Translation is NOT a Strategy – A Look at the New Quebec Cannabis Market

Article by Jenn Larry, High! Canada

Translation is NOT a Strategy - A Look at the New Quebec Cannabis Market

Jenn Larry is President of Montreal-based CBD Strategy Group – A Communications architecture, Brand strategy and Design thinking firm built to help cannabis businesses thrive inside the box of regulations. Over the past 18 years, Jenn has worked across several sectors including: Music, Online Gambling, Pharmaceutical, Tobacco, Payments, Technology, and Consumer Packaged Goods.

Her previous roles as VP Strategy & Operations for Precision Communications Group and Strategic Planner Digital Development with Ogilvy & Mather, have allowed her to create strategies and programs for large-scale clients within emerging, disrupted, and regulated environments. Jenn is well known for her ability to forecast trends, and leverage business intelligence to lead change across organizations. With a philosophy of “eventually, everything connects”, Jenn can be seen on multiple hemp and cannabis industry panels, as well as featured in both Canadian and U.S media, discussing how to navigate the intersection of cannabis as vice and medicine. Her passion for communications, wellness, data, and brand development are what led her to join the cannabis industry. When not working Jenn loves to be in nature, listen to music, read about science and enjoy the ride.

Making sure French language is part of your strategy is not just about following the law it is about engaging a community. French as a language requires context and consideration, and not just a simple translation.

As an Anglophone from Quebec, I have spent my 40+ years watching political and economic shifts across language, real estate, business, and government. Growing up in Montreal I feel I got lucky; I learned French as my second language. There are many reasons, which I will not list as to why learning multiple languages is of benefit, but in my case, the obvious benefit was my ability to coexist in Quebec.

Over the years, corporate tolerance and a unique Montreal based Quebec culture has allowed me to be in conversations with both my friends and colleagues where I speak in English and they speak in French. By allowing each other to communicate and think in our mother tongue, the best of us comes out.

The reality of Quebec is far different. Quebec is a province of almost 8.5 million inhabitants where over 40% can speak English and French simultaneously. This leaves 60% of the population speaking only French. Outside of the island of Montreal, most towns and neighbourhoods are still rooted in the heritage of French culture. Within Montreal, there are pockets that bring to life French Quebec, which is due in large part to the young adults and professionals who have moved to MTL from the outskirts of Quebec. While the topic of Quebec culture is a sensitive one, Quebec has been fighting to preserve their culture, as it is meaningful, relevant and important to the people and the province.

The politics of Quebec are harsh, leaving us in a place where over the last few decades, businesses have moved away to other provinces. Brands are unsure how to connect with French Canada. For the record, this article is not a political piece, and so I will not share my POV on the politics of QC (for now), I will, however, say that French is Canada’s second language, and the limited effort that has been made on a national level to make it so, is why today many industries, including Cannabis are confused about what communications to develop and how to make this all work. I am wondering if this isn’t the reason Quebec is behind in the Cannabis game? Today, I am Founder and President of CBD Strategy Group. We help brands thrive inside the box of cannabis regulations, which includes language. As a Quebecor, a strategist, a realist, a data architect and a rebel, I bring to you an article that helps support why we need think about Quebec as a strategy and not just a possible investment if the ROI is adequate.

Beyond language, the way of working in Quebec is different, from registering for contests to developing your work interfaces for bilingual staff. Bill 101 does not insist that everything has to be in French, but the other language cannot be given priority.

I know some people reading this article may feel French Canadians should learn English as English is the international business language, but in this non-political piece I am choosing to stay neutral on this point, as the purpose of this article is to establish 2 facts:



The intersection of Cannabis as both Vice and Medicine is hard enough to navigate, let’s work together to not make language and culture additional challenges.

In wanting to make this article relevant and insightful, I spoke with people in Quebec across the corporate, health, and cannabis sector to help cover the reality of how language impacts service, corporate opportunity and brand development, and asked them to share what challenges they have faced.

Corporate Opportunity

Nous avons des obstacles à surmonter lorsqu’on travail en Français au Canada. Bien que le Quebec favorise la langue Française dans le milieu du travail, il est dificile d’évoluer au meme rythme que le reste du Canada. Les délais de traductions de texte ou de materiel font que nous sommes souvent derrière. Meme si je suis parfaite bilingue ma client elle ne l’est pas toujours. Je me retrouve en attente de la traduction de l’Anglais au Français. Pendant ce temps, mes collègues residents dans une province Anglophone, on accès au materiel necessaire donc, nous voyons ces collèges avoir une longueur d’avance sur nous. – Christine

Service and Patient Care

I uncovered some of the barriers in the health Care system when I spoke with Carol, a Former Head Nurse about what the experience is like to study and work as a nurse in Quebec.

Le plus dificile était de travailler et de vivre dans un monde français, puis d’aller àl’école d’inirmières oùtous les rapports médicaux disponibles étaient en anglais. Et puis les examens étaient seulement en anglais, ce qui m’a obligé à tout traduire en français pour mieux servir ma communauté.

While today she lives a bilingual life and is grateful that she can serve patients in both languages, she did share that it would be valuable to develop more French healthcare communications to ensure professionals and patients can have access to information that empowers patient choice and optimal medical service.

Brand Development

Je me considère comme un québécois pure laine. J’aime le Québec du plus profond de mon cœur. J’ai lancé Maıẗri sous la forme d’un simple blogue francophone pour fournir du contenu éducatif de qualité aux Québécois. Depuis le premier jour, nous expérimentons une belle vague de succès. Pourquoi ? Pour moi la réponse est simple. Je parle au québécois de façon authentique. J’utilises son jargon et positionne les arguments qui les percute directement.

Les Québécois ne sont pas comme le reste du Canada. Nous sommes uniques et iers de l’être. Rejoindre le Québécois ne se fait pas qu’en traduisant un texte de l’anglais vers le français. C’est beaucoup plus. Le Québécois est constamment en quête d’authenticité et a un détecteur de bullshit aiguisé.

De l’intérieur, pour les québécois, tout est normal. C’est notre lifestyle et notre façon de penser. De l’extérieur, pour le reste du Canada, le Québec est impressionnant et souvent intimidant.

J’observe deux réactions typiques. La premie re est celle de sous-estimer le marché québécois et de le pénétrer naıv̈ ement ce qui résulte a  tout coup en un échec monumental. La deuxie me est de reconnaıt̂ re sa faiblesse et de collaborer de l’intérieur. Quoi de mieux qu’un Québécois pour comprendre son propre marché. Aujourd’hui je suis ier de dire que Hiku a su le reconnaıt̂re en collaborant avec Maıẗri.

In Summary…

If Quebec is part of a brand’s business strategy, they should make sure to plan for this from day one. While there are always barriers in business, operating in Quebec is simply one more that needs smart thinking and the right investment. Entering the market may stretch a brand’s budget, but it will also stretch their opportunity.

We need to make sure we can build a strong national cannabis education platform and industry, and it needs to be available to everyone. With the onset of new Canadians and an ever-changing landscape, language and the importance of having available language-based educational content is paramount to ensure everyone can make the right decisions around cannabis.

Merci! Thank you!

See original article here.

About High! Canada

Our content is exclusively about Cannabis as it exists in both Canada and its new place around the world. We provide news on current trends in Marijuana, reviewing pertinent products and informing the public about ongoing legalities of both medical and recreational cannabis use. Our High! Canada Magazine is printed in an easy to distribute (8.5” by 7“) full color format, monthly.

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