French, a Romance language, is the fifth most spoken language in the world today. According to the latest edition of Ethnologue, 277 million people speak French as their first language. Most of the speakers are in Europe, Africa, South America, North America, Oceania, and Asia.

France and speakers of the language worldwide celebrate the French Language Day on March 20, 2020.

Official status

French is an official language in 29 countries, such as:

  • France
  • Canada
  • Vanuatu
  • Haiti
  • Côte d’Ivoire
  • Luxembourg
  • Monaco
  • Central African Republic
  • Belgium
  • Burkina Faso
  • Cameroon
  • Burundi
  • Benin
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Switzerland
  • Madagascar
  • Republic of the Congo
  • Senegal
  • Rwanda
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Chad
  • Gabon
  • Djibouti
  • Comoros
  • Guinea
  • Mali
  • Niger
  • Togo
  • Seychelles

Moreover, you can find French speakers in several countries, including Louisiana in the United States, Wallis and Futuna, New Caledonia, Saint-Martin, Vietnam, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, Saint-Barthélemy, French Polynesia, French Guiana, Morocco, Mauritius, Laos, Tunisia, Martinique, Algeria, Lebanon, Cambodia, Mauritania, Guadeloupe, Mayotte, French Polynesia, Jersey, and Guernsey.

French was a diplomatic language since the 17th century. It was replaced by English in mid-20th century, but remains as a language of various international organizations such as the World Trade Organization, the United Nations, NATO, International Olympic Committee and several institutions in the European Union.

Evolution of the French language

In its written form, French first appeared in the Serments de Strasbourg (Strasbourg Oaths). Previously, literature around Europe used Latin. By the 10th and 11th centuries, French was used in many religious writings and other documents. Among the most famous early French literary work was Chanson de Roland or Song of Roland, which was produced around 1200.

Modern French is a combination of Spanish, Portuguese and Italian, as well as some languages from the Mediterranean. The French from the Medieval era was one of the origins of Modern English, particularly its lexicon.

Many great writers and authors have created different works, such as the Roman de la Rose or Romance of the Rose, the legends of King Arthur, and more.

However, the changes in the French language are slower compared to English due to the Académie Française (French Academy), which protects the language. The Academy wants to safeguard the pureness of the language by asserting that the traditional and existing form of the language is the correct form.

French has several variations and dialects, but Parisian French is the model for the language because Paris is increasingly becoming important, politically and culturally.

Origin of the French Language Day

The United Nations wanted to promote multilingualism to honor the six official languages of the international organization. The French Language Day was established on March 20, 2010. The date was chosen as it concurs with the International Organization of La Francophonie’s 40th anniversary.

Why We Celebrate French Language Day

The aim of the United Nations in establishing French Language Day, as well as the special day for Spanish, English, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, is to honor cultural diversity, multilingualism and the equal usage of all of the organization’s official languages.

Celebrating French Language Day enriches people’s lives. It is a chance to appreciate, learn, experience, and acknowledge the qualities of the French language, the only language other than English that is taught worldwide.

The day brings people back to their roots. The English vocabulary has about 10,000 words that came from French. Most of them are everyday words that you use. Here are some of them:

  • Etiquette
  • Sabotage
  • Dentist
  • Crochet
  • Coupons
  • Renaissance
  • Rectangle
  • Soufflé
  • Faux pas
  • Dossier
  • Hors d’oeuvre
  • Rendezvous
  • Roulette
  • Debris
  • Queue
  • Debacle
  • Detour
  • Panache
  • Élan
  • Chic
  • Maneuver
  • Envoy
  • Avant-garde
  • Camouflage

The French language is recognized around the world. Speakers call it La Francophonie. The language embodies all the regions and countries around the world that speak French. Internationally, French is a language of diplomacy and friendship, as well as a language of commerce and business.

Importance of the French language

Aside from the important points already mentioned, the French language is closely linked to culture. The language opens the door to fashion, art, cinema, dance, music, and cuisine. Many important and famous artists and authors are French. Even if you were not too fond of art, you definitely would have heard of famous French artists such as Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Matisse, Ingres, Delacroix, and Cézanne.

It’s probable that you read The Little Prince, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, The Stranger, The Three Musketeers, and Les Miserables. France is likewise one of the most productive film producers in the world. Did you have a chance to watch The Passion of Joan of Arc, Amélie, La Belle et la Bête, Day for Night, Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, or A Prophet?

Who has not heard of some of the world-famous French fashion designers? Many people may not be able to afford their creations, but their designs have inspired many clothes designers. Still, it could be a lifelong dream to own something created by Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Pierre Cardin, Givenchy, Gaultier, Christian Louboutin, Guy Laroche, Agnès B., or Louis Vuitton.

Learning the French language

English and French belong to the same language family. It is easy for English speakers to learn French as a second language. However, it is better to approach your French language learning systematically. Here are some of the methods you can try

1.  Immersion

This approach means immersing yourself into French culture and language, meaning to stay in a French-speaking contrary for a period of time, which compels you to speak French every day. This method is applicable for people you have time on their hands, have money to spend, and like an informal way to study the language. Immersion keeps you in touch with native speakers while you learn the language and their culture.

2.  Using French grammar books

For people who like to learn on their own, you can buy French grammar books and learn the rules of grammar, which helps you to read and write in French. The drawback is that this approach takes time. Likewise, it does not give you many chances to listen or speak the language. You spend most of the time memorizing the French grammar rules.

3.  Take French language classes

Enrolling in a French language class gives you the opportunity to listen, speak, read, and write in French. With the guidance of the instructor, you can start speaking French after a few weeks. You can have a learning partner, which helps you conduct conversations in French. The disadvantage is that you cannot tailor the lessons to your learning pace and preference.

4.  Learn French online

When you take French language lessons online, understand that the focus of the lessons is on increasing the vocabulary. You can access the lessons on your computer or hand-held devices. While the lessons do not concentrate on French grammar rules, the learner can learn the structure of the language.

5.  Reading in French language

If you know basic French, and you have time on your hands, try this approach. Choose a good book in French and read it, translating between the source language and your native tongue. You need a good French dictionary for this. While the method is cost-effective, it does not allow you to write, understand or speak French.

Learning French depends on finding out the method that works for you. Although there is no effective method because every person learns differently, try to incorporate all the methods we mentioned. Surround yourself with all things French and look for ways to make learning French using different tools – books, magazines, movies, music, videos, interactive activities, and language apps.

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