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sctroyenne
Diglot
Senior Member
United StatesRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3437 days ago

739 posts - 1312 votes 
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: Spanish, Irish

 
 Message 1049 of 1317
24 June 2014 at 6:06am | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
sctroyenne wrote:
I feel like I've been able to keep languages pretty well-separated - when I'm speaking in French I'm thinking in French until I come across something I really can't express.

Ironically, I get a similar effect in the other direction: I'll be thinking in English until I come across something which I can express quite nicely in French, but which sounds awkward in English. This happens less when I'm using English heavily with monolingual speakers, though—my brain will eventually suppress my French.


I recognize this too - especially with all of French's lovely linking words and conjunctions. One of the Service Public podcasts talked about issues with the French language, which included the "invasion" of English. One of the experts said that it's completely natural that a "better" way to express something (which usually means something that conveys the same meaning in fewer syllables) will supplant the more convoluted, which is the case for a lot of the English terms being adopted into French.
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emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3578 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
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 Message 1050 of 1317
24 June 2014 at 8:34pm | IP Logged 
Je continue ma préparation pour à la conférence. Aujourd'hui : deux sessions d'une heure sur iTalki.

Session 1 : Un tutorat informel avec Olivier Nyssen. Il était formidable, et on a parlé de startups, de mon travail, de mon CV et de beaucoup d'autres choses dont j'aurai besoin de parler cette semaine. Grace à ma semaine d'immersion, je pouvais parler très rapidement et couramment et je ne cherchais pas trop de mots.

Session 2 : Et théorie, elle était une locutrice native et elle habitait à Paris. Mais je parlais plus rapidement et plus couramment qu'elle. Bizarre.

J'aurai une autre session demain matin. Et bien sûr, VoilaTV est allumée en permanence chez nous. Et comme d'habitude, mon français améliore très rapidement. Franchement, quand il ne me faut qu'un peu d'immersion pour améliorer mon français, les livres de grammaire et les drills ne m'intéressent pas.

Gardez un œil sur mon blog français cette semaine. Je vais parler un peu de la conférence.
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emk
Diglot
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 Message 1051 of 1317
27 June 2014 at 2:00pm | IP Logged 
Je n'ai pas beaucoup de temps ce matin, mais la conférence va très bien. J'ai rencontré plusieurs entrepreneurs français avec des produits très intéressants, j'ai vu un robot d'Aldebaran et j'ai eu beaucoup de conversations en anglais et en français. Apparemment, après un peu d'immersion, mon niveau de français suffit pour ce genre de conversations professionnelles. Je suis plus convaincant en anglais, bien sûr, mais quand je parle en français, il y a souvent un moment de surprise chez mes interlocuteurs et parfois des compliments.

Il y a aussi beaucoup d'entrepreneurs et de professionnels français qui se débrouillent avec un niveau d'anglais en dessous de C1. Et ça m'encourage un peu. Dans les affaires internationales, c'est clair que les langues ne sont pas toujours utilisées à un haut niveau de sophistication.

Et il faut que je parte. Mais je vais écrire plus après la conférence.
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emk
Diglot
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United States
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2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
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 Message 1052 of 1317
11 July 2014 at 1:26pm | IP Logged 
Doing business in another language

As I mentioned earlier, I just finished several things:

1. Translating my company's website into French, with much help from a professional writer/journalist that I hired on Hopwork.
2. Creating a French version of my technical blog.
3. Spending time with three different French tutors who asked me lots of questions about my work history and my business.
4. Attending the La French Touch startup conference in NYC, where I spoke with lots of French entrepreneurs, and watched them pitch their companies to VCs and other people.

This was a ton of fun, and now I have awesome bilingual business cards with English on the front and French on the back.

What level do you need to do business in a foreign language?

If you're just doing basic retail transactions, even A2 will take you a long way. But what if you do professional work, or if you actually run your own business? In this case, I think that B2 is the absolute minimum. Based on what I recently saw, here's how I'd break things down by level.

B2: You can do business, but it's often going to be challenging and awkward. Expect to practice a lot in advance, to devote a lot of time to writing email, and to occasionally get into embarrassing situations. Things will go better:

- if nobody expected you to speak your L2 in the first place and it comes as a nice surprise,
- if you speak your L2 only to be polite and use your L1 for complicated stuff, or
- if you have a really compelling offer and nobody cares whether you mangle the language.

C1: You can do business, but persuasion remains challenging. If you're the customer with the money, C1 is totally adequate for anything you'd ever want to do. Similarly, if you mostly just take orders from other people, C1 is fine. But if your job relies on persuasion, you will occasionally feel awkward and limited: You can explain stuff just fine, but you lack the flair you have in your L1.

C2: I don't have a good handle on what C2 exams actually require. But there's clearly a level above C1 where people can converse with style and ease in a wide range of challenging situations. This is actually appears to be somewhat rare in international business, and it usually gets people noticed. (Seriously, when the C2 speakers were on stage, I could see Twitter remarks like "Wow, Axelle Lemaire really speaks English!" (She does—she speaks easily and fluently, with an excellent accent, and a smattering of grammatical mistakes.)

What it looks like when things go wrong

Let me quote myself from another thread:

emk wrote:
Jeffers wrote:
I found the situation with French InfoTech companies described by emk very interesting. From a UK perspective, I see that if a French company needs an English speaker, they can find a French person who speaks it.

Well, sort of. It's more that the French startups were proud of their English, and they sometimes insisted on using it even when it was a bad idea. I watched a poor French women with a very interesting company—one that could clearly generate millions of dollars in profits—try to pitch her company to a group of VCs on stage. She was maybe B2, with weak listening comprehension, but she had a good accent. She had grammatical errors all over her slides, her presentation was poorly organized, and she didn't understand the questions from the VCs. The last word from one of the VCs before the time ran out? "I really like your numbers, but I still have no idea what your company does." Ouch.

So yeah. If you're B2, especially if you're a weak B2 and not just somebody who's avoiding the C1 exam out of laziness, you've got to be willing to do serious preparation.

Tips for doing business in a foreign language

These are just a few personal notes for my future attempts, based on my preliminary experiences, and on watching French entrepreneurs succeed beautifully or crash and burn. Take all this with a grain of salt.

1. Do not hesitate to hire professional writers or translators for important stuff. Sure, you could write it yourself, but once there's money involved, there's no excuse for mistakes or clunky prose. Fortunately, once you reach a strong B2—especially if you read and watch a huge variety of native materials—you should already have a good "ear" for style. So you don't necessarily need to hire expensive specialist translators: you can just do the translation yourself and look for native writers whose style you like. In fact, you may wind up with better sales copy on the L2 version of your website than the L1 version, which just goes to show that professional writers are pretty useful. :-)

2. Spend time with a good tutor or two, and practice every conversation you might need to have: go through your résumé, talk about what your business sells, and rehearse all the "islands" that you use professionally in your L1. For those doing business in French, I highly recommend Olivier Nyssen: he instantly figured out what I needed to practice, and he walked me through all kinds of job interview and business-related questions.

3. Pay careful attention to the structure of your presentations, and get everything proofread. I'm not sure why, but people tend to ramble a lot more in their L2, and give weird, misshapen presentations where everything is in the wrong order and nothing makes sense. Getting your structure and pacing right is even more important in your L2. And please, don't make tons of ugly grammar errors all over your slides (or on your résumé).

4. If your budget and circumstances permit, strongly consider recording a professional video presentation. For an example, see any big Kickstarter project's video. I saw a couple of French presenters with B2-ish skills who nailed their presentations thanks to a 2-minute video that clearly and convincingly explained what their product did and why people should buy it. They then followed up with audience-specific details and Q&A. But the video provided a clear, professional hook for everything which followed.

5. Make sure your offer itself is really compelling, and make sure that people at least understand that much. If people really want to do business with you, they'll forgive a lot. Investors, for example, will apparently listen to some pretty awful presentations if you're making money hand-over-fist and your growth curve is straight up.

6. If you're in a "bilingual" situation—you speak native English and decent French, and they speak native French and decent English—then I recommend operating under "Montreal rules", and changing languages strategically. When you want to be polite, or make small talk, use their language. When you want to impress, or you need to explain something complicated, use your language. Adjust as necessary depending on everybody's ability. Of course this will only work if they want show off their own language skills, but if you're an English speaker, this is often the case.

Anyway, like I said, these are just personal notes based on my first experiences. I'll undoubtedly change my mind a few times as I learn. :-)

Edited by emk on 11 July 2014 at 1:32pm

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Darklight1216
Diglot
Senior Member
United StatesRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3146 days ago

411 posts - 639 votes 
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: German

 
 Message 1053 of 1317
12 July 2014 at 12:31am | IP Logged 
J'ai vu ce post dans une autre place:
emk wrote:


But if you want a cool job in Berlin or France or Tokyo, or if you think that languages are
just plain cool, or if you want to read manga or BDs or magical realist novels, or if you
want to discover the world outside the anglosphere, then go for it.


Pouvez-vous me recommander un de ces livres magique-realist, s'il vous plaît? Et maintenant
que vous habitez ici, ou est-ce que vous achetez les livres (en français, naturellement).
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Jeffers
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 2955 days ago

2151 posts - 3960 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Hindi, Ancient Greek, French, Sanskrit, German

 
 Message 1054 of 1317
12 July 2014 at 1:32am | IP Logged 
That's a really helpful summary of your experience with business and French, and of course an excellent list of tips. I did laugh when I read about the French woman's presentation, although I have seen presentations with many errors given by native speakers (okay, probably not as many as her, but even a few is bad for a native speaker). How hard would it have been for the woman to get her notes and powerpoint proofread? I suspect she had positioned herself as the company "expert" in English, and couldn't have admitted to her colleagues that she might need some help. Which is another important tip: no matter how good you are, be honest when you need help.

If I ever need to make a CV in another language, I will remember what you wrote! The advice about business-specific tutoring is important as well.

EDIT: I had a glance over Olivier Nyssen's Italki page and noticed a grammatical error in his self-quote near the top of the page: "upbringings" instead of "upbringing". There are some errors native speakers make, but I put this in the category that marks a person as non-native to English. I recently pointed out a similar error in the English title of a blog by a German teacher of English. She responded that it wasn't wrong, but was acceptable in "scientific articles". I hope when I get to a high level I will have the humility to accept correction from native speakers.

Edited by Jeffers on 12 July 2014 at 1:44am

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patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
radiant-flux.net
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1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 1055 of 1317
12 July 2014 at 9:55am | IP Logged 
Nice post!

emk wrote:

C2: I don't have a good handle on what C2 exams actually require. But there's clearly a level above C1 where people can converse with style and ease in a wide range of challenging situations. This is actually appears to be somewhat rare in international business, and it usually gets people noticed. (Seriously, when the C2 speakers were on stage, I could see Twitter remarks like "Wow, Axelle Lemaire really speaks English!" (She does—she speaks easily and fluently, with an excellent accent, and a smattering of grammatical mistakes.)


My guess is that C2 exams are fairly pointless. There is clearly a point that is significantly above C1 where people become comfortable in the language, to the point that native speakers no longer see that language is any kind of impediment to communication (interesting when I say this I realize that C1 isn't that point).

My wife was C1 when I met her after about 10 years of English study, but that wasn't very intensive, and you could probably call that four-or-five years of more intensive regular work. It took her another four years after we met, speaking English everyday and living in the US for 18 months to get to C2. So my guess based on this N=1, that the time required to get from C1-to-C2 is approximately equivalent to the distance between A1-to-C1.

Of course this is very approximate, but I would be surprised if it was out by an order of magnitude. I find this actually quite reassuring: I am most of the way towards C1 now, and I am sure the journey between C1 to C2 is going to be very enjoyable.
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VivianJ5
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
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81 posts - 133 votes 
Speaks: English*, French

 
 Message 1056 of 1317
12 July 2014 at 10:07am | IP Logged 
I'm always surprised by foreign companies, doing business in English, with websites or documents loaded with basic
spelling and/or grammatical mistakes. And the errors are usually pretty basic language-transfer type errors: not
capitalizing (because in French the word doesn't take a capital), using plurals incorrectly, incorrect syntax...five
minutes of proofreading by a proficient speaker would be so useful. And it just makes the company look
unprofessional, since they didn't care enough to spend the time and/or the money on proofreading.

My French husband, who has been speaking English for over 40 years now, still asks me to proofread important
memos and emails, and wants critiques on his oral presentations (he still has an accent, but is very understandable).
He makes very few mistakes at this point (has worked in American companies for almost 25 years now), but when
it's important to make an impression, he knows a review by a pair of native-speaker eyes or ears can't hurt.

Your preparation and thoroughness are sure to impress, Eric!


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