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FAQ About French Translation
 
The Importance of the French Market
People often are surprised to discover how prominent the French language truly is on the world stage. As a result, its tremendous business potential is sometimes overlooked.
 
Consider
  • An estimated 283 million people speak French in the world, making it the tenth most widely spoken language in the world.
  • Worldwide, French is the second most commonly taught second language after English.
  • French is the official language or shares official status in France, Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxemburg, Monaco, and numerous other countries around the world.
  • In the United States, over 1.7 million people speak French at home. The highest concentration of Francophones is in Louisiana and New England, because of its proximity to the Canadian province of Quebec.
  • French was the universal language of diplomacy until English recently supplanted it.
  • French figures among the official working languages of many international organizations including the European Union, Interpol, the International Olympic Committee, the UN, the Red Cross, and many others.
  • The importance of the French language in diplomacy can be seen from the words that have found their way into common English usage. For example, "chargé d'affaires", "émigré" and "cadre."
Is French Relevant for the Wired World?

Mais oui! Just consider these facts. According to the NOP Research Group, France represents the third-largest Internet economy in Europe. Its market shows the fastest growth rates of adoption with 47% market growth in the past year.

Canada is one of the most "wired" countries in the world, in terms of Internet access and usage according to ComQuest Research and Neilsen/Net Ratings. Over the past year, the number of Francophone Canadians with home Internet access increased 29%, from 2.7 to 3.4 million.

 
Are There Different French dialects?
Ouiet vive la différence! All spoken languages develop regional variations, or dialects; and the French language is no exception. Dialects, creole, patois and other verbal variations abound. However, written French is considerably more standardized than many other languages because of France's long history of linguistic purism.

Today, "standard" French, of which "Parisian" is considered mainly a dialect, is very well understood throughout the French-speaking world, although some linguists believe that its purity lessens because of so many assimilated foreign words in its lexicon; those of English in particular.

The French translator's challenge is to render culturally neutral and universally understood text for its target audience. However, in some cases, a translation client may ask to reach a specific market or audience, a process called "localization".

Example:
In France and Monaco, the number "ninety" ("quatre-vingt-dix" in standard French) translates much like our arcane English phrases "four twenties and ten" or "fourscore and ten". In Belgium and Switzerland's standard French, the number "ninety" translates as "nonante."
 
Will Francophones Understand One Another's Dialect?
Will a Belgian understand a French text that uses "quatre-vingt-dix" instead of "nonante"? Absolument! Will he realize that a Belgian did not write the text? Of course! For an instruction manual, that makes no difference. For an advertisement directed at him personally, the language variant might. If you are marketing to a specific target, one should retain the services of a French translator, who understands that target's language.
 
What's the Difference Between Standard French and French-Canadian?
The short answer is surprisingly little in written French. Presque rien! Spoken French is a different kettle of fish (or "another pair of sleeves," as the French would say!). Translation clients often ask English-to-French translators to provide work in standard or French-Canadian French that are the most commercially important variations of the language.

French always has been highly structured in terms of grammar and syntax, so variations between Standard French and French-Canadian arise primarily from different vocabulary and idioms that evolved as a result of history, geography and, oddly enough, government legislation. Do you need to consider this? Then, see the next item.
 
Why are Legal Issues Regarding Language so Important in Canada for Example?:
To conduct business in Canada, you must understand the implications of bilingualism. For example, if your business exports products to Canada, you should know that all packaging must be bilingual and obey the strict guidelines regarding point size, disposition of type, etc. Failure to comply may result in your product being removed from retail shelves. The provincial government of Quebec is particularly diligent in prosecuting linguistic offences.
 
Why is Choosing the Right French Translator so Important?
A competent, qualified French translator can render your English text into a French document readily understood by all Francophones. Factors such as your intended market or audience and the nature of the document to be translated will affect your choice of translator.
 
Example:
  • To reach a French-Canadian audience or conduct business in Canada, one should choose a French translator with experience in that market to navigate the legal waters as well as appreciate linguistic nuances.
  • If your project is a magazine ad targeted at Swiss teenagers, text and images must be localized for maximum results. The French translator you choose must be familiar with the demographics, know the latest trends, and understand the "cool" slang, etc. in a specific area. Cultural differences, social customs, and taboos will determine the appropriate language.
When Doing English-to-French Translations, Why does French Seem Longer?
French grammar and syntax are highly structured when compared to English. French tends to use more prepositional phrases. Compound nouns and newly-coined words, of which so many enter the English language daily, often require an entire phrase to be understood in French.
 
Example:
"Consumer Hotline" becomes "Ligne d'urgence à la clientèle"; literally, "line of urgencies for the customers.
 
Useful links:

French Courses Abroad Do you want to take a French course in France or another exotic location worldwide? Whether you just want to be able to order "un beaujolais nouveau" or whether you really want to get to grips with the language, Cactus has a range of French courses in France and abroad to suit all your needs and budgets. Learn French in its fascinating home country of France, or why not let it take you further afield to Montreal, Monaco or Guadeloupe...


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