Business French: 10 Ways to Master It Like a True Pro
Business French is a different ballgame from the standard version of the language.
In fact, the French business environment is a very formal one, so learning the related vocabulary can give you a competitive edge.
Here are 10 tips to help you confidently discuss business matters in French.
Allons-y ! (Let’s go!)
- 1. Read La Tribune
- 2. Watch a business video report on France24.com
- 3. Aim to learn a certain number of words or phrases a day
- 4. Watch French business videos
- 5. Read a business article on Wikipedia in English and French
- 6. Read out loud every day
- 7. Write your CV in French
- 8. Read a business book in French that you’ve already read in English
- 9. Write a paragraph in French about your line of business
- 10. Follow French business leaders and influencers on LinkedIn
- And one more thing...
1. Read La Tribune
La Tribune is a French daily covering financial and economic news not just in France but also around the world.
Every day, choose one business article to read on the La Tribune website. Try to find one related to your line of work. If you’re undecided, no problem—any business article will do.
While you’re reading, jot down the words you’re not familiar with. Look up their meanings in a French dictionary app, and write them down in a notebook. Writing things down manually will help you remember the words better.
Before choosing the next day’s article to read, review the words you’ve learned previously.
If La Tribune is too difficult at the moment, you can also look up the business sections of French news sites for beginners instead.
2. Watch a business video report on France24.com
On weekdays, France24.com features a daily video news report on economic and business matters called “Regarder le dernier Journal de l’Économie sur France 24.”
While watching the report, listen carefully and take note of the words that come up most often. Write them down, and look them up in your dictionary to check if you spelled them right.
Write down the meanings of the new words in your notebook, adding them to the other words you’ve learned previously.
3. Aim to learn a certain number of words or phrases a day
Review the words you’ve learned, and underline the words you think you’ll have the hardest time remembering.
Write out each word by hand in your notebook, followed by its meaning. Do this 10 times for each. This way, you’ll commit the words more easily to your memory.
Also, you can set a specific target for the number of words or phrases you want to learn per day. For example, if you pick up five new words a day five days a week, you’ll be learning 25 new words a week or 100 words a month!
Not sure where to start learning business French? Check out this list of essential business vocabulary in French.
4. Watch French business videos
When you watch videos that feature actual French businesspeople talking, you can get a feel not only for the vocabulary, but also the pronunciation, body language and cultural etiquette in French workplaces.
For example, here’s a video on the French used in the dubbed version of “The Office:”
For more videos like these, visit the language learning platform FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
5. Read a business article on Wikipedia in English and French
Choose a business topic you’re interested in, and look it up on Wikipedia. It could be about business intelligence, the global financial system or the balance of trade, for example.
Read the description in English carefully. Then, on the upper right-hand corner of the page, click “languages,” type “French” in the search bar and click “Français.”
Don’t worry if you don’t understand every word in the article. The aim of this exercise is to try to guess the English equivalent of any new terminology you come across in French.
You can also do this exercise the other way around—i.e., read the French version first. Take note of any terms you’re not sure about, and look for their equivalents in the English version afterward.
6. Read out loud every day
Reading an article out loud regularly helps you get your tongue around difficult pronunciations—not to mention jog your memory.
Aim to read a short article out loud every day. You can choose one of the articles on La Tribune, or read a random business-related article from Wikipedia.
If you come across a word that you’re not sure how to pronounce, use these online pronunciation tools to help you out.
7. Write your CV in French
Writing your CV or résumé in French is an excellent exercise in learning the language. It’s also a great way to identify the vocabulary you need to describe your qualifications and skill sets. You’ll also have your French CV ready if you happen to need it in the future.
You can use Europass’ online editor to help you format your CV. Alternatively, you can read our post on writing your French CV for specific tips and linguistic nuances you should be aware of.
8. Read a business book in French that you’ve already read in English
Choose a business book you’ve already read in English, and find its French translation (if available).
Need some ideas? Here are a few popular business books which have been translated into French:
- “Screw Business as Usual” by Richard Branson (“Le business sera humaniste ou ne sera pas”)
- “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill (“Réfléchissez et devenez riche”)
- “Competing for the Future” by Gary Hamel (“La conquête du futur”)
- “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson (“Qui a piqué mon fromage ?”)
- “The Fifth Discipline” by Peter Senge (“La cinquième discipline”)
Since you’ve already read the book in English and are familiar with the topic, it’s easier to figure out the meaning of difficult words by using context clues.
9. Write a paragraph in French about your line of business
Imagine you’re meeting an important business contact. As such, you need to describe what you do and/or the line of business you’re in.
Write down your key points in a paragraph (in French, of course). Try to incorporate some of the words you’ve learned through the exercises you just did.
If you’re not in a specific line of business at the moment, write about your dream industry. You can also write this in a question and answer format, as if you’re having a face-to-face discussion with a potential business partner.
10. Follow French business leaders and influencers on LinkedIn
Look up the LinkedIn pages of French business leaders and influencers you admire, and follow them. Read their most recent posts, and decipher any terminology you don’t already know.
Here are a few LinkedIn pages you may want to check out:
- Philippe Béchade, co-founder of CercleFinance.com and editor of La Bourse au Quotidien
- Alexandre Mandil, an MBA graduate and consultant in economic intelligence
- Jean-Claude Balès, a digital entrepreneur
- Stéphane Fort, director of corporate communications at Dassault Aviation
Follow these 10 handy tips and you’ll quickly and easily boost your vocabulary—as well as your confidence.
By speaking business French, you’ll definitely have a more competitive edge, increase your professional opportunities and build up important business relationships with French speakers.
And one more thing...
If you like learning French on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.
FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native French videos with reach. With interactive captions, you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:
Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with learn mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning, and play the mini-games found in our dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."
All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally personalized experience. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)