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French Labels and Instructions March 27, 2007

Posted by Edwin in Canada, French.
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I was having a bad cold over the weekend. While lying in my bed having nothing much to do, I decided to pick up some cold medicine bottles and started reading the French instructions.

For the non-Canadian readers, every product sold in Canada must have its instructions and packaging labels printed in at least 2 languages, English and French. For example, I have beside me this famous Chinese cold syrup ‘Nin Jiom’, which has Chinese, English, and French printed on the bottle.

I always find it a waste of space for the French labels, at least in Toronto, where not many people would read them. I am talking about wasting about half of the areas where other useful information about the products could be printed.

Ironically, it was the French labels that triggered my desire to pick up French again. One day last June, I was thinking to myself , “Wouldn’t it be fun to learn French by reading French labels and instructions?” Obviously, this is not enough. I also need other learning activities. But back then, I thought it was a cool idea to begin with.

There are at least 3 good things to expand your French vocabulary this way:

  1. They usually come with the products for free
  2. Their English translations are right beside them
  3. The range of vocabulary is as wide as the variety of the products

I remember one funny story related to the French labels. My mother came to visit me from aboard a while ago. She needed to get some over-the-counter medicine from the pharmacy. She picked up one product and tried to read the small-printed English description, and she did not bring her glasses. It took her a few minutes to figure out why she couldn’t understand the description. She was reading the French one!

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