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French word of the day: Bilan

French word of the day: Bilan
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
You'll often see this translated as a balance sheet, but in fact it has several meanings, all useful when you need to get to the point.

Why do I need to know bilan?

Because it's a common French term with no precise English equivalent.

What does it mean?

Bilan's exact meaning varies slightly depending on the context.

It can refer to the 'balance sheet' of a company, but also 'balance sheet' more generally, for example the 'results' or 'impact' of something, an 'evaluation' or 'a roundup'.

It's often used as faire le bilan, which means 'review' or 'take stock' – used in the same way as faire le point.

If you tap “bilan Covid” into Google you get an overview of virus rates across the wold, the number of cases, deaths and recovered. It's a good example, because it's a 'roundup' of the situation, based on the latest available health data.

Bilan frequently features in news article headlines, lately often related to the Covid-19 pandemic, such as le bilan épidemique (the impact of the pandemic).

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But the government will also often talk about le bilan économique (an economic overview), referring to the latest economic important trends such as whether or not the economy grew over a set period.

Bilan can be combined with most things: bilan couvre feu (curfew impact) refers to the effects of the night time curfew on Covid rates, bilan du “click and collect” is an assessment of the new French pick-up system for meals, and other stuff, while bilan carbone is a roundup of carbon emissions.

Use it like this

C'est quoi le bilan ? – What's the conclusion/lessons/assessment?

On ignore combien de personnes sont mortes dans le tremblement de terre, mais le bilan prévisionnel est déjà lourd. – We don't know how many people died in the earthquake, but the numbers we have so far are already high.

Il faut qu'on fasse le bilan avant d'annoncer de nouvelles mesures. – We need to do a roundup before announcing new measures.

 

 


Member comments

  1. Thanks for this post. I’ve see “bilan de compétences” as well, which I equate to a “skills inventory.”

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