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CILFO Translation Research Tips

One of the key concerns in translation practice is consistency. Although, there are many ways in any language of saying the same thing, when it comes to the printed word, the message has more credibilty when it's conveyed consistently using the same terminology.

In Canada, given the advent of the Official Languages Act and the requirement that all federal communications be provided to the public in both official languages (namely, English and French), all of the Government of Canada websites are served up in both official languages.

Looking for terms or expressions that, in most likelihood, have already been translated?

The Canadian Federal Government has developed a tool called the TERMIUM. However, the terms used on Government of Canada websites have much broader application (i.e. government language is not all written in bureaucratise.)

Unfortunately, the TERMIUM is a subscription-based service. So, if you don't have a TERMIUM subscription, there are a number of online work-arounds. To begin, you can search on the word, expression or sentence in the Google search screen and add the words Government of Canada to the search string.

As an example, when searching for the French equivalent of "Payments in Lieu of Taxes", enter the text string in the Google search box, add the words Government of Canada to the end of the search string and click the "pages from Canada" radio button (e.g. Payments in Lieu of Taxes Government of Canada).

You will usually be presented with at least one or two (invariably more than a dozen) Government of Canada websites where the expression appears. Navigate to the selection that seems to be the most relevant, find the expression on the page (to determine its relative location on the page), then click on the horizontal menu bar item labeled FRANÇAIS. Once on the FRANÇAIS page, scroll to the same relative position on the French page as compared to the English to locate the translated expression. Time-Saving Tip: If the page you have navigated to contains a great deal of text, you can avoid having to read the whole page by simply searching the page for the expression you are seeking in order to find its relative position.

The process of toggling between English and French pages can be a bit arduous in some instances. One technique that works for us is to open two pages, one that is kept on the location of the English, while the second is scrolled to find the French equivalent. In our example, the expression was actually right in the title of the page.

If you're uncertain as to the accuracy of the translation you've found, repeat the search again and navigate to other Government of Canada web pages to see how they have translated the expression.

Also, if the expression you search on presents too many choices, you can narrow the search by placing it in quotation marks (e.g. "Payments in Lieu of Taxes Government of Canada")

TERMIUM Alternative:

Search All Government of Canada Web Sites

The Government of Canada has its own search engine, called Search Canada. It's not as comprehensive as the TERMIUM but it's a close and very useful alternative. Using the previously cited example of "Payments in Lieu of Taxes", enter the search string in quotation marks (as directed) and click on the link labeled Translated Terms. The result rendered provides a couple of choices as well as the French Acronym.

Speaking of Acronyms

The same Government of Canada search engine, namely Search Canada is a great tool for finding acronyms used within Federal Government Departments. Search Canada not only delivers the translated acronym, it will also render the full expression. Similarly, if you're trying to figure out what an acronym stands for, enter it in the Search Canada search box and click the button labeled English.

More on Acronyms

In addition to the Search Canada website, there are many sites where you can search for acronyms. The Government of Canada has a number of them scattered about. Some of these include: There are more resources of course, and keep checking back here to find additions to what's currently listed. In fact, we invite you to add the resources that you are aware of (acronym or otherwise) by logging in and creating a listing on this category.

One more: The Acronym Finder website contains over " ...600,000 human-edited definitions, [and] is the world's largest and most comprehensive dictionary of acronyms, abbreviations, and initialisms. Combined with the Acronym Attic, Acronym Finder contains more than 4 million acronyms and abbreviations. You can also search for more than 850,000 US and Canadian postal codes." Although it won't render a translation for you, it's a useful starting point for figuring out what an acronym may stand for.

What's in a Name?

Ever come across a foreign name and you're just not sure what the person's gender is? Chances are that if the person's name is showing up in a document that requires translation, that he or she has been profiled somewhere on the web. We were recently checking a translation where the name of Falice Chin came up with a Calgary location. We searched on Falice Chin Calgary and clicked the "pages from Canada" radio button, and quickly found her profile.

Translating Position Titles

Position titles can be particularly challenging to translate. The good news is that the work has more than likely already been done for you. The Government of Canada has an online directory of management personnel, the Government Electronic Directory Services (GEDS). If you have the name of the person and you're wondering how their position title has been translated, search the GEDS. Once you've found the individual you're looking for, simply click on the horizontal menu bar item labeled FRANÇAIS and voilà! (as they say in le français there!).


Conjugation can be challenging in any language, but particularly so in French. The Reverso online conjugator provides verb conjugation in English, French, German and Spanish.

Canadian/Québécois Definitions, Terminology and Translations

The Office Québécois de la langue française has created an online dictionary and database of translated terms that contains a wealth of material for the translator and the general public. Aptly named as Le grand dictionnaire terminologique, the website lives up to its name.

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