Published on Apr 29, 2019

by Marcos Dinnerstein

Summary: How must your company think about localizing your content in French? A French translation for Quebec differs from a French translation in Switzerland or France.

Where is French spoken? 

Source: Wikipedia

What are the challenges your company will face when trying to reach French-speaking audiences worldwide? What’s at stake here? It could go a couple of ways. You can effectively engage and sell to your new market or instead you could confuse and alienate this new market with an inappropriate French translation. You need to understand if there is a ‘Standard French’ that will be universally understood or if the market you are trying to reach requires a specific dialect. Put another way, you need to know how to navigate the linguistic and cultural waters and avoid the hidden reefs and shoals that can wreck your ship.

A brief humorous interlude on linguistic ambiguity from the classic, The Princess Bride.

To craft an effective French translation of your content you need to wrap your head around the concept of a ‘Standard French’ versus a French translation that has been localized for a specific country or region. For perspective on a standard or global French start with “Standard French”  on Wikipedia.

We make a case for targeting a specific language market here: Speak to Global Customers in Their Own Language. Now would be a good time to check that article out to see why we press this issue.

The French Language: By the Numbers

  • 300 million people worldwide speak French
  • 5th most spoken language in the world after, Mandarin Chinese, English, Spanish, and Arabic
  • 29 countries have French as the official language
  • 2nd most used language, after English, in diplomacy
  • 3rd most used language in business
How many dialects of French are there in the world? There are 29, including Belgian, Quebec, Swiss, Cambodian, Vietnamese and Haitian French to name a few.

Select E-commerce Markets in French Speaking Countries
  • Annual Revenue $50 billion (2019 est.)
  • The e-commerce penetration rate of 77.4% (2019 est.)
  • Annual Revenue $9.1 billion (2018)
  • E-commerce penetration rate 58% (2018)
While not specifically a French translation recommendation, generally there are a few things that will help you succeed when entering into a new market.
  • Do your research and consult with experts to learn the buying habits of the new target market. 
  • Make the new website appear to be native to that country. Did you know that 62% of Canadian e-commerce buyers prefer to buy from a ‘.ca’ address? Of course, that makes sense but as you plan your go to market strategy you might not remember it.
To continue with the Canadian example here’s a quick read on 3 website improvements that will help you sell to Canadians

Finally, you can read about Irena, one of MotaWord’s many professional translators doing French translation work. She does French translations into English and German with particular care. German Translator in Switzerland: A Translator Shares Their Life

And… for a free quote on your French translation or any of your translation needs, 24/7, click this link.