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Résumés: Up Close and Personal

Barbara McClintock
(Terminology Update, Volume 35, Number 4, 2002, page 20)

Résumés have to be compact. Written in point form, they offer little in the way of context. At the same time, a huge quantity of information is squeezed in, sometimes dating back several years, such as business and organization names, designations and position titles. Significant research may be required to translate a résumé, but the fact that a résumé is such an up-close-and-personal look at someone makes it rather interesting, unless it’s your own! The objective of this article is to discuss certain types of French proper nouns commonly found in a résumé.

Employment history

Résumés usually contain an "Employment History" or "Experience" section listing the names of employers and positions held. Should I translate Ltée as Ltd.? The answer depends on the official name on the letterhead or charter of incorporation of the business or organization. Before the advent of the Internet, it was much more time-consuming to find the names of organizations. In fact, it was necessary to consult numerous reference books and annual reports in specialized libraries. Now, with a click of your mouse, you can access the Web site for the Inspector General of Financial Institutions of Quebec at igif@gouv.qc.ca and its CIDREQ1 database of companies registered in that province. The only drawback is that all the company names in French and English are written in upper-case! Another good source for company names is the System for Electronic Document Analysis and Retrieval (SEDAR) database of public companies listed on stock exchanges in Canada at www.sedar.com, which provides, among other things, accurate information in English and French on corporate operations and position titles of senior executives.

Designations and memberships

Finding designations can be tricky. For instance, possible designations in the accounting profession include CA, FCA, CPA (U.S.), CGA and CMA (formerly RIA). In addition, the names of associations that confer designations change quite frequently: OTTIAQ is a case in point! However, if an association has no official English name, it may be the Quebec chapter of a Canadian or American association, in which case you can use that name, adding the division or chapter name (the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, Quebec Division). If not, you may want to provide a generic description to help the reader understand. Either put it in parentheses and in lower case following the official French name, e.g. Association de la planification fiscale et financière (association of tax and financial planners) or give the English equivalent followed by the French acronym in parentheses, e.g. association of tax and financial planners (APFF). If the prospective client or employer doesn’t understand French, unofficial translations will considerably improve the candidate’s chances of getting the job or the contract.

Education: diplomas and universities

As a rule of thumb for Quebec universities only, when they are named after a city, write the name with "of" in English: "University of Montreal," rather than "Montreal University" for "Université de Montréal." However, you do not need "of" when the university is named after somebody or something other than a city, e.g. Université Laval/Laval University. When a university has more than one site, consider calling it a campus, e.g. Macdonald Campus of McGill University. L’École des Hautes Études Commerciales de Montréal does not seem to have a recognized translation and, as a matter of fact, it recently changed its name to HEC Montréal. For English-speaking readers outside Quebec, you could provide a description, such as HEC Montréal (business school), or something to that effect.

It should be noted that French writers frequently translate the names of English universities. See André Racicot’s "Traduire le monde" column that discusses the translation of the names of English universities into French.2

With regard to diplomas, there are not always exact equivalents because they differ from one institution to another, just as the courses and programs do. In the case of Quebec lawyers, the closest English equivalents for Baccalauréat en droit are Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) or Bachelor of Law (L.L.B.).3

As for accountants, Bachelor of Commerce (BComm at Concordia, or B.Com at some other universities) is sometimes used by accounting firms as the closest English equivalent of Baccalauréat en administration des affaires (BAA).

Don’t forget to check university Web sites to see if there are official English designations. Finally, if you can’t find the appropriate terms, Concordia University’s on-line Translation Services Lexicon is helpful for education terms, such as diploma names and designations, at www.phantom.concordia.ca/translation.

Proper nouns

Based on an informal survey of the résumés posted on the Web sites of various Quebec law firms, it seems that some translate French official names, as in "member of the Quebec Bar," or "MA, Taxation, University of Sherbrooke," while others prefer to keep official names in French.

A résumé is a type of sales document for advertising a person’s skills and services. Companies need them to support tenders and other types of proposals and individuals need them when job hunting. So it is up to you to choose your preferred style. To guide your decision about whether or not to translate French proper names, remember to ask yourself "Who is the reader?"

(Special thanks to Victor Trahan and Sylvia McVicar for their help.)

Notes

  • Back to the note1 Registre des entreprises individuelles, des sociétés et des personnes morales (CIDREQ).
  • Back to the note2 André Racicot, "Les noms d’universités," Terminology Update, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2001, p. 30.
  • Back to the note3 Termium®.