What Not to Say on Your Business Trip to France

It’s not unusual for us English-speaking folk to use English phrases and words in a language they weren’t made for. Sometimes, after this little blunder, we just get a friendly correction; other times, it can be more of a scowling.

When you’re on the topic of business, whether in a meeting, on the phone, in an interview or out at lunch; you might find it’s best to avoid these problematic pests entirely, you don’t want to make a bad impression and say the wrong thing without even being aware of it, right? Well, don’t fret, here’s a list of a few things that might be best left unsaid.

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Preservatives, while to us might be the popular addition to many of our favorite foods, sounds awfully close to the French préservatif, with means ‘condom.’ This might make for an awkward dinner conversation.

Avertissement is not what you’d think in advertisement, which is either publicité, réclame, or spot publicitaire; Avertissement means ‘to warn,’ ‘to caution.’

Opportunité refers to ‘timeless’ or ‘appropriateness,’ to speak of an opportunity is to say une occasion.

Sale is an adjective meaning ‘dirty,’ and ‘saler’ is to salt, ‘a sale’ is une vente or un solde.

Décevoir is to ‘disappoint,’ and déception is ‘disappointment.’

An issue is an ‘exit,’ ‘solution’ or an ‘outcome.’

These are all false cognates, faux amis, or false friends; however they’re not the only thing to be a little careful of, there’s also some common phrases that while the literal translation might be correct, it is not used in the same way we’re used to.

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J’en ai assaz translates to “I’ve had enough,” but it is more extreme, to say it is more akin to “I can’t take any more!” If you want to say it in the way we’re more accustomed to, use Ça suffit, merci.

Je suis fini means “I am finished,” but not in the sense that you’ve finished your food or your assignment, but in that your time is up and you’re about to expire. Use j’ai terminé when you’ve finished your meal.

Je suis plein(e) might appear to mean “I’m full,” however it’s interpreted as “I’m drunk,” or even “I’m pregnant.” To say “I’ve had enough” is j’ai assez mangé.

Puis-je user les tuilettes? This does not quite mean “May I use the bathroom?” It actually comes across as “may I wear out the toilet?” That doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

Hopefully this helps you avoid any businesses or social blunders, when you’re out to make a good impression it’s the things you say that will often make or break you. Of course, this is not a complete list, and to really feel comfortable and safe in your use of the French language, you should consider taking some classes; take our online French level test to try out your current French mastery, or send an inquiry for any other information.