5 Linguistic Differences Across French-Speaking Regions

When translating your content into French, it’s essential to account for linguistic variances across different French-speaking regions. The meaning of a French word in France, for example, could vary drastically from its meaning in Québec.

Failure to account for regional language differences could yield errors and inaccuracies in your content, which negatively impact your brand’s credibility. As French comes in different flavors, here are some examples of French words and phrases that vary in meaning across regions

1. Punctuation
There are key differences in how French speakers use punctuation, depending on their home region. In France, for example, a regular, non-breaking space is inserted before double punctuation signs ( : ; ? ! ). Meanwhile, in Canada, there is no space at all, except before the semi-colon. Belgium does not use any spacing, and in Switzerland, only a thin space is used.

2. Units of measurement
In France, the metric system is used. In Canada, the conversion to the metric system was technically adopted in 1970, but the imperial system is still widely used. To avoid misunderstanding from Canadian French-speaking audiences, some French regions use a dual approach, such as Metric (Imperial).

3. Meals
The way French speakers refer to their meals varies notably across regions. In France, breakfast is petit-déjeuner, lunch is déjeuner, and dinner is dîner. Meanwhile, in Canada, Belgium, and Switzerland, déjeuner means breakfast, and dîner means lunch. Avoid missing your meal by being aware of these differences.

4. The word gazer
In France, the verb gazer can have two meanings. Formally, it means intoxicating someone with a combat gas—generally bringing WW2 to the French collective memory. Informally, the verb is used in the expression Ça gaze ?, meaning, How are you doing?. In Ivory Coast, gazer has a totally different meaning: it means to party, go out, dance, and drink alcohol. This kind of word must be used with caution, due to the cultural references it conveys.

5. The word camembérer
All French-speaking countries have certain expressions that won’t be understood in the other French-speaking countries. In Cameroon, for example, people use the verb camembérer—after the odorous cheese—to refer to smelly feet. Using this word elsewhere would likely prompt confusion.

At e2f, we can help you determine the appropriate variant for your French translation, based on your specific needs and goals. Our professional linguists (and native speakers) are trained to ensure your translation accurately encompasses all the nuances of your selected dialect. Contact us today to get the ball rolling on your international expansion.