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Bilingual businesses make their mark on Ottawa’s economy

Byward Market
Byward Market

As a bilingual city, businesses in Canada’s capital have a unique opportunity to broaden their customer base by offering their services in both official languages.

While many would like to access new revenue streams and create stronger customer relationships with bilingual clients, translating websites, brochures and social media materials can be a pricey and challenging undertaking. 

To help businesses communicate in French, RGA – in partnership with Heritage Canada – is offering its services through the Bilingualism: c’est payant! program, a government-funded initiative geared towards making bilingualism more accessible. 

The program helps business owners incorporate both languages into their organization by offering French workshops, a daily phrases lexicon and translation services at a 50 per cent discount. By helping business owners increase their customer base, the program is also making Ottawa’s business community a more inclusive place for both residents and tourists visiting the national capital region.

‘Business doesn’t have a language’

With Statistics Canada reporting nearly 500,000 Ottawa-Gatineau residents are fluent in both French and English, bilingualism is a source of strength for the city’s economy and a tool that any business or entrepreneur should be utilizing, says Bernadette Sarazin, owner of project management firm Brio Stratégies and chair of RGA’s board of directors. 

As a business owner herself, Sarazin has prioritized communicating with staff and customers in their preferred language, which helps a business stand out.

“Everyone is looking for ways to make their business stronger, especially during the pandemic,” she says. “We need to leverage every asset we have, and one of those is language.” 


Working with other French business organizations and the provincial government, Sarazin is helping fellow entrepreneurs and business owners recognize how bilingualism can be a strength for their business by advocating for better integration of French services through programs such as Bilingualism: c’est payant! 

“Business doesn’t have a language,” she says. “As an entrepreneur you need to relate to your clients and create that trust, and that can start with understanding their culture and where they come from.”

For 17 years, Bilingualism: c’est payant! has helped companies in all sectors integrate French into their business, creating opportunities for business owners to grow their customer base by providing a more inclusive experience. 

Local companies have used the translation program to transform their websites, menus and publications as well as learn more about French culture in the capital. 

To keep up with the growing shift towards online business, Bilingualism: c’est payant! also offers one hour of graphic design service to translate logos and marketing materials, as well as public recognition on RGA’s online list of bilingual businesses in the capital.

“A big part of running a successful company is looking at our differences as assets instead of as barriers,” says Sarazin. “Having bilingual elements in your business communicates that your company is open to all customers, and it’s a simple first step towards being even more inclusive.”

Is your company looking to take the first step towards bilingualism? Visit to find out how Bilingualism: c’est payant! can help your business grow in 2021 by getting a direct quote for translation services.

No better time to make your business bilingual

March not only marks the beginning of spring in Ottawa, but also a time to celebrate French language and culture with Francophonie month. 

From March 1-31, residents are invited to check out various online French programming happening across Canada to celebrate the country’s diversity and history.


As part of the celebrations, RGA and the City of Ottawa are reminding businesses of the importance of bilingualism to the local economy and the impact the Bilingualism: c’est payant! program can have on a company’s ability to reach new customers.
“The French-speaking community is an important market in the region with a really large consumer profile,” says Joëlle Drouin, director of marketing at Mouvement d’implication francophone d’Orléans (MIFO), and a member of RGA’s board of directors.

Working closely with French businesses in Ottawa, Drouin says there is a growing importance for companies to add bilingualism to their business goals, and there is no better time to make that jump.

“Francophonie month is a great opportunity for the English community to learn a bit more about French culture, but also for the Francophone community to engage others and integrate them into the celebration,” she says. “It’s really important to open up our culture to other people who don’t speak French and help them on the journey towards bilingualism.”

To wrap up celebrations in Ottawa, RGA is hosting a Mayor’s lunch on March 31 at 11:30. Guests will hear from Mayor Jim Watson as well as MP Mona Fortier on the importance of the French community for Ottawa’s economic development and prosperity. Register today: