Greetings from Ottawa. Bonjour d'Ottawa. Winter in Canada isn't always about escaping the cold. Skating on the Rideau Canal with a hot chocolate in hand can be just as fun. (I didn't fall once!)
As the nation's capital, Ottawa is a very bilingual city and it's a great time to start talking about an important responsibility of bilingual flight attendants: announcement translations.
Flight attendants make standard announcements every flight. For example, you might make a greeting announcement to welcome your passengers on board: “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard our flight departing for Montreal. The flight time is 2 hours. For your safety, please stow cabin baggage under the seat in front of you…” Or, after landing, a taxi-in announcement might be “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Montreal. The local time is 10:20. Please remain seated and keep your seat belt fastened until the seat belt sign has been switched off…” These standard announcements will be provided to you by your airline in English, French, and any other applicable languages, and you can simply read them. In our experience, reading French announcements is by far the easiest part about learning French for our flight attendant colleagues.
What is far more difficult for them is translating impromptu announcements. If the pilot or in-charge flight attendant makes an announcement and they don’t speak French, the airline requires the bilingual flight attendant to translate. Common impromptu announcements include weather and arrival time announcements. Less common ones include mechanical issues, weather delays, and flight diversions.
For example, the captain may announce “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard. This is your captain speaking. We’ll be departing for Montreal shortly, expecting a few bumps during initial climb. 2 hours en route to Montreal and current weather there: light snow, winds from the west and a temperature of -4 degrees. Thanks for joining us and have a pleasant flight.”
Another example: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain. Unfortunately, we have a small mechanical issue. Maintenance is on it way to take a look at it. We’ll keep you updated of the progress. Thanks for your patience.”
Another example: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain. Montreal is currently experiencing heavy snowfall and Montreal air traffic control has implemented a ground delay program, delaying our departure from Winnipeg about 30 minutes. We’ll need to wait at the gate for a bit before we push back. Thanks for your understanding."
Another example: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain. Unfortunately, the weather in Montreal has deteriorated. We’re circling near Montreal right now and looking to attempt a landing approach in about 10 minutes. If we are not able to land in Montreal, we will need to divert to Toronto. We’ll keep you updated of the situation."
As you can see, the content of these announcements can be quite diverse and it can be a daunting task to translate them. Translation is a career in itself, and it takes years to perfect this skill, to the point where one can translate all these kinds of announcements *perfectly* word-for-word. This is an unrealistic goal for those just starting to learn French to become flight attendants. It’s even difficult for our native French-speaking colleagues who have not been trained in translation, as they often have trouble translating technical aviation terms (such as “ground delay program”).
Canadian French for Flight Attendants recognizes this and will greatly simplify translations for you. We’ll teach you simpler phrases and announcements that you can use to *paraphrase* these complicated announcements so you can translate the *main idea* and the *important points* of the vast majority of announcements you’ll come across.
Let’s start here with the word for “announcement”.
Flight attendants make a lot of announcements, but the word “annonce” itself is not one that flight attendants use often with passengers. Nevertheless, it gives us a good starting point.
Want to learn to speak the French you need to work as a flight attendant? Learn even more with Canadian French for Flight Attendants.