By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link Coordinator
A few years ago, prior to the creation of HC Link, I had the opportunity to work with a group of health promotion resource centres whose intent was to provide services in French. At that time, though I had grown up in Quebec and even attended French Immersion school, I wasn’t able to speak much French. That led to a pretty commonly held belief: if you can’t speak French, you can’t work with Francophones and you can’t work towards offering services in French.
Fortunately for me, I was with a group of very passionate health promoters- Anglophones and Francophones- who helped me to see that non-French speakers have a critical role to play when it comes to engaging Francophone communities and planning French language services. It was that group of people that inspired me to try to regain the French skills I had as a child. Thanks to a number of courses, terrific tutors and a lot of perseverance, I am making progress. I have also experienced the sheer frustration of knowing what I want to say, but not having the words to express myself. I can easily imagine what it is like for people who are sick, need medical attention, or are trying to improve their health or life circumstance and can’t receive services in their own language.
There are of course a wide variety of languages spoken in Ontario. French is unique in that there is political and legislative recognition of the rights of Franco-Ontarians to receive services in French. These are the factors which led me, along with former HC Link staff Estelle Duchon, to create the webinar and accompanying resource: How to Engage Francophones- when you don’t speak French! My HC Link colleague Patrick Delorme and I have recently updated the original resource, and today we offered a webinar on the topic.
In the webinar and resource, we identify three important steps to take when engaging Francophone communities in your region (whether you speak French or not):
Clearly define your motives and purpose for engaging Francophones;
Understand the context and history of Francophone in your region, in Ontario and in Canada
Partner with organizations and networks in your region who work with Francophones
We also talked about common pitfalls and challenges in engaging Francophones, and what strategies you can use to avoid them. One excellent question from our webinar participants:
Q: How do we ensure that, when we are translating resources into French, we don’t lose the context?
A:Translation is a tricky (and also time consuming and resource intensive) process. We recommend several steps to ensure that the translated materials are high quality, useful and relevant for the Francophone community:
At the risk of listing something quite obvious, use a professional translator and avoid Google Translator at all costs!
Put together a “lexicon” of words and their translations related to the resource/program. Add to the lexicon over time and provide it to your translators.
Ask Francophone colleagues, partners and/or community members to review the translated document. Try to find Francophones from your region and from your sector who are familiar with the local/contextual vernacular.
For a longer resource, manual or a program that you are translating in French, we recommend adapting it for your Francophone audience. If possible, establish an advisory committee (again, Francophone colleagues, partners and/or community members from your region and from your sector) and work with them to identify the components of the resource/materials that need to be adapted to fit the needs and realities of the Francophones you are trying to reach. Once the materials are translated and adapted, pilot test them with the target audience and ask for feedback on them.
You can watch a recording of the webinar or view the webinar slides on our website.