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Speaking French: What Glocal Business Owners Should Know

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Speaking French: What Glocal Business Owners Should Know

Globalization has become the veritable backbone of economic growth, which makes bilingual communication a prerequisite for international business. Given the comparisons between their respective root words, English speakers often find the process of learning and speaking French straightforward, as opposed to other languages.

With 75,900,000 native speakers across 32 countries, French is second only to English in terms of global usage, and the language myself and many other young kids learned in middle and high school. An official language spanning four continents––Europe, Africa, Oceania and North America––the benefits of French fluency are extensive for business owners. However, those conducting business in this vernacular should understand that each dialect is not interchangeable. In fact, the French spoken on those cobbled avenues of Paris differs significantly from the version heard throughout Quebec, Haiti or Madagascar, for example.

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But, how can understanding the definitive features of each major French dialect positively impact your future business relations? In order to secure global partnerships, affiliations, transactions or clientele, you must accurately and succinctly communicate your intentions across any perceived language barrier. It also commands respect among your foreign business contacts:

“We have to understand the cultures where we operate. That means speaking to people there in their native language. Even at a very basic level, it’s a sign of respect,” says David Hartsoe, manager of CommScope’s Global Learning Center.

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Whether you’re a seasoned Francophone or untrained novice, this breakdown can help you recognize those nuances that differentiate one regional tongue from the next. Next time you’re speaking French to a business partner, they’ll be impressed.

Parisian French

Considered the standard form of this language, Parisian French is used throughout France’s mainland and overseas territories including French Guiana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Réunion, and Mayotte. It’s also the version taught in most academic settings. Parisian French adheres to conventional morphology and orthography––the basis for conversing and writing in a given language. Therefore, this dialect’s rules surrounding grammar, conjugation, vocabulary, and syntax are consistent with that “French 101” semester from college.

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European French

Outside its native borders, the French vernacular sprawls across the remaining continent of Europe. There are five regionalities that comprise European French, including Aostan, Belgian, Meridional, Swiss and Jersey Legal. Some varieties like Swiss and Jersey Legal bear resemblance to Parisian French––with the exception of certain word choices––while others are more closely tied to the language spoken in that country. For instance, Aostan is merged with Italian dialects and Belgian fuses with its linguistic namesake.

Quebec French

As the predominant version of this language spoken in Canada, Quebec French sounds markedly different from Parisian French when adapted to its colloquial form––joual. The phonetic, grammatical and lexical distinctions that help you tell the two apart include verb particle omissions, spelling changes, idiomatic expressions and certain word anomalies.

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Another facet of Quebec French that conflicts with Parisian French is the integration of both English and aboriginal tongues, based on Anglophone and Iroquois influence on Canadian society.

African French

Often heard amongst political and educational spheres in the Maghreb region, African French spans 31 nations, ranking Africa as the largest concentration of French speakers worldwide. This population includes the countries of Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, Congo, Burundi and Madagascar, among others. Given the entrenchment of tribal customs throughout this continent, African French has co-mingled with various local languages, producing distinct consonant sounds––otherwise known as alveolar trills.  

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Creole French

Tracing its origin to the Caribbean islands––Haiti, in particular––Creole French is a synthesis of Portuguese, Spanish, French and numerous West African dialects. Despite there being a strong correlation between Creole French and its Parisian predecessor, subtle yet audible variations can be heard through the speaker’s intonation. This reflects the accents, idioms, verbiage and other semantics that characterize Creole French’s unique juncture of both European and African vernaculars.

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