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Localization Tips When Entering French-speaking Markets

Author: Andreea Balaoiu

Localization Tips When Entering French-speaking Markets

According to the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (, if we were to dissect the French language in figures, the most notable statistics would be the following:

  • There are 300 million French speakers worldwide
  • French is the 2nd most-used language in diplomacy after English
  • French is the 5thmost-spoken language after Mandarin Chinese, English, Spanish, and Arabic
  • French is the 4th most-used language on the Internet
  • French is the 3rd most-used language in business
  • French is the 2nd language of international media
  • French is the official language of more than 29 countries in the world, including Switzerland, Belgium, Monaco, and Luxembourg in Europe and Tanzania, Rwanda, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Cote D’Ivoire in Africa.

Given how versatile and widespread French is as an international language, it goes without saying that effective content localization into French would benefit any business seeking to expand its horizons within the francophone landscape. Here are our top tips for content localization when entering French-speaking markets.

Tip #1: Perform thorough market research

There’s more to localizing for the French audiences than meets the eye and a preliminary step to avoid a faux pas when entering the French market is to research and try to adhere to the strict laws and linguistic uniqueness of French-speaking audiences, as opposed to the other standard international ones. This can be achieved through style guides, industry-specific glossaries, and specialized linguistic subject matter experts who can adapt and implement the communication style of the target audience.

According to a Harvard Business Review article presenting the results of a Common Sense Advisory survey conducted on a sample of 2,430 web consumers in eight countries: 72.4% of consumers said they are more inclined to purchase a product with information in their own language, while 56.2% of consumers mentioned that having direct access to information in their own language or desired tone of voice is more important than price even.

The French market is no different, as across-the-board content localization should be top of mind when preparing to enter the market and meet the wants and needs of French audiences. Ensuring a native experience and maintaining a local presence by expressing pricing and payment methods in local terminology, both online and offline, is also a key element that distinguishes businesses trying to adapt to the French market.

Additionally, France is well-known for adhering to rigorous laws and regulations, specifically relating to GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which must comply with the 1978 Act – La Loi Informatique et Libertés, Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés emitted in 2019. When localizing your business content to adhere to French local regulations, extra attention must be paid to regulatory alignment within the local linguistic and legal framework.

Hitting the right tone of voice is also of paramount importance, as in France the level of formality and etiquette in communication is very high compared to other European countries. Websites, e-commerce, and other business-related content must adhere to a cordial mode of communication, using a formal or neutral form of address. One might argue that this rule fades when considering playful marketing campaigns, however even in as flexible and creative an industry as marketing, one should not assume that French people will not be sensitive to certain over-the-top, witty marketing lingo that tests the limits of what is considered sensible in the francophone sphere.

Tip #2: Define your Content Localization Strategy for entering the French Market

The phrase “all business is local” coined by authors John Quelch and Katherine Jocs in “Why Place matters more than ever in a global, virtual world” (2012) has never been more relevant now, almost a decade later, as 72% of brand engagement happens on localized pages, with businesses seeking to reach out and resonate with international audiences, enhancing traction for their brand.

In this sense, an effective French Content Localization Strategy entails covering all relevant content touchpoints, from vocabulary, style guides, and glossaries for website copy to UI/UX, as well as transactional communication, taking into account cross-cultural currencies and market proclivities. Having localized content in French streamlines the user experience within the customer journey and hits the target of specific searches, also increasing engagement potential and building trust and credibility for a brand within the French market landscape.

Tip #3: Distinguish between European French and other French-speaking locales

A notable example is the French spoken and written in Canada, which differs from its European counterpart. This heavily influences the content translation and localization strategy and execution as it entails distinguishing between heavy dialect iterations and academic French. 

Several underlining differences set Canadian French apart from its European ‘mother’, ranging from grammar, stylistic considerations, vocabulary, all the way to pronunciation. One major notable difference is also the mixture of vocabulary originating from other languages commonly occurring in Canadian French (often mixed with English), as well as the slang/ informal style propensity, as opposed to standard French which, in linguistic essence, is more formal and cordial.

The Bottom Line

Throughout this article we have seen what makes an effective Content Localization Strategy for entering French-speaking markets, with its multiple layers of content processing and adaptation to streamline the workflow and connect with a new audience, addressing specific coordinates such as purchasing habits, customer behaviors, and cultural differences for the specifically targeted geographies.

At AD VERBUM, we take great pride in our extensive portfolio of professional Localization Services for a wide range of content types, from exact texts to creative writing. Our Professional Localization services are provided by multivalent content SMEs, native in the highest-ranking language combinations within the market, guiding you along every step of the intricate Localization processes and giving you a voice to speak globally through the right content, tailored to your needs.

For more insight into AD VERBUM’s Translation and Localization solutions, check out the services and industries dedicated pages, as well as our Translation Industry Insights Blog, and let us shape your business goals, give you a voice to speak globally, and help you to achieve them.

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