French Language Origins
Nowadays, the French language belongs to the Indo-European language group, and it is classified as a Romance language, which indicates its derivation from Latin. Of course, the spoken French of today did not appear right away but was the result of a millennium of being spoken, written, and revitalized with new vocabulary and changing grammar.
The first written language appearing in documents in France was Gaulish. The Gauls were people who lived in Western Europe and were called the Celts.
In 58 BC, Julius Caesar started the Roman invasion of Gaul and took over the territory of what is now France, also including parts of modern Switzerland and Germany.
Since the Celts did not possess their own alphabet, the earliest writings in Old Gaulish, which date back to the 3rd century BC, were transcribed using the Greek alphabet.
After the Gauls were conquered by the Romans and took part in the Roman Empire, Latin became an official language.
In the 5th century, Germanic tribes took over most of Gaul’s territories and established the dynasty of kings called Merovingian. There the people spoke Frankish, which belonged to the Indo-European languages.
The Emergence of Old French and Middle Ages French came a long time after. By the time the 10th century approached, the Romance languages in France were already set.
French Language Locales
Roughly 3 billion individuals around the globe speak French. There are over 30 Francophone countries worldwide, it is the only language other than English spoken as a native or first language on all five continents.
Apart from French spoken in France, there are many other locales such as Canadian French, Swiss and Belgian French, African French (Creol), and even Indian French, spoken by Indians in the previous colonies of Mahe, Pondicherry, Karaikal, Chandernagore, and Yanam in Southern India.
French Localization Opportunities and Challenges
Nowadays, 4% of internet content is in French as it became one of the most used languages for business communication. For translation agencies offering website localization services, this is a good business opportunity.
Companies wanting to target French audiences should be aware that there are challenges, and engaging the services of a translation services provider experienced in translating for French markets is recommended.
As there are variations in the English language spoken in different countries, similarly, there is a difference in the French spoken in France, Belgium, the Middle East, Africa, and Canada.
Moreover, there is a difference in culture and grammar – this is why businesses should employ a professional translation agency. Depending on the target audience, the document or website must be translated into the French language of that audience. By working with a professional translation agency, you can be assured that the translators (who are native speakers of the target language) assigned to the project are experienced in the company’s industry and the style of the content.
Due to the nature of languages, each varies in its length and sentence structure. In the French language, which is approximately 15–20% longer than the original English text. This is important to be aware of when preparing the source documents or GUI (graphical user interface). Too-tight text layouts may not leave room for the longer French translation, which means the copy will either need to be in a smaller font size or need to flow to the following pages. For GUI’s, it is important to make adjustments so that the expanded text will show properly, or, if there are character limits, detail those at the project start to save time and money. Both English and French have different styles of grammar – be it the syntax, gender, verbs, and other aspects of grammar, there is a huge difference. Likewise, there is a tremendous variation in terms of subject-verb-object structure. French is a two-gender language, however, there is no specific rule, and knowing what nouns are feminine can be confusing. This situation is similar in verbs and adjectives. A native-speaking French translator will know these types of differences and work accordingly on the translation.
While it may be tempting to control costs using one of your employees who speaks French, it may not be the best approach. Professional translators translate full-time (they leave and breathe words), and most importantly are native speakers of the target language and live in-country. This is crucial as languages develop over time and by being immersed in the country, the translator is up to date with the language in its current state.
As mentioned above, there are millions of French speakers worldwide. As globalization has grown, the need to target markets in their native language has proven to increase market share and as a result, ROI. But companies need to plan smartly to target these regions and this needs to occur at project start. By preparing content, software, and websites with the anticipation it will be localized for global markets, you can save time by developing them properly from the beginning. If you are not sure what that entails, partner with a qualified translation service provider. They will have the expertise to guide you in solid internationalization and localization practices and will have vetted qualified professional translators for your industry and content type.