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ARCHIVED - Archived - Chapter 4-5 - Producing Texts in Both Official Languages

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Policy objective

To ensure that federal institutions follow sound management principles in producing texts in both official languages, including translation.

Policy statement

When a text has to be produced in both official languages, federal institutions must choose the most efficient and effective means for its production, taking into account the topic and the audience for which each version is intended.

Institutions must also ensure that the English and French versions of the text are of the same quality, based on the end use of the document.


This policy applies to all departments and organizations listed in Schedules I and II of the Financial Administration Act. Crown corporations and other organizations subject to the Official Languages Act are encouraged to adapt it to their particular situations.

Policy requirements

1. Each federal institution must adopt a policy on producing texts in both official languages, including translation.

2. This policy must include:

  • measures that will ensure, before production starts, that the text is really required in both official languages pursuant to the institution's statutory requirements and to the policies on service to the public or language of work;
  • cost-control measures that will prevent unnecessary translations; and
  • measures that ensure the quality of the texts in each language is comparable.


The Treasury Board Secretariat will ensure that this policy is implemented through:

  • monitoring by either the institution, the Official Languages and Employment Equity Branch, or both;
  • agreements on official languages with the Treasury Board, including annual management reports;
  • follow-up of the reports and special studies done by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.


Parts IV and V of the Official Languages Act

Treasury Board Manual, Official Languages volume, Part 1: Service to the Public; and Part 2: Language of Work

Treasury Board Manual, Materiel, Services and Risk Management volume, Part II, chapter 1 -- Common Services, Appendix A


Please direct enquiries to the person responsible for official languages in your institution. This person may then address policy interpretation questions to the:

Official Languages and
Employment Equity Branch
Treasury Board Secretariat

Appendix A - Guidelines on Producing Texts in Both Official Languages

These guidelines provide federal institutions with some suggestions and examples that may help them in developing their policy on producing texts in both official languages.

Different methods of production

1. The different methods for producing a text in both official languages are: parallel drafting, production of short texts in both languages within the work unit, purchasing the document in both languages, and translation.

Parallel drafting

1.1 Two writers are assigned the task of writing the text, each in his first official language. Each one is responsible for his own version but the writers must "compare notes" and ensure that the message is the same in both languages. The give-and-take from one language to the other usually results in better quality. This type of production is appropriate for texts in which great accuracy in each language is required, e.g., policy papers, information documents for the general public, etc.

Production of short texts within the work unit in bilingual regions

1.2 The drafting of the text in both official languages is assigned to a person who must work in the two languages, although it may mean a colleague or the editing services of the institution will have to revise the text. This method is very effective and appropriate for general administrative texts that are relatively short, and when it is important that the message is to be conveyed in a style and a terminology specific to the work environment.

Managers should ensure that the writing of bilingual texts is distributed fairly among the staff in order to avoid always having the same persons assume this responsibility.

Purchasing the document in both languages

1.3 This should especially be considered in the following two types of situations:

  • information or advertising campaigns contracted out to an agency that specializes in communications, including communications written in both official languages: the language must be adapted to suit the public targeted for the message (see parallel drafting if such campaigns are done with internal resources);
  • operational manuals required at the same time as the corresponding material or equipment: it may be more appropriate to buy these documents in both languages when issues of copyright or warranties or liability related to the use of the material or equipment are involved, since the manufacturer can then authorize both versions at the same time. Another advantage is that this type of documentation often requires updating, and at times frequent and extensive amendments. This method thus ensures that both versions are always completely up-to-date. This method may also allow for negotiating the best contractual terms for the production of the text in both languages.


1.4 This is often the most efficient and effective method for producing the two linguistic versions of a document, for example, in the case of a long or specialized text.

Measures for managing translation requests

2. The following examples illustrate the types of measures that would meet the policy requirements for managing translation requests. These consist of measures that would be part of the institution's internal audit criteria and would:

  • prevent unnecessary translations, such as: multiple translations of the same text (e.g., text originating from a central agency); translations that already exist (e.g., catalogues of commercial equipment); translating too soon or lack of planning (text later changed completely or finally not used in both versions), etc.;
  • encourage, through the assignment of tasks in bilingual regions, that texts are required in only one language are written directly in that language (e.g., correspondence);
  • establish translation priorities and appropriate levels of authorization to ensure efficient management of translation requests and to control expenses;
  • include time for translation in work schedule.

Measures concerning the quality of the text

3. The federal institution's policy should contain a quality control mechanism by which texts such as those destined for ministers or for publication are subject to a careful review. A number of institutions already have editorial services. Managers can use these services to ensure that quality of texts produced in both official languages is comparable.

Institutions should also conduct periodic reviews of the quality of a certain number of texts produced in both official languages, including those produced through translation, and ensure that the users are satisfied with the quality of these texts.