French speaking countries:

Belgium, Benin, Burkino Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Francais writingCote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Haiti, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Martinique, Mauritania, Mauritius, Miquelon, Monaco, Morroco, Niger, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Saint Barthelemy, St. Martin, Saint-Pierre, Senegal, Seychelles, Switzerland, Togo.

French language and its variations (written form):

  • Latin Alphabet (accents on vowels and c, see below)
  • Geographical Location: In Europe, French speakers live in France, Belgium, and Western Switzerland. French is also spoken in Canada, parts of the USA including Louisiana, and Maine, also in West Central Africa and Haiti.
  • Dialects: There are 12 main French dialects (spoken).

Written French

Additions to Latin Alphabet:

French has no space between word and colon, for example mot:

For English quotation marks " ", << >> are used in French.

In French a point is used as a coma; eg: 27,000 is 27.000 in French.

French accents

To type accents with ALT codes, hold down the ALT key, then on the numeric keypad type the three or four digits listed here. However not with laptops, ALT codes only work with the numeric keypad, NOT the row of numbers across the top of your keyboard, as on laptops.

a with grave accent
   à  ALT + 133    À  ALT + 0192

a with circumflex
   â  ALT + 131    Â  ALT + 0194

a with tréma
   ä  ALT + 132    Ä  ALT + 142

a e ligature
   æ  ALT + 145    Æ  ALT + 146

c with cedilla
   ç  ALT + 135    Ç  ALT + 128

e with acute accent
   é  ALT + 130    É  ALT + 144

e with grave accent
   è  ALT + 138    È  ALT + 0200

e with circumflex
   ê  ALT + 136    Ê  ALT + 0202

e with tréma
   ë  ALT + 137    Ë  ALT + 0203

i with circumflex
   î  ALT + 140    Î  ALT + 0206

i with tréma
   ï  ALT + 139    Ï  ALT + 0207

o with circumflex
   ô  ALT + 147    Ô  ALT + 0212

o e ligature
   œ  ALT + 0156   Œ  ALT + 0140

u with grave accent
   ù  ALT + 151    Ù  ALT + 0217

u with circumflex
   û  ALT + 150    Û  ALT + 0219

u with tréma
   ü  ALT + 129    Ü  ALT + 154

French quotation marks
   «  ALT + 174    »  ALT + 175

French Alphabet

   a      A  

   b      B  

   c      C  

   d      D  

   e      E  

   f      F  

   g      G  

   h      H  

   i      I  

   j      J  

   k      K  

   l      L  

   m      M  

   n      N  

   o      O  

   p      P  

   q      Q  

   r      R  

   s      S  

   t      T  

   u      U  

   v      V  

   w      W  

   x      X  

   y      Y  

   z      Z  

Standard French

Standard French or 'Parisian' French is the main written form used everyday. It is the most common, especially in commerce due to France's importance as a trading power. Other written variations include Canadian French and African French.

If you are needing a translation, the probability is that you will need Standard French as this is used in International Commerce. Only on the occasion where your text or translation in the form of advertising or marketing is specifically for a given region/area outside France, eg: Quebec, Canada, would you use a local variation.

Standard French is used in other countries and regions, besides France:

  • Corsica
  • Monaco
  • Western Switzerland
  • Southern Belgium
  • Luxembourg
  • Andorra (one of three languages)

Swiss French

Swiss FrenchThe map to the right shows the French speaking part of Switzerland (Western Switzerland). For more information on the languages spoken in Switzerland, click on the map

Metropolitan French, sometimes called Parisian French, is the official language for 20% of the population in Switzerland, i.e. 1.5 million people.

French-speaking Switzerland (or Romandy) is divided into six cantons of which four officially use French as their main language, but two are essentially French-speaking, the Bernese Jura, the name of the French-speaking part of German-speaking Bern and Geneva, which is predominantly French speaking due to its proximity to the French border.

Is Swiss French different from Metropolitan French?

There are more differences between Metropolitan French and Meridional French, which is strongly influenced by the Occitan dialects, than between Swiss French and Parisian French nowadays. A similar line between spoken and written French can be drawn in all old French protectorates and colonies. But written French does not differ according to geography.

Although, there are notable differences in the French spoken in different regions due to nearby linguistic and historical influences, written Swiss French is identical to Parisian French.

Spoken Swiss French

A Swiss French speaker would have no trouble reading and understanding an article taken from Parisian French newspaper Le Monde. Comparatively, spoken Swiss French, when compared with European French differs from the French of France to a far lesser extent than Swiss German differs from standard German.

If modern streamlining practices in business exacerbate standardization in technical or business French, historical affiliations still influence pronunciation and verbal delivery.

David Marote MCIL, Swiss translator English - French.
Member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, UK

Canadian French

Canadian FrenchCanadian French and Standard French differ little in the written form. It is dominant in Quebec where it is the dominant language (see map). Canadian French uses some verbs used in Standard French in 1700's as well as some anglicisms, a sign of the influence English has had. These differences are due to Quebec's isolation from France in terms of distance and commercial links since the 1700's. USA has always had strong commercial links.

African French

African FrenchFrench, although the most widely spoken of any language in Africa, is normally a second language, with the dominant language being the national native language. Although some classes (middle-upper) in Tunisia, Algeria and Morroco speak it as a first language or are bilingual (French/Arabic).

Standard French tends to be used by the middle classes and especially the professionals within French speaking African countries.

Only the lower less skilled classes would you need local African French.

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French Translation Service
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French Translation sample:

Tous les êtres humains naissent libres et égaux en dignité et en droits. Ils sont doués de raison et de conscience et doivent agir les uns envers les autres dans un esprit de fraternité.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

French Speaking countries

Belgium, Benin, Burkino Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Haiti, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Martinique, Mauritania, Mauritius, Miquelon, Monaco, Morroco, Niger, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Saint Barthelemy, St. Martin, Saint-Pierre, Senegal, Seychelles, Switzerland, Togo.

Indo-European Language group

European language groups

Indo-European > Italic (Latin) > Romance

Difficulty in learning French as a native English speaker

The Defense Language Institute categorizes French as relatively easy (level 1, of 4 levels)

French letter writing samples

  • Letter (formal)
  • Letter (informal)

Business Etiquette

Courtesy and a degree of formality are the most important aspects.

  • Meeting

Handshake is not too firm/aggressive and often a light grip with a single, quick shake.

Dress is often fashionable, whether formal or casual and they expect and are comfortable amongst those equally dressed.

Meetings are often to discuss issues, not to make decisions

  • Eating

Arrive on time. Do not arrive 10 minutes late without phoning beforehand.

Do not begin eating until the hostess says 'bon appetit'. (dinner parties)

If you have not finished eating, cross your knife and fork on your plate with the fork over the knife.

Do not rest your elbows on the table, although your hands should be visible and not in your lap. A man may rest his wrists, and a woman her forearms, on the table edge.

Do not cut salad with a knife and fork. Fold the lettuce on to your fork.

Peel and slice fruit before eating it, break bread before eating.

  • Negotiation

Do not be over friendly, the French seperate their business from their personal lives.

High-pressure sales tactics should be avoided. The French are more receptive to a low-key, logical presentation that explains the advantages of a proposal in full.

The French are often impressed with good debating skills that demonstrate an intellectual grasp of the situation and all the ramifications.

French language learning links

Online classes in French and French homestay language learning programme.

Online classes given by a qualified and experienced native speaker via skype. We also organize a comprehensive homestay language learning programme in the south of Paris.

Translation services company offering French Website translation and advice on text expansion or contraction and translating all the pages or just the main pages.