Looking for opportunities to further your career? Candidates and employees with hands-on business French knowledge have a competitive edge in the global marketplace. (Not to mention, speaking more than one language often translates to higher pay.) French is one of the most widely recognized languages for doing business worldwide, and this article will help you build the foundation you need.
Why learn business French today?
Good communication skills are essential at work, but being able to communicate effectively in business French will make you stand out among your peers and colleagues. Whether you’re looking to grow at your current company, seeking employment abroad, or branching out with French professionally, you’ll need a solid understanding of business French in order to shine. Not only that, more companies than ever are now conducting business remotely, and business French is the first step to becoming a part of the growing online workforce.
In short, no matter your career goals, business French will help you reach them!
And you’ll be in good company. There are over 80 million native French speakers spread across the world. This makes French one of the most frequently used languages for all kinds of communication — but especially for doing business.
France, Canada, Belgium, and Switzerland along with 25 other countries, including some of the most influential countries in the business world, have French as an official language. French is recognized as an official language in Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Cameroon, Mali, the Ivory Coast, and many more nations on the African continent.
Besides being the official language of many countries, French is also accepted as an official language by several global organizations including the United Nations, the European Union, NATO and the World Trade Organization. Hence, learning business French is one of the higher rated attributes that you can have when you present yourself as an asset to these types of organizations.
Remember, people with business French skills are also generally paid better than those who do not know business French but have similar academic and vocational skills. The demand for talented employees with efficient business French knowledge is growing rapidly in the professional world.
How is business French different than the French you know?
Generic French and business French are different in many aspects. Keep this in mind as you begin with business French lessons.
When used in business settings, French has many differences from day-to-day French, including jargon, customs, and complex business terminology. Of course, both have vocabulary and grammar in common, but there are several differences, from tone to sentence formation and beyond.
Watch the video below for some handy expressions to use in your everyday business French situations:
When is speaking business French useful?
Speaking business French will help you navigate formal professional situations in the French language. If you aim to work in French-speaking parts of the world or in a French-speaking organization, having an in-depth understanding of the language is crucial. But you can also prove an asset for companies that simply do (or want to do) business with French-speaking organizations and countries.
And that’s not all. Say you want to help a company expand their marketing to grow their French customer base. Or, your organization wants to improve customer service for French-speaking clients. You see, business French comes in handy not just with colleagues and bosses, but in making your organization more inclusive to clients, users, and customers.
Looking to the future, companies globally will have to develop a French communication culture in their organization, even if their primary language is different. Having sound knowledge of business French in this environment will make you valuable to employers.
We’ve mentioned a few times that speaking business French can mean higher pay. Some sectors where French speakers do better pay-wise are politics, diplomacy, and law as well as teaching (not just languages) and translation services.
Moreover, when you learn business French, you add important skills beyond speaking such as letter writing, interviewing, and speaking on the phone in French.
10 Awesome Steps to Flawless Business French
Now that you know how important learning business French is, here are our best tips for doing it right:
1. Get an online subscription to Les Echos.
One of the most read French dailies, Les Echos covers the most important business and economic news. Read one article a day of this French business newspaper, and you’ll get acquainted with a ton of business words and develop your vocabulary.
2. Tune in to le Journal de l’Économie on France24.com.
Le Journal de l’Économie is a daily video broadcast on France 24 that offers key insights into the international economic and business world. Get caught up in the rhythm and sound of the words, even if you don’t understand everything at first. Try to find the meaning of words you don’t know, adding new ones each day.
3. Target five new words a day.
To make the above two tips more effective, keep the number of new words limited to five only. This will allow you enough time to review what you learned the day before and memorize the words effectively.
4. Make Wikipedia your friend.
Read a business article on Wikipedia in French, and then glance at the English page. Finally, read the French entry again to solidify your understanding. By comparing the two, you will learn how sentences are formed differently in French. This practical exposure will really expand your sentence-building skills in business French.
5. Make it a habit to read out loud.
Always make sure that you read French texts out loud. This will help you remember what you learned and give you an upper hand in terms of pronunciation and tone. You can choose a short article from any French business magazine or newspaper to read out loud every day, or start working your way through a business book in French. Check out our recommendations below:
- Screw Business as Usual by Richard Branson (Le business sera humaniste ou ne sera pas)
- Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (Réfléchissez et devenez riche)
- Competing for the Future by Gary Hamel (La conquête du futur)
- Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson (Qui a piqué mon fromage ?)
- The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge (La cinquième discipline)
6. Prepare your French CV.
A great way to learn practical business French fast and build your professional portfolio at the same time is to create your CV in the French language. This will offer you an opportunity to get acquainted with the formal terminology of the French CV as well as how to talk about your profession and accomplishments in French.
Extra practice: Write a cover letter to your dream organization in French. Have it reviewed by a native French speaker or your French tutor.
7. Read business magazines in French.
Find business magazines and journals that are available in both French and English. Your local library or university language department can be a great resource for current copies. Read the French and English copies simultaneously. It will give you a better overall understanding of what you have read and learned.
8. Draft your elevator pitch in French.
An elevator pitch is an easy-to-understand description of your job or company in just a few sentences. It should describe your company’s mission clearly in a short amount of time. (Imagine that someone on an elevator asks you what you do for a living. You don’t have a long time to respond!)
Master this simple introduction, and you’ll be able to speak about your job naturally in French. This gives you an opportunity to learn relevant terms and practice your professional French conversation.
9. Follow French leaders and influencers.
There are endless platforms where reputed French leaders and influencers offer great language insight. Some notable Twitter accounts you must follow include Philippe Béchade, Julia Cagé, Jean-Claude Balès, Alain Rousset, and Stéphane Fort.
10. Practice all the time!
Finally, you need to practice as much as you can to ensure fluency in business French! Use the tips we listed or other favorite methods to get yourself reading, writing, and speaking in French. For even more practice opportunities and to get valuable feedback, connect with our French tutors.
Bonus: Your Business French Pocket Dictionary!
No matter your field, our compilation below of the most useful business French words will get you familiar with French professional culture and vocabulary. Study these, and most importantly, incorporate them into your speaking and writing. You’ll be a business French pro in no time!
Business French — Verbs
Business French Verbs
|to make an appointment||prendre rendez-vous|
|to bid for a contract||répondre à un appel d'offres|
|to relocate||délocaliser (for organizations)
muter (for people)
|to set up a business||créer une entreprise|
|to go bankrupt||faire faillite|
Business French — Company Organization
Business French Company Organization
|joint-stock company||une société par actions|
|nonprofit organization||une organisation à but non lucratif|
|limited-liability company||une société à responsabilité limitée|
|multinational company||une multinationale|
|small and medium-sized business (SMB)||une petite et moyenne entreprise (PME)|
|parent company||une maison mère, une société mère|
|head office||le siège social|
|branch||une succursale, une filiale|
|management team, executive team||le comité de direction (CODIR)|
|legal department||le service du contentieux, le service juridique|
|sales department||le service vente|
|accounting department||le service comptabilité/la compta (informal)|
|human resources department (HR)||le service des ressources humaines (le service RH)|
|marketing department||le service marketing|
Busines French — Adjectives
Business French Adjectives
|fashionable, trendy||à la mode|
Business French — People
Business French People
|businesswoman||la femme d’affaires|
|staff, employees||le personnel|
|managing director||le directeur général|
|chief executive officer (CEO)||le président-directeur général (PDG)|
Business French — Things
Business French Places and Things
|business trip||le voyage d'affaires|
|tax||l’impôt, la taxe|
|management||la direction, la gestion, la gérance|
|lease, rental contract||le bail|
|business lunch||le déjeuner d’affaires|
|market research||l’étude de marché|
|fees||les frais (additonal fees)
les honoraires (fees paid for work done)
|sales, turnover (revenues)||le chiffre d’affaires|
|payment by bank transfer||le règlement par virement bancaire|
|layoff, dismissal||le licenciement|
|annual financial statement||le rapport financier annuel|
|pay slip||le bulletin de salaire|
|payroll||le registre du personnel|
|registered trademark||la marque déposée|
|business deal||le contrat|
|business meeting||le réunion|
|appointment, business meeting||le rendez-vous|
|cover letter||la lettre de motivation|
|call for bids, invitation for tenders||l’appel d’offres|
|announcement, job posting||l'annonce|
|long-term employment contract||le contrat à durée indéterminée (CDI)|
|short-term employment contract||le contrat à durée déterminée (CDD)|
|company conduct||le comportement de l'entreprise|
|minutes of the meeting, write-up||le compte-rendu|
|brand image||l'image de marque|
|price range||la gamme des prix|
|full price||le plein tarif|
|bargain||la bonne affaire|
|manufactured goods||les produits manufacturés|
|commodities||les produits de base|
|consumer goods||les biens de consommation|
|floor price||le prix plancher|
|retail price||le prix au détail|
|market price||le prix du marché|
|bonus||la prime, le bonus|
Business French — On the Phone
Business French On the Phone
|Who's calling?||C’est de la part de qui ?|
|My telephone number is _____.||Mon numéro de téléphone est le _____.|
|Can you call back?||Pourriez-vous rappeler ?|
|I'll put you through.||Je vous le passe.|
|Please hold. (Literally "Don't leave.")||Ne quittez pas.|
|Hello, you’ve reached [Name of Company].||[Name of Company], bonjour.|
|It’s _______ calling.||C’est ______ à l’appareil.|
|The line is busy.||La ligne est occupée.|
|Can he/she call me back?||Est-ce qu’il/elle peut me rappeler ?|
|Would you like to leave a message?||Voulez-vous laisser un message ?|
|May I speak with ______?||Pourrais-je parler à ______ ?|