French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the Latin spoken in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul.
French is an official language in 29 countries across multiple continents, most of which are members of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), the community of 84 countries that share the official use or teaching of French. French is also one of six official languages used in the United Nations. It is spoken as a first language (in descending order of the number of speakers) in France; the Democratic Republic of Congo; Algeria; Morocco; Canada (provinces of Quebec, Ontario, and New Brunswick as well as other Francophone regions); Cameroon; Belgium (Wallonia and the Brussels-Capital Region); Ivory Coast; Tunisia; western Switzerland (Romandy—all or part of the cantons of Bern, Fribourg, Geneva, Jura, Neuchâtel, Vaud, Valais); Monaco; parts of Luxembourg; parts of the United States (the states of Louisiana, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont); northwestern Italy (autonomous region of Aosta Valley); and various communities elsewhere.
Things to keep in mind
- The ability to speak French and English is an advantage in the international job market. A knowledge of French opens the doors of French companies in France and other French-speaking parts of the world. As one of the world’s largest economies and a leading destination for foreign investment, France is a key economic partner.
- French is easy to learn. Believe it or not, learning French, particularly for English speakers, is as easy as pie. This is probably because English derived from French (and a combination of other European languages). Not only does it have the same alphabets, but tons of similar words that originated from the same roots.
- French makes learning Spanish easier. Learning Spanish is also a big deal (especially in the Americas) since it is also on the top of the list of most widely spoken languages. Since both these languages are Latin descendants, they quite similar. Learning French will get you halfway through a course in Spanish and vice versa.
- Used in International Relations. French is an official language for international firms such as the U.N., UNESCO, Olympics, NATO, and Red Cross. If you’re interested in a career in any international organization, learning French would be a good idea.
- One way to get ahead in the business world is to speak your customers’ language.
- That might be exactly why you’re learning French—or it could just be an extra bonus that French is one of the top international languages. The more influential languages you master, the larger your potential customer base and professional network will grow.
- You’ve already reached a comfortable level of fluency in French and mastered many of its colloquialisms and idioms.
- But business French is a different ballgame. Set aside all the French slang you’ve worked hard at picking up. That won’t necessarily give you an edge in the business world.
- Au contraire (on the contrary), the French business environment is a very formal one, so that’s why learning business French can give you a competitive edge.
Here are 8 tips to help you easily increase your business French vocabulary and have you confidently discussing business matters in French in no time.
8 Brilliant Ways to Learn Business French
1. Read La Tribune online
La Tribune is a French daily covering financial and economic news, including stock market news and reports. All of its articles are also available on its online edition.
Choose one business article a day to read on the La Tribune website. Try to find one which relates to the line of business you’re interested in, otherwise any business article will do.
While you’re reading, jot down 10 words you’re not familiar with. Look up their meanings in a French online dictionary and write them down by hand in a notebook. Writing things down manually will help you to commit them to memory better.
2. Watch a business report online on France24.com
From Monday to Friday, France24.com features a daily video report on French and international economic and business news called “Le journal de l’économie.”
While watching the report online, don’t worry about understanding every single word, but do listen carefully and make note of the words that come up most often. Write them down and look them up in the dictionary to check if you got the spelling right.
3. Give yourself a target of learning five words a day
Review the words you’ve learned in tips #1 and 2 above, and underline the five words you think you’ll have the hardest time remembering.
Write out each word by hand in your notebook, followed by its meaning—ten times each.
Repetition is key when it comes to remembering new vocabulary, so the act of writing it down repetitively will help you commit it to memory easily.
If you learn five new words a day, five days a week, you’ll be learning 25 new words a week, or a minimum of 100 words a month!
4.Read a business article on Wikipedia in English and French
Choose a precise business topic you’re particularly interested in and look it up on Wikipedia. It could be about business intelligence, the global financial system, or the balance of trade… you choose. Read the description in English carefully, then click on “French” in the “languages” column on the lower left side of the page and read the French page about the same topic. Again, don’t worry if you don’t understand every word in the article; the aim of this exercise is to try to guess the English equivalent of any new terminology you come across in French.
You can also do this exercise the other way around, reading the French version first. Keep a mental note of any terms you’re not sure about, and then looking for their equivalents in the English version afterward.
5. Readout loud every day
Reading an article out loud every day not only helps you get your tongue around difficult pronunciations, but it also jogs your memory.
Aim to read a short article out loud every day. You can choose one of the articles on the La Tribune website mentioned above in tip #1, or read the Wikipedia article you selected in the previous tip.
6. Write your CV in French
Writing your CV or résumé in French is an excellent exercise in French learning, and a great way to identify the vocabulary you need to describe your qualifications and skill sets. You’ll also have your French CV ready if you happen to need it in the future.
Europass is the European Union standard CV format. Their online editor is a handy tool with easy-to-follow instructions to create your own CV online.
7. Write a paragraph in French about your line of business
Imagine you’re meeting an important business contact and have to describe what you do or talk about the line of business you’re in. Write down in French the key points of what you’d like to say in a paragraph, and try to incorporate some of the words you’ve learned doing the other exercises in the previous tips above.
If you’re not currently in a specific line of business, write about your dream business sect. You can also write this in a question and answer format, as if you were having a face-to-face discussion with a potential business partner.
8. Follow French business leaders and influencers on Twitter
Find the Twitter pages of French business leaders and influencers you would be interested in following. Read their most recent posts and decipher any terminology you don’t already know. Here are a few Twitter pages you may want to check out:
- Alexandre Mandil, an MBA graduate and consultant in economic intelligence.
- Jean-Claude Balès, a digital entrepreneur and CEO of a farming marketplace group.
Follow these 8 handy tips and you’ll quickly and easily increase your business French vocabulary, as well as your confidence.
By speaking business French, you’ll definitely have a more competitive edge with the potential to increase your professional opportunities and build up important business relationships with French speakers.