Everything you need to know about business French
The business world: a very specific form of French
French is a language that is widely spoken in Switzerland. However, the way in which it is used in the workplace is very different from that used in your spare time. When you're at work, it's definitely business French that you should be using.
So if you want to apply for a job in a swiss company or in an French-speaking country, you need to learn the basics of this type of French (both spoken and written). Going to a job interview, answering the phone or writing an email can be complicated if you don't have the right vocabulary. So get yourself ready!
Technical vocabulary you need to know
As you have probably realised from your professional experience, each sector uses its own terms. A marketing employee does not use the same technical words as someone working in business or in the artistic field. It's important to understand these terms to familiarise yourself with the field.
Here are some basic examples:
- A company = une entreprise
- Management management = la direction
- An update = une mise à jour
- Skills = des compétences
- A business plan = un plan d’affaire
- The target market = le marché cible
- A deadline = une date limite
- A team building = un renforcement
- The growth = la croissance
- A brainstorming = le partage d’idées lors d’une réunion
- The business = les affaires
- An invoice = une facture
- To launch a product = lancer un produit
- To honour a contract = exécuter un contrat
- To convince = convaincre
- To deliver = livrer, distribuer
- To found a business = créer une entreprise
- To receive an e-mail = recevoir un mail
Beware of mistakes and informal language in business French
You don't want to be too informal with your manager, do you? Or with new colleagues you've only just met? To avoid this, you need to know what to say and what not to say.
Don't use contractions like "je peux pas" instead of "je ne peux pas". Although they are not a problem when spoken, when written they can be perceived as being too informal. To ask for something, use phrases that soften the tone and are more neutral, such as "Est-ce que je peux".
French does not use the same punctuation as we do. There is always a space before some punctuation marks, such as question marks, exclamation marks, colons, semicolons, etc. So this sentence should be written as follows: Non ! Je ne peux pas voir : c'est quoi ?
At a business lunch, in a meeting or on the phone, watch out for pronunciation errors that can alter the meaning of what you say. To help you, don't hesitate to consult online phonetic dictionaries, focusing particularly on the technical terms you need to use regularly at work.
Overall, rely on your common sense to know when it's possible to be more informal when speaking to your colleagues or management.