French Market Research Surveys: Cultural Insights and Translation Tips
Updated: Oct 9
Known for its rich culture and history, France is a top tourist destination. If you’re a market researcher whose end clients want to expand into the French market, there are some things you’ll need to consider when designing French market research surveys, such as privacy laws, topics the French are sensitive about, and the pride the French have in their language. By keeping the following things in mind, you’ll be off to a good start when conducting research in France and ensure that you get quality and reliable data from your French respondents.
Official Name: French Republic
Population: 64.6 million
Official Language: French
Currency: Euro (€)
GDP: 2.5 trillion USD
Area: 643,801 sq. km. (248,573 sq. mi.)
France is the fourth largest research market after Germany, the UK, and the USA.
Money, a Touchy Subject
Most demographic screeners include questions about income levels, and some surveys even have questions that dig a little deeper into the subject. But if you’re designing a survey for French respondents, you may want to consider the fact that talking about money in France is more taboo than talking about sex. Why is this? In part it’s because of the historical influence of poverty, Catholicism, and Marxism on French society. Although the modern French constitution codifies it as a secular nation, the remnants of a society that for centuries saw a large divide between the rich and the poor still resonate in the French worldview. As I recently wrote in my post on market research in Germany, you don’t have to avoid questions about income altogether, but you’ll want to make sure your questions are framed in such a way that they’re culturally sensitive and appropriate for your target demographics. This is something your language service provider and local research team can help you account for.
Privacy, just as in Germany, is very important in France. According to the results of the Biennial 2015 Barometer ACSEL-CDC regarding the French people’s digital confidence, over 60% of the French are uncomfortable with online data collection and storage, 21% are reticent about sharing personal information online, and 74% refuse to use location services. 44% provide incorrect information, and 28% use aliases in an effort to protect their identity. There are two primary French laws regarding privacy: the Loi Informatique et Libertés, “French Data Protection Act” and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is an EU law shared by all EU member states that will take effect in May 2018. By familiarizing yourself with such privacy laws, and reassuring your target respondents that their privacy will be protected, you’ll ensure your respondents feel comfortable responding honestly to your questions.
Pride in the French Language
The French are particularly proud of their culture and language. If fact, the pride they have for their language was enshrined in law in the early ‘90s, when Jacques Toubon, then Minister of Culture, introduced a law mandating,
“the use of the French language in official government publications, in all advertisements, in all workplaces, in commercial contracts, in some other commercial communication contexts, in all government-financed schools, and some other contexts.”
Of course, this law does not apply to market research, but it does highlight the importance of the French language. According to Marguerite Gregory, a translator and linguist who’s worked with Language Intelligence for more than 15 years,
“Great care should be given to providing well-localized, native quality content that doesn’t appear to be a translation, as well as content relevant to the market. Surveys that are poorly localized will reflect poorly on the brand, and respondents may be more reticent to answer them.”
Translating Surveys in French
Translating surveys from English into French can prove challenging in a number of different ways. Text expansion, a common issue in translation, is something that could break the layout of your survey design. For example, you might have certain buttons, icons, or survey fields containing text. Because translation from English to French expands by an average of 20–30%, your sentences, questions, or phrases may trail off the edge after translation. Shorter sentences produce more succinct translations, meaning you’ll spend less time fixing overflow issues. According to Marguerite, translators are also challenged by poorly or ambiguously written content.
They have to “‘deconstruct’ the English in order to reword the content properly in the target language, while making sure the main point or essence is accurately captured. Occasionally, if a sentence is overly ambiguous, the translator may have to ask the client for clarification. Both these situations could end up slowing down the translation process or causing delays due to back-and-forth communication. As with translation into other languages, adapting a text for the target culture is often a necessary step for ensuring a high-quality translation. And if you don’t have professional linguists working on your translations, cultural adaptation can be a difficult hurdle to overcome.
And the more the language of the original survey is rooted in the original culture, the more adaptation—and therefore linguistic skill—will be necessary to get the results you’re looking for. But with enough planning, you’ll be able to save a lot of time and money and provide your end clients with the actionable insights on the French market that they’re after.
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