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Bilingualism pays off for Ottawa businesses

Open sign
Open sign

One of the region’s leading business organizations is helping local retailers and service providers speak to a new pool of customers in the National Capital Region.

Ottawa-based Regroupement des gens d’affaires de la Capitale nationale (RGA) offers services through the Bilingualism: c’est payant! program that includes low-cost translations, oral communication workshops geared towards customer service representatives as well as support recruiting bilingual staff.

Lisa Pai, the owner of L.A. Pai Art & Jewelry Gallery in the ByWard Market, is one of the local business owners who’s used the program to connect with Francophone customers, artisans and other partners by translating her business’ website and publications.

With her gallery located minutes away from the Alexandra Bridge connecting Ontario and Quebec, Pai says offering services in both official languages was always something she knew was important, but would frequently fall to the wayside amidst the daily routines of running a business.


“Situated here in Canada’s capital, I’m so aware that the gallery should be fully bilingual and I do my best to hire staff who speak French,” she says. “But speech is one thing and the written word is another, so for me translation became fundamentally important.”

Working closely with the team at RGA – a Francophone and Francophile business development group spearheading the bilingualism program with Heritage Canada – Pai was able to create a bilingual version of the gallery’s website, which users can navigate to from the homepage, as well as produce translated copies of various artist catalogues.

She is also exploring how to implement the services on her social media platforms to better engage with potential clients and business partners online.

“I could never undertake all of that translation work myself, so I welcomed the support from RGA,” says Pai. “They make it incredibly easy, and it’s helping me open the gallery up to the market in a different way.”

The case for bilingual business

Making translation accessible

Bilingualism: c’est payant! has helped businesses in the capital translate their websites, menus and logos since 2004.

The program offers various tools to help organizations, such as Pai’s, get better acquainted with French language and culture, including graphic design assistance, translation services and language workshops.

Businesses that operate in both official languages have access to a much wider customer base, which translates into more sales for the business, says RGA director general Lise Sarazin.

“Making a small effort to communicate with customers in their language makes them feel welcome and builds loyalty with your brand,” she says. “You also open up your business to French-speaking travellers and residents, which can be a real boost to sales.”

One of the program’s goals is to make bilingualism more accessible to local shops.

Translation services can often be expensive, which is why business owners may shy away from pursuing the service.

RGA’s program is supported through various government grants, which allows them to offer discounts of more than 50 per cent off market rates, making bilingualism more attainable for entrepreneurs.

Bilingualism: c’est payant! also provides clients with a lexicon to assist them in communicating with customers, as well as promotes their business on a list of bilingual Ontario organizations.

“Our tools truly help businesses collaborate better,” adds Sarazin. “Whether you’re a small restaurant looking to translate a menu or a large corporation exporting to other countries, having bilingual services will make your business better.”

Add bilingual services to your business

Visit the Bilingualism: c’est payant! website for a full list of RGA’s services, a list of bilingual businesses in your area, as well as a translation price estimator that can provide your company a quote for its specific needs.

“Bilingualism = a more talent rich, economically prosperous and globally progressive city.” – Lise Sarazin, director general at RGA.