Quebec's Language Watchdog Says Most French Business Signs In Montreal Have Mistakes In Them

The OQLF evaluated over 10,000 business signs and messages in Montreal, Quebec City, Gatineau and Sherbrooke.

Senior Editor
Signs affixed to a storefront window in Montreal.

Signs affixed to a storefront window in Montreal.

An Office québecois de la langue française (OQLF) study of over 10,000 outdoor signs and notices on 2,161 businesses in Montreal, Quebec City, Gatineau and Sherbrooke found that the vast majority deviated from Quebec French language standards, even if those "deviations" were minor.

They included "borrowing" from languages other than French (10% of all deviations), spelling (19%) and grammar (15%) mistakes. In total, 74% of evaluated signs had some form of deviation.

The province's language watchdog said most instances of language "borrowing" were anglicisms. Examples the agency listed include the use of "accommodation" (convenience) store instead of dépanneur, "shipping" instead of expédition, and "happy hour" instead of 5 à 7.

9% (1,124) of all business messages were in a language other than French.

The OQLF found that the Sherbrooke area had the highest proportion of messages with no deviations from French standards (40%) and the Montreal area had the highest proportion of messages with at least one fault (80%).

Despite the seemingly high number of aberrations, the agency says that, in general, the information conveyed in French on business signage was intelligible: "in almost all cases," it said, "the deviations from the French standard were not detrimental to the understanding of the message."

Moreover, only 11% of all deviations were "easy to detect." The rest required a "thorough knowledge" of French, by OQLF standards, to identify.

The OQLF regularly conducts studies to assess the quality and prevalence of French in the province. More generally, it is "mandated to monitor the evolution of the linguistic situation in Quebec" and "ensure" that French is the "normal and usual language of work, communications, commerce, business" and government.

Thomas MacDonald
Senior Editor
Thomas is MTL Blog's Senior Editor. He lives in Saint-Henri and loves it so much that he named his cat after it. On weekdays, he's publishing stories, editing and helping to manage MTL Blog's team of amazing writers. His beats include the STM, provincial and municipal politics and Céline Dion. On weekends, you might run into him brunching at Greenspot, walking along the Lachine Canal or walking Henri the cat in Parc Sir-George-Étienne-Cartier.
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