothly reading the French of another.

That’s not to say they can’t do it. Obviously an American reading the word “pram,” can stop, go online and consult a dictionary to find out that the American equivalent of that British word is “baby carriage,” but doing so means you run the risk of having a reader stop looking at your content in order to get more clarity about what is being communicated.

If you are trying to reach out to French speakers in both Europe and Canada, your safest approach is to translate for both. It will be a smoother experience for everyone.

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