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Overcoming French and American Intercultural Differences with the Right Translations

One of the main things you come up against when translating are intercultural differences. People from different countries don’t only vary in terms of the language they speak. They also vary in terms of their clothing, food, professional ethics, personal values etc. People from different cultures have different ways of spending their time and money because different things are important to them.

So when you’re trying to approach someone from a different culture with a marketing document, it’s necessary to make sure that that document appeals to them and doesn’t clash with their culture. This is why it’s important to have professional translators who are not only familiar with the destination language but also the destination culture. Such a translator will be able to tell you if you’re taking the wrong approach with your marketing slogan and advertisements.

“Rainmakers” vs. “Savoir-Faire”

Consider the intercultural differences between the French and Americans. There is a language difference to consider, of course, since the French speak French and Americans speak English. But more than this, you also need to consider the fact that the French value different things.

As compared to Americans, the French have a more laid-back culture. Americans are often on the get-go. They appreciate “movers and shakers” or “rainmakers.”  Money is very important in America.

This doesn’t mean that money isn’t important in France; it is. However, the French also value people who have a certain amount of savoir-faire, people who know how to talk to others and to elicit the kinds of responses they want. If someone French is throwing a party, they’ll be sure to invite that friend who can talk to anyone and make them feel at ease. Getting along with others and being able to talk about a variety of topics is important to the French.

This means that when you’re marketing something to the French, you could include its financial benefits but also write a little bit about how that thing will help to promote a sense of friendship and community.

Perfection vs. Sophistication

There are also other intercultural differences between Americans and French people. Their attitudes towards fashion are different. The French emphasize fashion more than Americans do. Plus, their ideas about fashion are also different.

In America, you’ll see a lot of people going to gyms and trying to build the perfect body. But French people don’t really like to work out; instead, they walk everywhere and control their diet. However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t eat at all. They just eat everything in moderation.

In terms of fashion, French women tend to wear more dresses and scarves; they try to look chic instead of looking perfect, the way people do in America.

So when you’re marketing to French people, you might want to consider the fact that they don’t aim for perfection in their fashion sense. Instead, they try to project an air of sophistication and elegance.

Portion Control vs. Taste and Enjoyment

French cuisine is also quite different from American cuisine. It’s a lot more elaborate. You’ll find that even people who don’t have that much to spend drink wine with their meals. Plus, French portions are small but they’re painstakingly created.

In America, beer is a lot more popular than wine. You’ll find that people either don’t care about what they eat and hence eat large portions or they practice extreme control, often eating things that are healthy without being tasty. The French are more moderate in the way they approach food. And they can appreciate the little things, so they don’t eat in large quantities.

If you’re marketing a food-related product to the French, you’ll need to change your approach entirely. Focus on taste and enjoyment rather than health and portion control. A good translator will point out these things in your document and help you to use the right adjectives to appeal to a different culture.

Contact us for more great tips on getting past intercultural differences with the right translation.

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