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The French Language Under Attack

Aug 1, 2008
In France, people are often complaining that their language is at risk because of the influence of new English words that are adopted all the time. If it is true that French is always changing, it is not going to disappear anytime soon. Actually its use is growing worldwide.

Official statistics count about two hundred million French speakers in the world, although seventy two million of them are classified as partial speakers. It is a 1st or 2nd language in more than 50 nations. French and English are the only 2 languages that are spoken on all continents

France is very proud of its language, culture and tradition. At the same time, new technologies and terms coming from other countries, mainly English speaking countries like the United States require the creation or adoption of new words in the official dictionaries. This task is left with the French Academy, an independent group of usually older and famous intellectuals.

The French government sometimes passes laws to protect the language from the influence of other dominant languages like English. Many new English words that tend to seep into the vocabulary are officially replaced by new French words. Some examples are Logiciel instead of Software, jeu decisif instead of tie-break or baladeur instead of walkman.

Certain industries like advertising, broadcasting and certain commercial communications like billing statements and direction manuals have to be written in French. The French went so far as to amend their constitution in 1992 so that French is now the official language of the Republic.

Did you know that there are more French speakers in Africa than in Europe or any other place in the world? Actually 75% of French speakers reside in Africa. Even Canada with its more than 9 million French speakers is far behind and the USA only count 700,000 French speakers. In Europe, German is the most spoken language. French and Italian come in second and English is third.

On the internet, French is somewhat underrepresented with only 5% of all web pages in French. One could say it is better than none which is the case for 90% of all languages. German does a little better with 7% of all pages and English takes the crown with no less than 45% of all web pages. English is the most studied language in the world but French is in second place.

One reason the French are may be a little paranoid about the place of French in the world is that they have been used to its prominent place. French has always been important in diplomacy. French was the chosen language for most treaties between nations in history. It was the favorite language of the Spanish Kings and Russian Tsars. It is one of the official languages of the United Nations, the Olympics and the African Union.

Because 3 out of 4 of the French speakers are located in countries with high birth rates, one can expect that the use of the French language is only going to keep growing. Africa for example counts the largest number of French speakers in the world and its population is supposed to double from 1995 to 2025, going from 728 millions to 1.49 billion.
About the Author
Author Adrien Matt is a French native who lives in the U.S. He shares many examples of simple French sentenses on his blog: teach me French. He also writes independent reviews on the best how to learn French courses available on the market.
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