Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
Off topic: Seek advice working with French clients
Thread poster: Yubing YANG (X)

Yubing YANG (X)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Mar 4, 2003

Dear colleagues,

I have an onsite project with several French engineers and sales executives starting soon this week.

Once I worked with an engineer from an auto repairs company for a short week long a couple of years ago.

I felt pity I did not spend much time learning French before, but since this project will be onward for two months, I\'m thinking buying a French text book sometime this week.

Would please enlight me as some musts also tabooes and what are most used phrases and oral sentences when dealing with people in this particular culture in addition to some said romantic, democratic or could be false beliefs?


Jane Lamb-Ruiz (X)  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
Sorry but... Mar 4, 2003

I am shocked to hear that you are going to buy a French textbook and that you will be working with French engineers and sales persons when you have such little knowledge of French. Your question is totally outside the bounds of professional translation because you admit that you do not know French. I cannot give advice to you because I consider what you are doing is unprofessional. I believe my colleagues will thoughts along similar lines.....


IsaPro  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:43
English to French
+ ...
Jane, you're absolutely right! Mar 4, 2003

I don\'t speak German.

I wouldn\'t even think of working with German without knowing their language. I suppose you cannot learn German in a textbook... You cannot learn French in a textbook neither.

I do agree with Jane when she says what you\'re doing is unprofessional.


Parrot  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
Well Mar 4, 2003

Sounds like the job isn\'t what we normally do. If it\'s just a matter of getting around while you\'re there, you might consider one of those 6-week immersion courses prior to departure.


Claudia Iglesias  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:43
Member (2002)
Spanish to French
+ ...
Missing information? Mar 4, 2003

Hi Jane

I understand your point, it seems so strange, that it can\'t be possible. I think Pilot is going to work with French people but not translating into/from French, as he/she specifies he/she doesn\'t know anything.

In this case, if I\'m right, I\'d advice Pilot to buy a method of learning a language in two weeks (or kind of). I think there might be some in the net, too. You need something useful after a few lessons.


Parrot  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
Ooops Mar 4, 2003

Sorry, I didn\'t see you were starting this week.

What can I tell you? If it\'s going to be intensive language work, you\'re perfectly right to panic ... hope it isn\'t.


Patricia Posadas  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:43
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I understand Pilot will translate into English Mar 4, 2003

Only last month I was interpreting for a Spanish partner in a very \"French\" company and their meeting was in English...

The first thing to be aware of, is precisely their way of speaking English!icon_smile.gif

I suggest you buy some CD-ROM instead of a textbook, you have the sound in it and often the possibility of recording your speech and being told whether that was okay. Auralog is among the best...

The \'ambience\' will depend, so far I have always met friendly people very easy to go on well with. If you appreciate a little red wine with your meal and know a lot about cars and football that may helpicon_smile.gif

Good luck!


Jane Lamb-Ruiz (X)  Identity Verified
French to English
+ ...
what will be your source and target language? Mar 4, 2003

English and Chinese?

Do you just want some cultural input? Your message was not clear.

Please explain and then we might be able to give you some advice.


Mike Osman  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:43
Member (2013)
English to Somali
+ ...
Very confusing! Mar 4, 2003

I am pretty sure that you did not mean that you are going to be translating for them but just working with them and you just want to find something to say to them when you are with them.

I don\'t think it is very wise to try and translate for them, it will be a waste of time for you and for them as you will probably not get a penny out of the project.

Good luck


Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:43
French to English
More info needed Mar 4, 2003

As a rule, the postings on this forum are supposed to be in French. To understand your problem and in order to try and help, you will need to give us more info.

What is your role to be with this company?

Are you going to be translating?

If so from what language and into what language?

If you just need some basic French to get you through the day, then apart form the fact that it is too late to do anything if your job is to start this week, the best way to learn is to be with the French in France. The puzzle still remains.

Is French going to be your working language?

Is English going to be your working language?

I look forward to hearing further on this one as you do need help, in spite of it being so late in the day.



Magda Dziadosz  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:43
Member (2004)
English to Polish
+ ...
You are scaring people here... Mar 5, 2003

Is it such a serious sin not to be able to speak French????


On 2003-03-04 13:57, nonogogo wrote:

I am shocked to hear that you are going to buy a French textbook and that you will be working with French engineers and sales persons when you have such little knowledge of French.

It is actually quite common that even French engineers and sales persons are required to work in English, particularly if on assignements abroad or in international environment. I\'m working as a ENG>PL interpreter in Poland and it is VERY COMMON for me to translate for people of all kinds of nationalities who are expected to use only English.


Your question is totally outside the bounds of professional translation because you admit that you do not know French. I cannot give advice to you because I consider what you are doing is unprofessional. I believe my colleagues will thoughts along similar lines.....

Frankly speaking, I find your post, Jane, very strange in such a place as, which is designed for people to share knowledge, tips and advice. Pilot\'s question is a very good one and I personally think Pilot has showed true professionalism in trying to prepare well to the assignment. I know from experience that interpreting for non-native English users is a really tough job and a bit of extra cultural knowedge always helps a lot.

I hope French engineers will be more friendly than French translators. icon_smile.gif



Karin Adamczyk  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:43
French to English
Your comments are uncalled for Mar 5, 2003


On 2003-03-04 13:57, nonogogo wrote:

I am shocked to hear that you are going to buy a French textbook and that you will be working with French engineers and sales persons when you have such little knowledge of French. Your question is totally outside the bounds of professional translation because you admit that you do not know French. I cannot give advice to you because I consider what you are doing is unprofessional. I believe my colleagues will thoughts along similar lines.....

This person plans to work with French speaking people and wants to be familiar with their customs and culture beforehand. This is a very professional approach.

How unkind you are to jump down this person\'s throat for wanting to prepare for this project. There is no reason whatsoever to call him/her (sorry, I don\'t know) unprofessional. Your outburst on the other hand ...

Karin Adamczyk

... oops, just noticed in your profile that you *inform* translations

[ This Message was edited by:on2003-03-05 04:55]


Jean-Luc Dumont  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:43
English to French
+ ...
Do's and don't with the French :-) Mar 5, 2003


I understand and agree with your comments. But please do not draw any generalizing conclusions regarding French translators and French people in general. icon_smile.gif

\"\"I hope French engineers will be more friendly than French translators. icon_smile.gif\"

Please note that Jane is not French icon_wink.gif, she translates from French. I think she just misunderstood where Pilot\'s question was \"coming from\".

I myself did a lot of interpreting between Chinese and French businessmen in English - and I do not speak Chinese - so I can say that I was happy to learn a few tips about what to do and not to do in China and around Chinese business clients. A very enriching experience.

I found the following tips on doing business and meeting with French people. Of course, it cannot avoid and does not \"escape\" from generalizations and stereotypical clichés.

So, to the attention of Pilot:

Do\'s and Dont\'s

The French Connection


• French business culture is extremely hierarchical, so make sure you use surnames when meeting new people. In fact in many offices, first names are not used. (This is changing, but of course it is more formal than in the US for instance).

• “Madame” is to women as “Monsieur” is to men-the basic courtesy to be followed when addressing individuals. Don’t get romantic with Mademoiselle, its generally avoided nowadays.

• The French often introduce themselves with their surnames followed by their first names. The problem arises when both sound like first names. If you do fall into such a trap, be sure to ask. An example, Maurice Francois introduces himself as Francois Maurice.

• Use “Vous” instead of “Tu” until you are asked to use the familiar form. The difference is the same as using “aap” and “tu” in Hindi.

• Similarly, do not use first names until you are invited.

• For casual contacts with waiters or clerks, use Madame and Monsieur. When entering greet with \"Bonjour\" or \"Bonsoir\". Upon leaving “Au Revoir” is apt.

• Handshakes are customary. However don’t shake the person up. It’s considered impolite. The correct way is a light grip, single quick shake. In a social gathering it’s the “cheek to cheek” tradition that is followed.


Walk in meetings are rare. You have to take appointments for business and social meetings. It is a good idea to be on time, but a ten-minute delay factor is not considered disrespectful. Accepting or declining an invitation must be attended to promptly through mail or fax. Best time for meetings are 11:00 am or 3:30 p.m. Avoid scheduling appointments in the months of July and August, practically all of France comes to a “halt” this time of the year.


“Little knowledge is dangerous” in France: so don’t give your opinion if your information is ‘half-baked’. French people take immense pride in their history, culture and politics. It’s a good idea if you go armed with that knowledge.

Also, be prepared to talk about your own heritage. Topics of discussion usually revolve around food, art, music, philosophy, sports and politics.

Avoid discussions that include-

• Political leanings

• Napoleon: the French spirit is identified with what he stood.

• Americanism: this is considered gauche and uncultured

• Personal matters in the very first meeting.


Professional attire is expected. Being the fashion capital of the world, you can expect nothing less than a perfect sense of style. Whether they are wearing formal or casual attire, visitors must show the same degree of attention to appearance. A little tip: Be conservative and invest in well-tailored clothes. Men are generally into dark suits, striped or solid shirts. The ties can be contrasting but not too flashy.


Good decisions take time. Unlike the Americans who act and react quickly, the French take their own time to take decisions. Here are a few pointers you must keep in mind when doing business with them -

• Always give your business card to people you meet for the first time

• Print your business card in two languages, one side in French and the other in English

• Maintain eye-contact at all times

• Be formal. Casual behaviour is not appreciated

• French are inquisitive. Its likely that they will try and unnerve you during negotiations just to check whether you are aware of every detail in the book. Do your homework well.

• Their letter writing style is very formal and stylised.


The French like to know the people they do business with. They spend valuable time over lunch or dinner getting to know their prospective business clients or partners. A typical French meal includes the Entrée, which is, a special type of salad, pate and fish. The main course includes green salad and a cheese dessert.

• Business can be conducted during any meal, especially lunch. Lunch can last two hours. Dinner is late. (8:00 or 9:00 p.m.)

• When eating, keep both hands on the table at all times. Food comes gradually; so don\'t fill up too soon. When finished, place your fork and knife parallel across your plate. Cheese is served at the end of the meal; don\'t put it directly on your bread, and do not serve yourself twice.

• Respect privacy. The French close doors behind them; you should do the same. Knock and wait before entering.


• Avoid the “thumbs up” sign, unlike the U.S.A where it means “OK”, in France it stands for “ZERO”.

• Never chew gum in public, its considered to be crude.

• Slapping the open palm over a closed fist is vulgar


• Don\'t give a business gift on a first meeting.

• Avoid the too lavish and the too modest. Avoid gifts with your company logo. Good taste is everything.

• Don\'t include your business card with a gift.

• Good gifts include books or music, as they show interest in the intellect. Bring American best sellers, especially biographies. The more complex the book, the better.

• Bring flowers or fine chocolates or liqueur to the host and present them before the party.

• There are ways and there are ways, but certainly the French corporate world does it in style. • If you can imbibe the French business practice, you can be reassured of being able to make your way through with flying colours in the world of business.

O\'! one more thing. \"French Kiss\" would be a nice movie to watch before you get there. One can always pick up a few more pointers. icon_wink.gif

Good luck Pilot and have fun. French engineers and business men can be very pleasant and fun to be with while on business trips or assignments icon_smile.gif

PS - Actually the French love to talk and disagree about politics, and they dont mind if you talk about Napoleon. Everybody has been talking about Napoleon in France in 2002. Actually, I do not like Napoleon who killed more French people than anybody else through his wars. But he was the providential man at the end of the revolution and did some good things for France that we still enjoy today.

Americanisms are ok in casual conversation.

Just be yourself and enjoy the differences you will like being around French people. French educated people and French executives are actually fairly well travelled people and quite aware and understanding of cultural differences.

They can be very polite and courteous.

Of course there are jerks and unpleasant people in every country. I had to put up with a few business executives or managers who were arrogant and unpleasant snobs but generally speaking I observed that French businessmen were quite pleasant with their foreign business counterparts.


[ This Message was edited byicon_eek.gifn2003-03-05 05:04]

[ This Message was edited byicon_eek.gifn2003-03-05 05:27]

[ This Message was edited by:on2003-03-05 21:08]


Geneviève von Levetzow  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:43
Member (2002)
French to German
+ ...
Jean-Luc Mar 5, 2003

... tu devrais écrire un livre \"Du bon usage des Français\", je suis prête à le traduire en allemand icon_wink.gif

Geneviève icon_smile.gif


Yubing YANG (X)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Thank you all for the responses and my first day face to face with the French, language and people Mar 5, 2003

I want to start with a quote from a UK scholar when he talked class democracy in U-shape class activities,\"there\'s power structure you will never see on surface.\" Remember there is some thread here about political orientation. I cooled my head, eyes, and hearts when I saw some responses under the thread. Karin, thank you but I\'m not scared.

I\'m sorry for any confusion when I supposed colleagues here understand I\'m a English-Chinese translator as shown on my profile page here. I never think about doing translation with NO formal education or sufficient practices. Some people may think a few days intensive training will be enough for a linguist or translator, but not me.

Today I met first pack of the French visitors. They\'re two engineers and three sales managers. Since a friend from UK once told me in French university, the main medium language is English, not French, which to me is quite strange, I then thought their English shouldn\'t be bad. When meetings for the sales staffs with local management are smoothly over, I was asked to look around the manufacturing site with the engineers, but this time it proved difficult to communicate because they speak little English and they didn\'t seem to want to talk with me, a Chinese guy speaking flucent English. But we\'re happy in the end because I show my sincerity when I listen to their broken words or sentences and do some small things to show my respect. And finally they were in the mood of talking and even invite me to party with them on weekends.

I have to stop here because I do not want to waste your time.

Time is moneyicon_frown.gif

Pages in topic:   [1 2] >

To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

Moderator(s) of this forum
Andriy Bublikov[Call to this topic]

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Seek advice working with French clients

Advanced search

SDL Trados Studio 2019 Freelance
The leading translation software used by over 250,000 translators.

SDL Trados Studio 2019 has evolved to bring translators a brand new experience. Designed with user experience at its core, Studio 2019 transforms how new users get up and running, helps experienced users make the most of the powerful features, ensures new

More info »
WordFinder Unlimited
For clarity and excellence

WordFinder is the leading dictionary service that gives you the words you want anywhere, anytime. Access 260+ dictionaries from the world's leading dictionary publishers in virtually any device. Find the right word anywhere, anytime - online or offline.

More info »

  • All of
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search