Training in French for companies – why invest in it?

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Spoken in 28 countries. Taught in schools on five continents. One of the official languages of the UN, NATO, and the EU. French is one of the most influential languages in the world.

With this résumé, it’s easy to see why French language training for companies is so highly sought-after. Yet it’s by no means universal.

Many organisations still try to succeed in international business speaking only their native language or English. This sees them lose out to competitors who invest in company training in French and other globally significant languages.

In this post, we’ll explore why training in French is something so many companies are investing in and how it can contribute to business growth and success.

French training expands international reach and opportunities

French has been the language of diplomacy since the 17th century. Even today, organisations like the International Olympic Committee and FIFA maintain French as their lingua franca.

Businesses with a mastery of French gain access to a wide array of opportunities. France itself is the fifth-largest economy in the world, home to businesses like L’Oréal and VINCI that dominate their sectors.

But beyond that, French is:

  • The official language of 28 different countries and 10 regions worldwide
  • Spoken in five European countries (France, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Monaco) as an official or co-official language
  • Used by some of the world’s largest organisations (including global businesses and the numerous international organisations headquartered in Switzerland)
  • The native tongue of approximately 23% of Canada, one of the world’s largest economies
  • Spoken in many more countries and territories, including 34 in Africa alone

All of which makes French the ideal tool for forming profitable and productive partnerships with organisations and businesses in France and around the world.

Communication and building relationships through French

Doing business internationally requires clear and effective communication. Having a strong command of the French language within your organisation empowers you to get your message across.

In B2B comms, speaking French will allow your team to engage with employees and leaders in some of the world’s largest organisations and leading businesses in every industry.

It also enables access to French-language media. This lets you stay on top of news, trends, and developments in the 30+ countries where French is spoken by large segments of the population.

French is also the seventh most popular language on the internet (only English, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Indonesian, and Portuguese have more speakers). This represents an audience of around 152 million active online users.

French empowers competitive advantage and market access

Five of the countries where French is an official language are in Europe. Even among these relative neighbours there is huge variety and scope for advantage through business French training.

For instance, Switzerland is home to major international organisations such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Brussels is the capital of Belgium and also effectively the capital of the European Union (in which France is one of the two leading nations following the UK’s departure).

But French is spoken far beyond Europe. This includes dynamic, emerging parts of the world such as Africa (French is one of the official languages of the African Union) and the Caribbean.

All told, understanding the French language – as well as the diverse cultures of the wide array of Francophone countries in the world – gives companies a powerful competitive advantage in all kinds of industries, including:

  • Engineering
  • Manufacturing
  • Tourism
  • Hospitality
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Luxury goods

Because the number of French speakers online is impressive. Yet the total number of French speakers is nearly 500 million people. Many of these are below 30 years of age, meaning French may even grow in importance as a major global language in years to come.

How customised French training creates business success

Unfortunately though, it’s not as simple as all French language training for companies automatically leading to success.

Businesses that invest in French training effectively know how important it is to personalise learning to the specific needs of their employees as well as their business goals.

Some of the most important benefits and considerations when training employees to speak French include:

1) Consider incorporating learning business etiquette

Mastery of the French language is one thing. Understanding how it is used in business settings in Francophone countries around the world is quite another.

It goes without saying that business etiquette varies wildly between regions and countries. Even countries that share a language don’t necessarily share much in the way of professional culture.

It’s knowledge of business protocols, customary behaviour, and even the most effective ways to approach foreign clients in specific regions that transform your employees from French speakers to French-speaking multipliers of business value.

2) Attend international conferences and trade shows

Many organisations get by communicating only in English at international events and trade shows. However, if you’ve been to an event speaking only English, you may be familiar with the slightly powerless feeling that accompanies being monolingual – and how limiting it can be.

Using interpreting services can help bridge this gap. Yet speaking a language of international influence like French gives you the ability to converse and negotiate with business leaders from a huge variety of regions.

This could mean that one potential client or partner who only does business in French. Or it could be the ability to create goodwill and form the connections that sometimes only speaking to someone in their native tongue can accomplish.

3) Improve business communications

Learning French minimises or removes the language barrier between your organisation and foreign business partners.

Your team will need to understand the formal register (the niveau formel) of the language that should be used in all polite, professional communications.

Armed with this knowledge, they can write letters and emails, process documents, and phone their Francophone opposite numbers with complete confidence and clarity.

4) Deliver better customer service

When expanding to new overseas markets, many businesses overlook the importance of delivering multilingual customer service and support for their products.

Launching your products or services in a new region – or selling to various regions via e-commerce – without multilingual support is always going to cause problems later.

Don’t let negative reviews of your customer service build up in French-speaking markets simply because your customers can’t get the support they need in the language they speak.

5) Boost your digital marketing effectiveness

Carefully crafted marketing translation may be beyond all but the most advanced speakers of multiple languages. Yet there are many areas where trained French-speaking staff can build on the initial work of professional translators.

Online, for instance, your French-speaking social media team will be hugely empowered to reach and create new audiences for you.

Also, when it comes to multilingual SEO, your team will understand (and have the ability to research) the different keywords required in specific regions (even those that speak the same language are likely to have different preferred search terms).

6) Attract and retain top talent

What does the top talent of tomorrow look for in an employer? Many, especially Millennial and Generation Z talent, attach the greatest value to opportunities for training and professional development.

This makes language training an important recruitment and employee retention tool. Your team sees your investment in them and their future, rewarding you with loyalty (not to mention the value created by their new linguistic skills).

What’s more, if your future plans include opening offices in Francophone countries, this could create exciting opportunities for employees seeking career advancement or new challenges just when you need trusted, French-speaking team members.

Training in French for companies creates value

Companies that train their teams to speak French create huge value for both those individual employees and the company as a whole.

These business benefits include, but aren’t limited to, a hugely expanded market reach, investment and partnership opportunities, and boosted marketing and customer service potential.

In a world that is almost completely globalised, company training in a globally influential language like French drives competitive advantage for organisations in a wide range of industries.

Need to secure the kind of French language expertise that creates true competitive advantage?

Let’s talk. Kwintessential already helps brands including Estée Lauder, Lidl, and Facebook do successful business around the world.

Reach out to us today to discuss your French translation needs or the language requirements of your organisation as a whole.

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