It’s all right; you’re not imagining that half of the content is available in only one language, or that phrases like notre team are considered 100% acceptable to us. It’s something we’ve made a conscious decision to do, and it’s called mixed bilingualism.
Mixed bilingualism is a method of mixing two different languages in the same space. In a nut shell, you use every opportunity you have to incorporate both languages, and in our case, those are French and English.
That’s where we get page headings like about nous and dans les news. That’s also where we get the occasional page that’s only available in one language, or pages that alternate languages. It’s a way of integrating both languages into the same space, which we feel is important.
And here are a few of our reasons why.
It saves us a ton of work.
We’re a volunteer organization, and we don’t always have a ton of financial or time resources. And, I might add, the Communications team is already carrying more than an equal share of their weight in the FTOÉ context; a ton of what we do is communication and it’s not a huge team. So instead of having our Comms team update two separate and complete websites, we’ve merged them into one, pretty much cutting the web volunteers’ workload in half.
It keeps our volunteers passionate.
I’m about to get real with you: there was a point when every time a Francophone volunteer joined FTOÉ, they would get saddled with translation, because we needed so much of it done. Often, these volunteers would get fed up and go somewhere else where they felt their work was more interesting and valued. It’s a huge shame, because we have so many passionate, brilliantly creative volunteers that want to create original content and get excited about a really tangible contribution that they’ve made. So instead of making our Communications team use almost half of its time doing translation, we’ve decided to create a space where Francophones can create amazing original content in French and have it stay in French, so that they love their work with FTOÉ and stay in the family for longer.
It saves us a ton of space.
In a perfect world, there would be no logistical problems with just putting 100% of the content in both languages, all the time. In reality, there are space limitations, particularly in places like navigation menus! Mixed bilingualism allows us to put everything in a fairly small space and cater to both of our major linguistic audiences. Because, really—how many people don’t at least have a good enough understanding of the other official language to make it through the navigation?
It shows solidarity with our Francophone following.
In many ways, Francophones are still not accommodated in a ton of places, and have to find their own ways to deal with web content. Often, that means keeping translation software handy. The reality is that most Anglophones aren’t used to having to translate content to understand it. We feel that putting the onus on Anglophones once in a while could be a little inconvenient for them, but it also shows solidarity with our Francophone readers. Especially since FTOÉ has not always been a leader in bilingualism—even though we represent a massively bilingual region—we felt that this was a reasonable step to demonstrate that we do, indeed, value our Francophone following and feel grateful for the extra efforts they have often had to put into browsing FTOÉ materials.
So if you were a little confused, we hope this clears it up. We do thank you for your patience during our transition, which wasn’t always the smoothest, and look forward to hearing what you think of the new website!