In English both "he looks for a job" and "he is looking for a job" are fine.
French does not have a present continuous tense therefore "cherche un emploi" can be translated into either of the given English sentences. Only context can say which of the English sentences is actually meant.
"He looks for a job" - he looks for a job each afternoon.
"He is looking for a job" - he is out looking for a job right now.
It might be useful to point out that as a consequence of a lack of a present continuous tense in French, anglophones often abuse the phrase "être en train de." In French class, I was taught that this was like adding an "-ing" to the end of a verb.
For the young French student, the phrase: "I search" = "Je cherche" while (on the same exam) the phrase: "I am searching" = "Je suis en train de chercher."
What they DIDN'T tell me was that francophones don't use "en train de" nearly as often as an anglophone THINKS s'he ought to. The anglophone wants to use "en train de" anytime s/he would put an -ing at the end of a verb in English, when a simple present-tense expression in French would do the trick ("je cherche").
Use "être en train de" when you want to EMPHASIZE the fact that it's happening AT THIS VERY MOMENT. In English you might even say "He is in right in the middle of looking for a job" = "Il est en train de chercher un emploi." (See how it doesn't feel right in English? Use the present tense!)
One example with a different verb: When you knock on the door, the person inside will call out "J'arrive!" = "I am arriving!" or, more commonly, "Coming!" -- both "-ing" verbs in English. Yet It would sound silly to say "Je suis en train d'arriver!" as though the person couldn't tell you were right in the middle of the process of getting to the door.
Thank you for that explanation, as it was completely overlooked in my french class as well. Additionally, it was easy to overuse 'en train de' because you could just throw an infinitive on the end without having to figure out the proper verb ending. (Whistles while looking sheepishly aside...).
Response from @sitesurf from another Dulingo discussion :
Each word has a reason for being and refers to specific notions, even if you can use them as synonyms:
- je cherche un travail / un emploi = I am searching for a job
- sans emploi = jobless
- le marché de l'emploi = job / labour / employment market
- réparer ce jouet est un travail délicat = reparing this toy is a delicate work
- il est ingénieur de métier, mais en ce moment il enseigne les maths = he is a professional engineer, but he currently teaches maths.
In addition, a good online dictionary will give you more information.
Here in a Duolingo discusion : "Emploi", "Travail", "Métier", "Carrière"
also has interesting information about this topic.
In looking up the collins dictionary,
They're both proper sentences, but English doesn't use the simple present very often when describing things people do. So you are correct, "He is looking for a job" is a more natural sentence. "He looks for a job" would only sound okay in certain contexts, like books and song lyrics.
In English, it's always "searches for" or "looks for."
In this sentence, people would understand what you meant, but it'd sound wrong. In some sentences, it would completely change the meaning: "He searches for his wallet" means he's looking around to find where his wallet is, but "He searches his wallet" means he's looking through his wallet to find something inside.
Sometimes flexible answers end up being quite unnatural. And sometimes literal translations may be technically correct but idiomatically very awkward. It is a constant struggle to find a balance which is flexible enough without teaching that awkward expressions are accepted.