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💌 Latest shenanigans and news from the Quebec langagier world

publishedover 1 year ago
4 min read

In short: a federal institution tried to get away with some nonsense with its subcontractors, but the Quebec courts ruled against them. The IRNS published a guide on inclusive French writing; however their guide would prefer to exclude nonbinary and gender non-conforming people. I also read a Mario Périard book published in 2018, and more!

Hello Reader,

I sincerely hope that you’re doing well and that, wherever you are, the pandemic has not been too burdensome. In Montreal, we are finally starting to enjoy the warm sun of an early spring. I for one am very thankful for it!

I want to thank you all for the enthusiastic response to my last newsletter on effective writerly feedback. I received some encouraging comments, and I hope to be able to continue sharing similar content with you all soon. For those of you who subscribed since the last update, a very merry welcome!

Automatic translations and compensation

Let’s just say that fair compensation continues to perplex certain federal institutions.

On March 10th, 2021, the Cour supérieure du Québec authorized collective action against the Translation Bureau for treatment against its subcontractors, which the court has deemed abusive, concerning the revision of automatic translations. According to droit-inc (translation mine):

At the heart of the litigation is the way the Translation Bureau compensates its subcontractors. The BT uses a translation memory in order to automatically translate certain segments of texts, which can be articles of law or even public policy, for example.
These segments are included in the texts sent to subcontracting translators, who have to evaluate whether these automatic translations are adequate, and revise them if not. The issue is that these text segments are not included in the number of words to be translated by these workers, and so they are not being paid to verify the accuracy of the automatic translations.

Essentially, refusing to pay translators or proofreaders for their comparative revision work, is effectively paying them less for a larger workload. Workers in this industry understand all too well the effects of technology on their practice, and even freelancers manage to relay the rhythms and patterns of these trends amongst themselves. As I’ve already shared in a post on the correction of automatic translations on my personal blog, the results of automatic translation must always be reviewed by actual humans, unless you want to end up with the following:

Tag yourself: I am poivré (le bonbon)!

Too often, translation agencies use automatic translations to reduce the fees of their workers by a third or more (this calculation is based on my own experiences when asked to revise a text, rather than translate it, and where it is clear the translation was done by machine). Perhaps I’m naive, but the Translation Bureau’s participation in this underhanded practice somehow managed to shock me.

The IRNS and the exclusion of nonbinary people in French

Thanks to the complaints of a few professional whiners, a few years ago the OQLF (Office québécoise de la langue française) rescinded their already tentative, lateral support of nonbinary people, and their myriad ways of re-appropriating French grammar and vocabulary to include themselves in texts. Today, the OQLF does not recommend the use of neopronouns (like iel, ol, ceilleux, etc.) and other neologisms (such as autrice, frœur, and more) to reference nonbinary and trans people, as well as their wider application in inclusive writing.

Unfortunately, the OQLF is not alone. Quebec’s IRNS (Institut de la recherche nationale scientifique) published their guide on inclusive writing in March. This guide is more extreme in its refusal: in the extract shared below, we have gone from “does not recommend” to “avoid.” Oh, the disturbances caused by trans and nonbinary peoples and their innovations!

A screenshot of a table from the IRNS guide including all the new formulations and neologisms that many French nonbinary people use.

I am sincerely disappointed by the decision to refuse any acknowledgement of the presence of nonbinary or gender nonconforming people, who want the French language to reflect their reality. Not wanting to use neologisms (such as celleux) as catch-all terms to include all genders is one thing, fine. But refusing the normalisation of these new forms outright seems to me a step backwards. Inclusion is all well and fine, but it seems nonbinaryness or gender non-conformity is going too far! Blarg. It’s too bad, especially since the guide’s bibliography mentions La grammaire non sexiste de la langue française by Michaël Lessard et Suzanne Zaccour, and those two recognize nonbinary people and their innovations! (By the way, I definitely recommend that book by Lessard and Zaccour if the subject of a less-sexist French grammar is of interest!)

Other interesting links:

  • A few weeks ago, I finished reading a book by Mario Périard, published in 2018, named L'ortographe, un carcan?. Focusing on the evolution of the French language, the book describes the French state’s weaponization of the language, as well as with the concerted defeminisation of grammar and knowledge. I particularly appreciated its format: each chapter is organised around a question or statement posed to the author, who savvily deconstructs them. My favourites were probably chapter F “If everyone writes how they want, no one will understand each other”; chapter O “We used to master grammar much better in the old days”; and chapter S “Radical reforms have no chance of succeeding.” Périard’s writing is often quite spicy, and the book is a quick and fascinating read.
  • Is the conversation surrounding the so-called decline of French in North America getting old for you too? I have some real concerns about the latest news published by Statistics Canada, which I think is not only misleading but gifts a convenient, facile argument to those who would use the French language for ill. Étienne Cardin-Trudeau is also of that opinion, and published a really good open letter in Ricochet untangling this whole mess.

There we go: a lot has been going on lately! I leave you to explore all this on your own time. Remember that you can always send me a letter at, if you’d like to add to these conversations!

Be well, everyone, take full advantage of this wonderful weather, and ‘til next time,


PS: Please note that a few links in this newsletter are affiliate links! A big thanks to Patricia Mereniuk for her assistance in the hunt for typos.