Cultural Considerations in French Translation for Marketing

Almost ninety-eight million people speak French globally, and it is the lingua franca of several countries often associated with the higher echelons of society. But like English, French has variations, dialects, and cultures that you must consider when conducting a French marketing translation. But why would you want a French marketing translation? Why is it important to understand who you are speaking to and the type of French they practice?

Key takeaways

  • French is spoken globally, making it essential to translate marketing materials and documents to reach a broader audience.
  • Different dialects of French have their own cultures and specificities, making it crucial to consider the target audience and their language variant when translating marketing materials.
  • “One-size-fits-all” translations can be insensitive, stereotypical, lead to miscommunication, and come off as unprofessional.
  • Using a professional French marketing translation service can provide accurate and culturally appropriate translations, and avoid issues that can arise from DIY translation or using software.

Why Do You Need French Translation Services?

French is spoken worldwide and is often considered the native tongue of large groups within countries, such as the province of Quebec in Canada. Across Africa, French is the language of administration. Europe also has a sizeable French-speaking population outside of France, making any attempt to start translating your marketing materials and documents beneficial to reaching a larger audience globally.

Even in countries where they only speak French in specific provinces or communities, providing a professional translation into French will help a business expand to reach a new demographic. If you are, for example, a realtor in another country and want to incentivise foreign investors or buyers, having a professional translation of your marketing materials allows you to send those advertisements and incentives to prospective buyers and entrepreneurs abroad.

What is Cultural Consideration?

When you start performing French translation services, it is prudent to use the most common dialect of French and pass it off as a professional translation. But not every French speaker speaks the same French, let alone in France, which has several unique dialects based around different parts of the country. Individuals speak Breton-French in Brittany, Occitan in southern France, and more areas that vary depending on the culture that dominates.

Outside of France, there is Quebec French, Congolese French, and other variations based on who, what, and where you are talking. Each of these dialects has its own culture attached to them, with different words having different meanings even though they are the same across all French dialects.

What could be used as a greeting in France might mean something more ominous in the Congo, while something relaxed in the Congo might be insulting in Quebec. These little dialect variations make French translation services so important, especially with a company that specialises in connecting you with speakers of that dialect.

Dangers of “One-Size-Fits-All” Translations

When you search for French translation services, you should avoid “one-size-fits-all.” It is a belief that French is French no matter where individuals might speak it. As a result, it can lead to French marketing translations being insulting, unprofessional, misinformed, or out of touch with many speakers and readers. If your goal is to market and attract new clients, then these are the dangers you will face if you choose a one-size-fits-all approach.

Insensitive to the Culture

The French language has a storied history, with many idioms and vernacular acceptable in particular dialects but insulting in others. Jokes, references, sentence structures, and double-meanings differ across dialects.

For example, if you have a joke or double-meaning in your advertising material, the humour may be lost or insulting to the reader if the translation needs to be corrected. In many cases, the mistranslation can come off as insulting or hurtful, especially when it is abrasive humour.

Stereotyping

A French marketing translation should not assume the person reading it is French, nor should it think that the person reading it has French values. Similarly to insensitivity, many countries and provinces that speak French do not consider themselves to be from France linguistically. They may speak a dialect of French, but they believe themselves to be speaking the language of their culture.

Miscommunication

Your French marketing translation has one goal above all others: to communicate and advertise your products, services, or deals to prospective clients. You can only do that if your marketing materials are correctly translated, which is one of the most significant reasons you need a professional translation. Even if a client understands what you are providing for them, they may need help understanding the nuances of the service or what makes you more appealing than the competition.

Unprofessionalism

Unprofessionalism bundles stereotyping, miscommunication, and cultural insensitivity all in one. Finally, it would be best to have a professional French marketing translation in your audience’s dialect. According to your prospective clients, you would have researched them if you were a professional.

The Solution: Use a Professional

Theoretically, you can perform a French marketing translation yourself if you want to put in the necessary hours, fact-checking, and human resources to ensure it is accurate and correct for your target audience. You could even try to use an AI program or recall from memory if you are a native speaker.

The dangers of these provided alternatives are blatantly obvious when you think about their function. Using a program or software to translate your marketing materials leaves holes and inconsistencies. As a romance language, French has conjugation and context clues in its written and spoken form, signifying who the subject is and what or to whom they are referring. Software “guesses” the local equivalent, not considering context or audience.

Native speakers may think it is an easy task, but there is a vast difference between native French speakers through dialect, context, and culture. Even if you are fluent in French, you cannot be fluent in the idioms and specifics of a particular dialect, especially if you have not been exposed to it or lived among its speakers for a prolonged period.