Concerned with a perceived increase in inspections, and a budget boost to the province’s language police, two advertising professionals have launched the Office québécois de la langue anglaise (OQDLLA).
But rather than taking a snarky swipe at the oft-despised language watchdog, George Zikos and co-founder Rich Hammond say they want to help companies ensure both their French and English communications are grammatically correct and that they comply with the province’s French-language charter.
“It really stresses people out when the language police come in and look at everything,” Zikos told the Montreal Gazette. “We check both the English and the French to make sure that everything complies with the law.”
Zikos and Hammond got the idea to start the organization as a response to recent headlines of the language police targeting businesses likeKitchen 73 in Rivière des Prairies andDeli 365 in the Mile End. The OQDLLA will offer proofreading help to small companies, ensure press releases are written properly, and examine the signs in a store or restaurant. Zikos and Hammond work with designers, art directors and copywriters both in English and French, so they can help businesses navigate both languages.
“We want to help the small mom and pop shops feel like if they have a question, they can go somewhere,” Zikos said.
Zikos also writes scripts, so he is offering his services to help both restaurant owners and language watchdogs have more cordial conversations together.
“I think people might need some guidance on how to be a little nicer,” Zikos said. “They might leave with a smile, instead of a bad taste in their mouths.”
Zikos, who works as a freelance marketing copywriter and creative director, said he’s also hoping to help Quebec-based companies who want to sell to international markets.
“We know there are 70 million Americans within an eight-hour drive, and another 10 million just across the border in Ontario,” he said. “We want to make Quebec is as successful as possible: so do your stuff, speak to them properly. Let’s get going.”
The OQDLLA has no connection to a similarly-named organization started by businessman Gary Shapiro. That English-language rights group shut down in 2017.
A spokesperson for the OQLF was not immediately available to comment on Friday.