Rationale, Structure and Methodology of a French Language Program for American Bankers and Traders


  • Irène Finel-Honigman

    1. Crédit Lyonnais
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      Irène Finel-Honigman (Ph.D., Yale University) is Director of the French Language Program at Crédit Lyonnais, New York, NY.


ABSTRACT: Spurred by the expansion of the multinational corporations and the incursion of international banks into the American market, the Crédit Lyonnais, a world-class French bank and one of the largest foreign banks in New York, recognized the need to institute an in-house academic language training program. At present the Crédit Lyonnais is the only bank in the greater New York area to have such a program. This concept can serve as a model for American-based foreign corporations or those with intensive foreign contacts. Although many universities are creating commercial foreign-language courses, the business community is barely beginning to tap the academic market in developing in-house programs.

The program's primary objective is to provide American bankers, traders and other commercial staff with instruction in basic through advanced oral and written communication skills, and courses in inter-cultural knowledge of French banking history, semantics and literature.

Five courses are offered each semester. In each course, discussions and readings focus on business vocabulary, situations, and in the advanced courses, on analysis of economic and financial materials. The course sequence allows participants to enter as beginners and, after 3 or 4 semesters, to gain intermediate proficiency skills. Students with prior or even fluent knowledge of French enter at their specific level. Participation, although voluntary, is highly encouraged and closely monitored by upper management who themselves partake of the program.

The curriculum is designed by the professor to enhance the American's awareness of and adaptability to a French business environment. Courses are conducted entirely in French and emphasize conversation, oral presentations and phonetic skills (tapes and audiovisual materials are provided). At each level commercial French textbooks, business lexicons, in-house documentation, articles from French economic publications and socioeconomic excerpts from literary works are incorporated.