The Frenchest thing of all is the French language.
Once upon a time, French was the official language of diplomacy, today French continues to be vibrant worldly language. Linguists say that French is one of the most influential languages in the world after English – it speaks on all five continents it’s the native language of 300 million people, and its the official language in nearly 30 countries in the world. On top of that French continues to be used by many organizations like the United Nation, the European Union, and the Olympic Committee to name a few.
French is also a very important language for doing business, particularly in Africa, which actually accounts for the largest French speaker in the world. French is the official language of communication in about 20 African countries. It’s the language of education, teaching is done in French and learning to read and write is in French, and it’s a necessity for doing business as on the African continent trade and deals are often done in French.
The number of French speakers continues to grow each year and French is the 2nd most learned foreign language in the world, just after English.
It may seem paradoxical, however, French is one of the most difficult languages to learn.
So why is it then that people actually learn French? And teach it to their kids?
It goes way beyond wanting to learn how to order a pain chocolate or croissant in French. According to millennials having 2 languages or 3 languages – with English – gives you better work opportunities in the future. Some say there is such a close relationship between China and French-speaking Africa that there is a growing need for Chinese elite that speaks French.
Plus the fascination with French people striking all the time clearly relates to a population that appreciates that the French “say what’s on their minds”.
Sometimes people living outside of a Francophone country speak to their children in French because they know they’re automatically going to learn their mother tongue which everyone speaks. However, it’s the desire to speak French that inspires a parent to take this drastic step.
The French are extremely proud of their language and rightfully so, it’s a very beautiful language. However the prominence of French isn’t accidental, there is a wide network of international organizations which aims to promote the French language worldwide.
Perhaps you’re familiar with the Alliance Française which was founded in 1883 and has a network of about 850 establishments in 136 countries, making it very widespread. But it’s much more than a language school, it’s about spreading French culture and values across the world.
There is also another international organization which represents and defends the interest of French-speaking countries. The international organization of francophonie (French speaking countries). It has 50-some members, it’s own flag and is a very big deal in the French-speaking world. Every March there is an event for francophone countries to come together and celebrate the French language and this incredible linguistic community.
Many Francophone countries are concerned about the growing influence of English, which some are calling a so-called English invasion. Well thanks to globalization and modern technology, countless English words have made their way into the French language, particularly in advertising and branding.
And different countries have different ways of dealing with this perceived threat. For example, in Quebec they’re quite hardcore, they have very strict rules to keep English out of the French language, which is enforced by language inspectors. Here in France, they have their own institution that’s sort of a guard-dog of the French language – it’s The Académie Francaise.
But the real question here: is the language of romance in danger?
If you pay attention to the English language you’ll find that half of English words actually come from French.
The fact that English has become the universal language is a testament to the French language itself. Based on the fact that half of English comes from French, as far as the French language itself is concerned there is no valid threat, on the other hand, French is 2nd most spoken language in the world.
Rest assure, there is no danger, as the success of English reflects on the success of French.
A sigh of relief there.
So what does the future hold for the French language?
There was a very interesting study in 2014 that suggested that 1 day French could be the most spoken language. Thanks to a population surge in Sub-Saharan Africa it’s possible that 750 million people will be speaking French by 2050.
As you can see there are many reasons to be optimistic that French will be alive and kicking for the years to come. So raise your glasses and a toast to the French language!