mobile / portable (téléphone)

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by macdevster, Feb 4, 2013.

  1. macdevster

    macdevster Senior Member

    USA, English
    Can anyone weigh in now in February of 2013 and say if "mobile" is definitely more common than "portable" now in French-speaking countries?
  2. Santana2002 Senior Member

    English, from Ireland
    In my part of France (Bretagne), I would say it's predominately, if not exclusively, 'portable'.
  3. petit1 Senior Member

    français - France
    I never hear anyone say "mobile", always "portable". (ex. Hé! Il y a ton portable qui sonne!)
  4. xmarabout

    xmarabout Senior Member

    French - Belgium
    No, in Belgium (and in French TV or radios) the use of "portable" is still common. In Belgium, it is even more common than "mobile" in the everyday life. As synonyms in a standard conversation, you also have "téléphone", "smartphone" (use as a general term)
  5. Philippides

    Philippides Senior Member

    Français - France
    I (parisien, 40 ans) would rather say "mobile"
  6. Bordelais Senior Member

    English - British
    I don't doubt it, but would just point out that French operators like SFR insist on "mobile" on their websites: for example "changer de mobile".
  7. Sedulia

    Sedulia Senior Member

    Paris, France
    **Literate** American English
    Here in Paris I mostly hear people say "portable."
  8. xmarabout

    xmarabout Senior Member

    French - Belgium
    I agree with Bordelais about the operators but the public doesn't follow the operators so far... In Belgium, very common is the word GSM (even on the website of the Belgian operators).

    Prête-moi ton GSM que j'envoie un message !
    Changer votre GSM sans changer de numéro !
  9. Rainbow-Road New Member

    Troyes (France)
    French - France
    In France, “mobile” is only used by some mobile network operators or other retailers that sell cellphones [….]; people will always use “(téléphone) portable”. “mobile” sounds very outdated to me in informal French.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 5, 2013
  10. guillaumedemanzac Senior Member

    English - Southern England Home Counties
    I agree; in Aquitaine everyone says portable - even the new English settlers. We used to say mobile but have en masse converted by default to portable - with the correct French pronunciation of course because "port'ble" means something you can carry.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 5, 2013
  11. Philippides

    Philippides Senior Member

    Français - France
    I forgot to say that I work in the telecommunication sector. When I read all messages above, I understand that I am either outdated (un vieux con !) or maybe a bit odd :rolleyes:
  12. Lly4n4 Senior Member

    Paris (ex-Grand Ouest)
    Français (France)
    Le seul moment où j'utiliserai "mobile" ce serait par opposition à "fixe". Sinon, "portable" - "mobile" a en effet un petit côté rétro :) (désolée, Philipdes !)

    Tu peux me donner ton numéro de fixe et de mobile, s'il-te-plaît ?
  13. Rainbow-Road New Member

    Troyes (France)
    French - France
    Bah, même là ça sonne un peu vieillot je trouve. Je dirais plutôt « Tu peux me donner ton (numéro de) fixe et ton portable ? ».
  14. Philippides

    Philippides Senior Member

    Français - France
    Allez pour montrer que je ne suis pas complétement déconnecté de mon époque, je mentionne qu'à l'oral, et dans un langage jeune en France, on pourra dire « Tu peux me donner ton 06 ? » (les numéros de mobiles -et même ceux de portables :p - commençant en général par 06).
  15. Rainbow-Road New Member

    Troyes (France)
    French - France
    Avec l'arrivée des numéros en 07 en France, l'avenir de cette expression reste assez incertain ^^
  16. Bordelais Senior Member

    English - British
    Interesting that all the major French operators use "mobile" whereas the consensus here among native speakers seems to be firmly for "portable". Is "mobile" the result of some edict from the Académie Française?
  17. petit1 Senior Member

    français - France
    It is rather to stress the difference with "fixe".
  18. Sid.

    Sid. New Member

    Burgundy - Bourgogne.
    French - France

    Well, I can start by saying that I have not heard any person of my age saying 'mobile'. Young people really tend to use only the expression 'portable' to describe their cellphones.
    But, I know that 'mobile' is used, for example, I am pretty sure this is what appears in television advertising. Or what older people would say. (Not implying anything, this is a mere observation of fashion and language styles...)

    But this makes me think of other terms related to the matter : 'sms' and 'texto'. 'Sms' which is directly taken from the English is, in French, used mostly by young people whereas 'texto' is mainly used by older people. In France, some expressions appear more catchy depending on your age, perhaps? :D
  19. CarlosRapido

    CarlosRapido Senior Member

    Québec - Canada
    français - English (Can)
    Au Canada, on dit cellulaire (influence anglo je crois) dans le langage familier, mais portable devient plus fréquent et, ici aussi les fournisseurs disent mobile.

    nota; j'ai du chercher pour trouver la signification de GSM, je ne crois pas que ça soit compris hors Belgique.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2013
  20. Hildy1 Senior Member

    English - US and Canada
    Is "un portable" still used to mean a computer? If so, is there any way other than context to distinguish between a portable telephone and a portable computer?
  21. bazalpin Senior Member

    Jersey City, NJ
    French - France
    I'm afraid there is none
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 29, 2014
  22. Nicomon

    Nicomon Senior Member

    Français, Québec ♀
    Actually, it may be one of the reasons why we say « (téléphone) cellulaire » in Quebec.

    Unless the context is very clear, I would understand « portable » as "portable computer / laptop".

    Then again, this is copied from Termium - cell phone :
    So I guess one way to distinguish between computer and telephone for those who don't say cellulaire is indeed to say mobile for the telephone.

    Edit : I just found this previous thread (and the last post leads to another).
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2013
  23. petit1 Senior Member

    français - France
    For the portable computer, I say "portable" or, more rarely, "ordinateur portable".
  24. djweaverbeaver Senior Member

    English Atlanta, GA USA
    I've also hear un portable in France and un natel in Switzerland. I've only come across le (télephone) mobile in ads and my phone bill. In my opinion this mirrors the usage of courriel and mail/mél/courrier éléctronique/e-mail in France: the first one is only used officially by the French government, its services, and the Académie française; everyone else uses one of the other options in normal conversation and writing.
  25. SilverDuck Member

    Genève - Suisse
    That might not be really relevant to your question, but if you go to Switzerland, natel is definitely the most used word.

    I would use portable to reffer to a laptop computer. Again, it’s probably just a regionalism.

    Have a nice day,
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2013
  26. xmarabout

    xmarabout Senior Member

    French - Belgium
    Si, tout le monde comprendra de quel appareil vous voulez parler (même un enfant) par contre, rare seront ceux qui savent ce que ces initiales signifient (Global System for Mobile Communications qui est normalement une norme de la 2G) voir aussi ce qu'en dit wikipedia.
    A la réflection, en Belgique, les termes "portable" et "mobile" font un peu pédant.
  27. petit1 Senior Member

    français - France
    Je suis un dinosaure de France et si quelqu'un me parle de "natel" je ne saurai pas de quoi on parle.
  28. Nicomon

    Nicomon Senior Member

    Français, Québec ♀
    Comme moi, donc. Mais j'ai remarqué au début de ce fil que tu le disais pour le téléphone aussi. ;)

    Carlos semble penser que c'est sous l'influence de l'anglais qu'on dit « cellulaire » au Québec/Canada. Or « portable » est tout aussi influencé de l'anglais. Sauf que... les portables/mobiles ne sont pas tous cellulaires.

    Il en est aussi question dans cet autre fil.

    De toutes façons, bientôt plus personne n'aura de téléphone fixe, et on remplacera peut-être alors les mobile, cellulaire, portable, GSM, Natel, etc. par... téléphone. :)
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2013
  29. guillaumedemanzac Senior Member

    English - Southern England Home Counties
    Cell-phone is American not English - British English is still mobile (phone). :)
    Perhaps that's why Canadian French is cellulaire for a mobile phone. :confused:
  30. Nicomon

    Nicomon Senior Member

    Français, Québec ♀
    I agree that « cellulaire » (we also shorten it to cell as in « J'ai oublié mon cell » comes from cell-phone.

    But mobile (although not as common) is also said in American/Canadian English. It is one of the appellation listed on the page from Termium that I linked to above. And also at the bottom on this page from which I extracted what follows : ;)
    It would appear that we kept the first part of téléphone cellulaire portable and that Europeans kept the last. :)
  31. I am confronted with the same dilemma as Hildy1. If some French person still following this thread, could give some explanation. If I say: J'ai perdu mon portable. People will assume that I am talking about my mobile phone, won't they? Just because many more people carry around with them their mobile phones than their laptops. So, portable by default means a mobile phone.
  32. petit1 Senior Member

    français - France
    Yes, saquiwej, by default, it means a mobile phone. With "perdu" it can't be anything else because of the size of the object. Unless you are really very absent-minded you don't "lose" your portable computer; you'd rather think it has been stolen and say: "On m'a piqué mon ordi".
  33. SilverDuck Member

    Genève - Suisse
    I concur with petit1. If I were to lose my laptop, the natural way to say it to me would be «J’ai perdu mon pc portable» as just «portable» would feel like the phone.

    In the phone case, I think that nowadays it is more and more common to hear the word «smartphone» even in French (don’t forget the French accent on top of it). I’d say «J’ai perdu mon smartphone» or «J’ai perdu mon natel» (if I’m with swiss folks). At least I guess that’s what people in their twenties would say.

  34. Jean-Michel Carrère Senior Member

    French from France
    If there a risk of ambiguity, then the speaker can also specify "ordi portable" if he or she means "laptop".
  35. Michelvar

    Michelvar quasimodo

    Marseille - France
    So, as there is an ambiguity, you would have to say "J'ai perdu mon ordinateur portable / ordi / laptop / notebook". Among people working in English on a daily basis (air transport, international shipping, ...), "laptop" and "notebook" are used in French to prevent this ambiguity.
  36. Oddmania

    Oddmania Senior Member

    Notez que si l'on parle d'un ordinateur, il suffit de dire J'ai perdu mon ordi(nateur). Si vous êtes dans un aéroport ou dans une université, on se doute bien que vous ne parlez pas d'un gros PC de bureau (ce serait difficile à perdre).
  37. Nicomon

    Nicomon Senior Member

    Français, Québec ♀
    Dans la même logique qu'Oddmania... si vous dites j'ai perdu mon téléphone, on se doutera bien que vous n'avez pas perdu votre téléphone fixe / à fil. :D

    Si j'entendais : On m'a piqué/je me suis fait voler mon portable... moi je comprendrais ordi / laptop.

    Si le portable en question a été perdu, alors oui, je comprendrais téléphone. Mais si c'était moi qui l'avait perdu, je dirais autre chose que portable.

    Portable ne veut pas dire téléphone par défaut, à Montréal.
  38. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Hauts-de-Seine, France
    English (Ireland)
    I've always preferred québécois usage in this regard (as in many others). Un cell(ulaire) is absolutely unambiguous whereas portable can sometimes lead to misunderstandings (rare, admittedly, but still).

    Similarly téléphone intelligent has always seemed more appropriate to me than "un smartphone".
  39. guillaumedemanzac Senior Member

    English - Southern England Home Counties
    Another point is the meaning of mobile in English - with the English not the French pronunciation. It means anything moving . He's much more mobile than he was after the landmine incident - with his new prosthetic limbs he won gold in a faster time than most non-handicapped runners.

    Mobile (pronounced French style) is a town in Texas where they do everything differently according to the song : "In Mobile, In Mobile, In Mo, In Mo, In Mo, In Mobile, They tie them up with string, And they let the buggers swing, In Mobile, In Mobile."

    Mobile in French therefore means "Moveable" : Mobilier for the moveable contents of a property, Immobilier for the walls and non-moveable parts of a property. So mobilier means furniture. (I realise all of you know that but :D).
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2015

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