What Does a French Linguist Do?

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  • Written By: Maggie Worth
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  • Last Modified Date: 02 April 2020
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A French linguist is a professional who specializes in interpreting and using the French language. Duties vary widely based on the linguist's specific job but generally include translating both written and spoken French for functional or academic purposes. Activities can range from acting as an interpreter for French nationals in other countries or foreign nationals in French-speaking countries to translating French documents for law enforcement professionals and historians. In some cases, a French linguist might also train others to speak, write, and interpret the language.

It is important to remember that the French language is not spoken only in France. Other areas, such as Haiti and parts of Canada and Africa, have large populations of French-speaking individuals. In addition, French is one of the primary business languages of Europe.

Interpretation is one of the most common occupations for a French linguist. Interpreters can help people who do not speak the same language to communicate effectively with one another. This can be very important in business, where contracts and agreements must be negotiated and meetings must be facilitated. It is also important in legal situations where individuals must be questioned, advised of their rights, or asked to testify. Governmental and foreign affairs offices often use interpreters.


Translation is another common French linguist field. Translation services assist individuals with translating documents from and to various languages, including French. For example, someone cleaning out an attic might find a letter written in French and want to find out what it means. Translators also work with historians, documentarians, and archivists to ascertain the meaning and historical importance of old letters and other documents. Books originally written in other languages may require translators to convert them to French, and French movies may need someone who can create subtitles.

Teachers and instructors make up another portion of French linguist jobs. This might be at any educational level from very young children to university students. It may, in addition, extend to professionals such as military and governmental personnel being assigned to French-speaking regions. Other instructors may provide classes for adult learners in continuing education environments.

Regardless of the specific environment, teaching linguists perform similar functions. They create and deliver lesson plans, administer progress examinations, and assign and score take-home or in-class work. Many also participate in additional activities such as advising a high school French club or chaperoning a semester in France program for college students.


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