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How to Build a Language Strategy for Companies Expanding to Canada

Companies expanding to Canada must be aware of the country’s linguistic requirements.

Both French and English are official languages in Canada, thanks to the Official Languages Act of 1969. This Act meant that federal agencies must offer services in both languages. 

Quebec’s Bill 96 passed last year, which changed the linguistic requirements even more for certain business documents in this province.

Understanding what documents need to be available in which languages can be time-consuming and overwhelming. Keep reading to get answers to some of the top questions that companies expanding to Canada need to know.

This article is not intended as legal advice.

Why Are Companies Moving to Canada?

Toronto gained the nickname “Silicon Valley North” after tech companies like Google, Meta, and Amazon started moving into the Canadian market. American restaurant chains like Chick-fil-A and Five Guys have already made their way north, and Shake Shack recently announced plans to expand to Canada in 2024.

Foreign businesses are interested in Canada for a variety of reasons. Some companies may decide to expand to Canada to establish a physical presence in this country of almost 40 million people.

Canada offers a low corporate tax rate and a variety of tax incentive programs that appeal to many foreign business owners. The Canadian economy is also strong, stable, and growing.

Another reason Canada is a game changer is its easy access to the American market – a perk for companies that still need to be established in the United States. Plus, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), an update to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement help make business operations smooth in Canada.

However, Canada is an attractive destination for business owners interested in international expansion because of its robust economy and international trade agreements. When expanding to Canada, employers also have access to a well-educated and highly skilled workforce.

For this reason, many business owners see Canada as a new market with numerous advantages for their companies.

To recap, here are 5 main reasons why businesses are expanding to Canada:

  1. Canada is a new market for many companies.
  2. Low corporate tax rate and tax incentive programs.
  3. The stable economy makes some business owners more confident when thinking about plans to expand internationally.
  4. Easy access to the American market along with international trade agreements.
  5. Canada boasts a highly skilled workforce and a high quality of life for its citizens and people who establish permanent residence.

Linguistic Considerations

Companies may be drawn to Canada for the country’s steady economic growth or government incentives. However, there are some linguistic considerations to keep in mind before establishing a business in Canada.

Canada has two official languages – English and French. With the passage of The Official Languages Act of 1969, federal institutions are required to offer services in both languages upon request. This Act was updated in 1988 and reinforced the obligation of Parliament and other federal institutions to operate in both English and French.

Most French speakers in the country live in Quebec, and the Charter of the French Language, which was introduced in 1977, made French the primary language for government and daily life in this province.

Quebec’s Bill 96, passed last year, significantly updates the Charter of the French Language. According to a New York Times report from last year, this new law will greatly impact the operations of businesses in Quebec.

“Most small and medium-sized businesses will require government certification that they operate in French, as larger companies have for years. And the new law will raise the bar that a company must meet to justify requiring that new workers speak or read languages other than French,” according to the New York Times.

Businesses expanding to Canada must be prepared to run a multilingual company. Both French and English are important for the Canadian market. Foreign business owners planning to operate in Canada need to consider making all of their documents available in both French and English, including:

  • Business Plans
  • Job Descriptions
  • Interview Questions
  • Contracts
  • Terms & Agreements
  • Employee Handbooks

It would be best to consult with a qualified legal expert to understand the legal requirements for business operations.

In addition to the legal requirements surrounding these two languages, it would be beneficial for businesses to be able to operate in additional languages since roughly 25% of the Canadian population speaks a first language besides French and English.

While this might seem daunting, ALTA offers a variety of language services that can make bilingual or multilingual business operations easier for your company.

Document Translation Services

Once you start the process of establishing business operations in Canada, you’ll likely need help with document translations. That’s where we come in.

ALTA has an established reputation with more than 30 years of experience providing expert document translation services to law firms, government agencies, and private businesses.

Professional translators are matched with translation projects based on their specific areas of expertise. ALTA has a wide network of translators specializing in healthcare, education, legal, human resources, and government translation services. You don’t have to worry about the message being lost in translation.

Document translation services are available for employee handbooks, contracts, terms and agreements, and financial and legal documents.

The translated document(s) will be available in a read-to-publish format in almost any file type you need. Our team works with Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and Microsoft Publisher.

Need more than just a few documents translated? Our team can also help translate your website into multiple languages.

Feel free to give us a call or fill out the quote request form to get started. Quotes are always free and fast – online quote requests are usually available within two hours. If you decide to move forward with the document translation project, the team will discuss your deadline. Rush projects can be accommodated and can be turned around within 24 hours.

Language Testing Services

Having a multilingual workforce is essential for successful business operations in Canada. ALTA offers language proficiency tests in more than 100 languages – including French Canadian.

These tests can be tailored for the job or industry to ensure employees have a deep knowledge of the industry and are prepared to operate in a bilingual business.

ALTA’s industry-leading language proficiency testing to assess:

  • Listening and Speaking – to determine how well a candidate can understand and communicate in a certain language
  • Writing – to test a candidate’s writing skills in the target language
  • Reading – to assess a candidate’s reading comprehension skills
  • Interpretation – to determine if a candidate can interpret for speakers of English and the target language
  • Translation – to test how well a candidate can translate written material between English and the target language

ALTA language tests are used by numerous employers, from airlines to healthcare companies. With two decades of experience, we have developed an award-winning suite of language proficiency tests designed for the unique skills and terminology required for different industries.

To schedule a language proficiency test, call ALTA Languages Services at 1-888-624-6165 or fill out the contact form. Tests can be administered online or over the phone with little to no advanced notice. Results are scored by trained expert evaluators – not AI – and are often available within two business days.

Work With ALTA for Canadian Business Expansion

In addition to document translation and language testing, ALTA offers a variety of other language services that can help make it easier for your company to start operations in Canada. Our network includes professional Canadian French linguists who understand the nuances of this dialect.

Think about all the meetings you’ll conduct as you try to establish partnerships in Canada. Hiring a native Canadian French interpreter will ensure everyone understands what is being said during these essential pitches, fundraising efforts, and negotiations.

Expert interpreters can be a great resource as you start to navigate the bilingual business world. ALTA has a network of over 2,500 professional interpreters available around the clock. Our team provides on-site, virtual remote interpreting, Zoom interpreting, and over-the-phone interpretation services in 200+ languages.

In addition to interpreting, our team of professional translators can ensure that all of your marketing materials, website, and social media pages make sense for a French Canadian audience. Having a real, native speaker on your team instead of relying on non-human translation services makes all the difference when it comes to breaking into the Canadian market.

Our team also provides technical translation services. Everyone who works on these types of projects has industry knowledge and understands the jargon and technical terms relevant to your industry – including everything from major tech companies to fast food companies.

Canada offers exciting opportunities for foreign businesses, whether your company is expanding to British Columbia, Ontario, or Quebec. Canada’s economy is very stable, there is an educated workforce to tap into, and tax rates are generally lower than in other international markets.

Business owners need to prepare if they want to enjoy these significant benefits. Many Canadian businesses operate in French and English, and it is important that your documents are available in both languages.

ALTA is here to help. Contact our team today for a fast and free quote for all of your document translation, language testing, and interpretation services, making your business expansion to Canada easier.

Stephanie Brown is a New York City-based travel blogger and freelance content creator. You can find her at The Adventuring Millennial.

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