There are around 220 million French speakers worldwide, including 80 million native speakers. French is the second most spoken language in Europe, after German and before English, and is predicted to become number one by 2025 due to the country’s high birth rate. It is thought it will reach 700 million by 2050, mostly in Africa.
It’s an official language in 29 countries, including, Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Congo, Mali, Senegal, Vietnam & Cambodia and it is spoken on every continent.
France is the most visited country in the world with 75 million tourists every year.
- Europe’s highest mountain is in the French Alps – Mont Blanc, at 4,810m. It takes an arduous 10 to 12 hours to climb to the summit, depending on your fitness level of course!
- The world’s first artificial heart transplant and face transplant both took place in France. The face transplant in 2005 and the heart transplant in December 2013.
- About 45% of modern English words are of French origin.
- French has six vowels instead of English having five. These are a, e, i, o, u and y.
- When giving an email or website address, the conventions are:
- . = point (instead of saying ‘dot’)
- @ = arobase (instead of saying ‘at’)
France is the world’s fifth largest economy and the second largest consumer market in Europe. It has a large, open and diversified market and because it is within easy reach of the UK, it offers opportunities to sell UK products and services across all sectors.
It has a similar market to the UK with similar business risks and requirements and if your product or service is successful in the UK, there’s a good chance you’ll be successful in France. However, French businesses can be wary of buying outside France and therefore UK companies need to reassure customers and clients about quality, price and reliability.
Research suggests that some of the top industries importing into France are machines, engines and pumps, oil, vehicles, electronic equipment, aircraft, spacecraft, plastics, pharmaceuticals, medical, technical equipment, organic chemicals and clothing.
If you do not have a high level of fluency in business French, you may wish to use local representation. Work with local English speaking consultants to avoid costly mistakes and ensure you start out in the way that is best suited to your sector of activity. It is common for customers in France to require credit terms to buy your products and services so it is advisable for payment conditions to be factored into your prices.
In France it is vital to ensure you make appointments for both business and social occasions. It is not acceptable in France to ‘drop in’ on someone unannounced and such conduct will be taken as an act of rudeness, whatever the occasion. While you should strive to be punctual, you will not be considered to be late, should you arrive ten minutes after the scheduled time.
Gift-giving among business associates is not common practice in France. To express appreciation to a French business contact, it may be better to host a special event or dinner than to give a business gift.
For business attire, as you would expect from the nation that created ‘haute couture’, a premium is put on style. Generally, dress tends to be on the formal side for both men and women, whether in business or social situations. As the French will perceive the way you dress as being a reflection of your social status and relative success, do your best to make clothing choices that are tasteful and stylish.
Business tip: Formality is highly regarded in France. You should always address your superiors and those you meet for the first time using ‘Monsieur’ or ‘Madame’. Many people from outside France find it difficult to get used to this level of formality. However, in order to make a great first impression in France, a high level of politeness is critical.
Here are some basic greetings and phrases to familiarise yourself with:
|Hello||Bonjour / Salut (more informal)|
|Thank you||Merci / merci beaucoup (thank you very much)|
|Nice to meet you||Enchanté|
French has been one of our most commonly requested languages for translation, both into and out of French. We have worked with many different clients in many different sectors. Most recently, these include clients in the health & wellbeing sector, automotive industry, engineering sector, recycling & waste industry, publishing and the agricultural industry. We have translated content ranging from websites to product manuals, technical specifications to newsletters, management books to white papers.