Legal Language Requirements

Dynamic Language | August 26, 2015

Translating a product has obvious benefits: reaching a greater audience, increasing revenue, and creating a global brand. However, in order to sell your product in some countries, you must comply with legal requirements on how your product must be translated or localized.

French flagFrance: Toubon Law

In 1994, France passed this language requirement which mandates that all official government publications, advertisements, commercial contracts, instruction manuals, and software User Interfaces be written in French. France notoriously regulates the French language through the Académie française, which attempts to eradicate anglocisms such as “le weekend” and “le e-mail”.

While it may seem obvious and trivial to translate a product into French for the French market, many companies and organizations have been heavily penalized for failing to do so. In 2006, GE Medical Systems was fined €500,000 for failure to comply with the Toubon law, as e-mails, instruction manuals, and company documents were circulated in English rather than French. Disney, The Body Shop, and Georgia Tech have also been cited and brought to court under the Toubon Law, but all cases were dismissed on procedural issues, or that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue. In either case, the Toubon Law is one to take very seriously when considering expanding into France.

Canadian flagCanada: Charter of the French Language

Ever wonder why shampoo bottles have descriptions in French and English? For American consumers, Spanish seems like the more obvious choice as a second language, as the US is home to many Spanish-speakers. The reason can be found in Canada’s Charter of the French Language, a Québec language law that establishes the rights of consumers to be served and informed in French. As most cosmetics companies ship to the US and Canada using the same supply chain, labels therefore must appear in French and English. 

This legislation has been very controversial in Canada and abroad. A large number of anglophone Canadians have migrated into Québec, and are resistant towards making most of the services and products available there French-only. However, pro-French groups are gaining more and more political sway. Fortunately, this law is slightly less stringent than the Toubon — fines range from $600 to $2,000. However, the penalties may be doubled for repeated offenses, and people and businesses may be brought to court. The full text of the Charter can be found (in English) here.

Chinese flagChina: GB18030

Although some products may be fine to ship in English, China has specific requirements for any software products to be sold in China. They must support the national standard for simplified and traditional Chinese characters, including more than 6,000 of the most commonly used ideographs. This law was first instituted in 2000, but was updated in 2006.

Typing in Chinese is very complicated due to the intricacies and uniqueness of the characters. Usually, multiple keys must be typed in a particular sequence in order to achieve a single character. Therefore, standardizing software based on Unicode formats can help keep typing consistent in all programs. 


At Dynamic Language, quality is very important to us. With over 25 years of translation experience, Dynamic Language project managers will work with you to make sure your products are meeting standards. 


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