I speak both English and French Fluently. Yet, Since, I studied in a British University and the whole structure of my course was in English, I find it easier to answer all the technical questions in English. Is there any way to request this without sounding rude or too demanding?

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    Where is the interview being conducted? I also find it much easier to communicate technical terms in English rather than my native language. – rath Nov 8 at 15:28
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    What language is required for the job? – Dukeling Nov 8 at 17:36
  • Is it possible that they want you to be able to answer technical questions in French for the job - e.g. if you are working with French speaking colleagues or customers/suppliers? – colmde Nov 9 at 9:13
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    It seems to me it's rather relevant where this is taking place. I suspect there's a big difference between what place English has in the culture of France and that of Canada, for example. – Jasper Nov 9 at 10:25
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    This question needs a country tag, so answers can be salient to the country in which you are interviewing. – Doktor J Nov 9 at 17:20

Unless you are applying to a company which has a philosophy of using English as the company language, that request will likely get rejected.

The reason is that in today's workplace environment, social skills are even more valued than technical skills. It doesn't just matter how well you do things. It also matters how well you can explain what you are doing.

When you are working in a French company within a French team, for French customers and with French suppliers, then a very important part of your work will be to communicate in French. They need to judge your proficiency in this skill.

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    I wonder if the OP can do the interview in French, but refer to key terms in English by saying "as they say in English", (insert english term here, like DevOps, Factory pattern, Continuous Delivery) - especially if there are no direct french equivalents (Le Devops?). This way, they are playing by the interview rules and at the same time highlighting their english skills – vikingsteve Nov 9 at 8:05
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    @vikingsteve the vast majority of technical terms are not translated, or just slightly, even when direct translation would be possible: DevOps => DevOps, Factory Pattern => paterne factory, refactor => refactorer, push => pusher or pousser – mantale Nov 9 at 9:04
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    @Mawg All interesting software projects involve a team, as well as interaction with non-technical people. If you can't work well in a team, it doesn't matter how great your technical skills are, you won't be very useful for the project. – Voo Nov 9 at 9:22
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    @Mawg I am a software developer. The usual cliché of the introverted nerd hacking away in the basement and never talking to anyone is a thing of the past. In today's software development world you need to be able to communicate clearly with your team members and stakeholders. Reason number one why IT projects fail is bad communication, not lack of technical expertise. – Philipp Nov 9 at 9:27
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    Social skills are important; I am just sure if they are more important that technical skills. Can we agree that both are required and the exact mix is situational? – Mawg Nov 9 at 9:31

If you are interviewing for a technical position in a country where English is not the first language, then there may be a preference or expectation that technical discussions be conducted in the local language, as opposed to English. If that is the case, then you can make the request; however, you should be aware that it may not work to your advantage.

  • Obviously if you don't speak the local language, then an interview in the local language is pointless. In that case, either the interview is done in English, or there is no interview. – gnasher729 Nov 11 at 15:18

Is there any way to request this without sounding rude or too demanding?

As the other answers point out. There is nothing intrinsically rude about asking, but it is a bit demanding however understandable and convenient it may be for you.

My addition would be that the best solution is to sidestep the whole problem and prepare as you would for any interview by studying the French terms. If you get stuck, apologise and use the English term and clarify as you go.

While it will not be seen as rude to ask for the interview do be done in english, keep in mind the the interviewer might not be a fluent english speaker (if you are interviewing in a non english speaking country).

Since you probably don't want to make the interviewer unease, using his native language is probably better (specialy if you are fluent), but do not fear to fallback on the english technical word if needed. I don't know in which sector you are searching job, but in software developpement, I will be surprise if the interviewer wouldn't know the english word. And if need be, he can always ask for clarification. Since you have done your studies in england it will balso e understandable that you are more fluent with technical english than technical french. Even if you where to end up in a pure french environnement, just learning the technical vocabulary shouldn't be such a diffucult task (probably even easier than the firm internal jargon).

As a side note: in 10 years of software developpement in France (in both a small firm and a big international one), I have always code and work in english because: - you might need to share your code (or documentation) with not french speaker - online documentation and resources are mostly in english. So I will probably have an easier time to explain thing in french using english technical words than doing the whole with only french words.

  • Falling back on one language for jargon in a sentence in the other language is a good compromise. – Ian Nov 8 at 18:28

While I generally agree with the other answers that say you should be prepared to be interviewed in French if that's the language you'll be expected to use on the job, I don't think it would be unreasonable to ask for English.

Everyone knows that being interviewed is a stressful activity, much more so than conducting the interview. While you might be able to converse in French in more casual situations, and even in professional situations, it may be hard for you to put your best foot forward at the same time.

In many organizations, you're likely to be interviewed by several different people. You'll probably have to make this request to each of them at the start of the session, and should expect to get different answers, as some of them will be more fluent in English than others. When scheduling the interview, I think you should ask the recruiter or HR representative whether such a request would be acceptable at all.

As to how to make the request, just ask politely, with a reason they should understand and that doesn't sound selfish or demanding. You're being interviewed by ordinary people who want to hire eager candidates (some will become your colleagues if you get the job), they're not generally out to get you. Something like:

Would it be OK if we spoke in English, I think I'll be able to answer more fully and clearly if we do.

Of course, you should make the request in French. And hopefully they'll be able to tell from how you ask that you're proficient in French.

You could also offer to switch back to French after the technical portion of the interview, so they can see that you're fluent enough to conduct business.

  • If there are multiple interviews for a position in which one is expected to speak French, at least one of them should be in French. Saying "I don't want your only impression of me to be of me speaking French" is one thing, but "I'm not going to speak French at all" in another. – Acccumulation Nov 8 at 23:02
  • @Acccumulation Good point, and that's kind of what I was getting at in my last paragraph. – Barmar Nov 8 at 23:04

It depends on the field your work will be in.

I am from the Netherlands and work in IT. All courses from my university were in English as well. Here it is completely normal and accepted to speak a mix of both. It is actually preferred to use English for the technical terms and code is written in English by default.

It also depends on the colleagues you will be working with. Here, if there is someone in the room who doesn't speak Dutch the conversation is carried out in English. When I was applying for a job I sent out all my application forms in English since most technical terms don't translate to Dutch and I wouldn't want to work for a company where Dutch is enforced.

All this being said, I can imagine these points don't hold up in other fields or countries where English is not as dominant.

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