Country Spotlight: CANADA [Terpii Travels]

Hi there everyone! This month I hopped on up home to the USA and then decided to visit a country that’s as close to home as Mexico but quite different!

This month I decided to check out Canada! Canada can be added to the list of countries that I’ve traveled to that have more than one official language. Canada has two: English and French!

Canadian flag

 Photo: Alex Indigo

Did you know Canada is the second largest country in the world after Russia? Regardless of its size, it has the fourth lowest population density in the world and half of Canadians were born in other countries.

With six times zones, the second largest French speaking city in the world after Paris and the second coldest capital in the world which is Ottowa, Canada is a cool place to be.

I’d worked with companies entering the Canadian market before who needed French or English translations. In 1969, Canada declared French and English the two national languages. Therefore, all product packaging in Canada must contain both French and English instructions, ingredients, etc. in the same font size.

If you are selling something in Quebec, there are additional French language labeling rules as well. If you need to sell something in Canada, and require translation assistance, let me know!

Anyway, I decided to hop north of my East Coast home in the United States to Quebec and work my way west from there.

Old Quebec city streets covered in snow

Photo: Erik Jackson

I knew I had arrived in Quebec once I crossed the border because all the signs were in French. The farther north I hopped I realized there were less cities and more indigenous languages spoken.

Most of Canada sprawls far north, offering cold climates and spectacular natural scenery. I decided to stop and look around in Quebec City, a UNESCO world heritage site and the only city north of Mexico enclosed by a fortress wall.

Outside of an automotive office building I saw three business people trying to communicate about automotive exports and imports in Quebec.

One woman spoke English from the United States, one man was from Japan and another woman was from Canada, speaking English with a French accent.

I dove in to help them better communicate the finishing touches on a contract they were discussing. Afterward the French businesswoman thanked me for my help.

“You may not have known until just now but automotives are Canada’s largest export. We also import a great deal too. Much of what we do here is build automobiles for United States or Japanese brands.” I loved being able to help while learning something too!

Toronto, Canada skyline

Photo: Duncan Rawlinson

Continuing on my journey through Canada, I learned two other important facts. Canada has a great deal of oil and a lot of forest, 10% of the world’s forest in fact.

Some of the National Parks are even bigger than smaller countries. They also have the longest coastline in the world and the most northern human settlement in the world.

Parts of northern Canada get as cold as Mars, about -80F. But, I must admit, I wasn’t too excited to visit that part of Canada on this trip!

So I hopped on over to Vancouver to check out the diversity in one of North America’s most beautiful cities. I was definitely going to put my translation abilities to the test there!

Canada northern lights

Photo: Studiolit

Vancouver lived up to all my expectations and more. I was tempted to hop an hour north along the coast to go skiing but instantly became struck by the fact that after English, the most commonly spoken language I heard was Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese).

Then I heard a mix of Punjabi, German, Italian, Tagalog, Spanish and French. On the road to Vancouver I had heard some Russian as well. But Chinese? That really surprised me! I decided to ask around.

Vancouver, Canada, British Columbia

Photo: Gord McKenna

I saw two young Chinese girls speaking in Mandarin with a sales clerk at an upscale clothing store. I decided to pop in. “Excuse me!” I chimed in in Mandarin, “Can I ask you a question?”

The two girls smiled, and nodded yes. “How long have you been living in Vancouver?” They looked at each other and started counting back to when they arrived. “Five…almost six years?” they responded happily.

“Our fathers are businessmen in China but they sent us to school here. We love it!” they laughed happily.

Once they walked away the shop owner smiled and replied to me in Mandarin, “Unfortunately there are lots of people here with overseas money that are driving up the property values.

Did you know a run down house here can cost over $1 million? There are even reality shows about the young rich Chinese youth in Vancouver that come to buy property or Ferraris.

However, my family has been in Canada for generations. If you want, we can also speak in English or French. My family started doing business in Vancouver, as did many Chinese, over a century ago.

We were in the fur trading business. As the years passed many people immigrated or at least kept close ties with family in Canada for business reasons.” I thanked the kind shop owner and went on my way.

Canada fashion

Photo: Mathieu Lebreton

Canada has been nothing short of amazing! As I head north, I think I may skip over to a continent pretty close by that is also largely arctic. Until then, my friends!


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