Six Reasons to Study French
- Study Abroad
Approximately 300 million people on the five continents speak French, which is the official language of 29 countries, second only to English. It’s also one of the world’s fastest growing languages, according to Babbel Magazine.
Thinking about picking up this popular Romance language? These six reasons may offer the motivation you’ve been waiting for.
1. Learning French makes other languages easier to learn, too.
Did you know that roughly 45 percent of the English vocabulary comes from France, including a whopping 50,000 English words with French origins? The takeaway? Not only is learning French be relatively easy for English speakers, but it can also help hone the English-speaking skills of native and non-native speakers alike.
But that’s not all. Learning French also makes it easier to learn other Romance languages, as well, including Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian. Rob Wile explains in Business Insider, “Since French and Spanish are the mutant stepchildren of Latin, you can practically cut out a step if you ever decide to take up Spanish.” The converse is also true. Wile continues, “And If you already know Spanish, it requires very little effort to make the jump to French.”
2. You’ll be able to communicate while traveling -- and not just in France.
Of course, learning French will help you communicate better in France. And given France’s status as the world’s premier tourist destination, this is a major boon. Additionally, it will help you communicate in other French-speaking countries, including everywhere from Belgium, Burundi and Burkina Faso to Madagascar, Mali, and Monaco.
Plus, French remains the main second language taught in many countries. Continues Wile of the value of French, “When I lived in France, I found it impossible to communicate with the kids from Italy, China, Japan, and Mexico in anything other than French. Nor was English an option when I traveled to Poland and the Czech Republic.” While English is widely spoken and understood, in many countries and situations, you will still find that French is the lingua franca of international communication.
This is due, in part, to the fact that French is also a major language of international relations and institutions. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development says, “French is an official language of the United Nations (UN) and many UN bodies. It is a working language of the European Union and other regional organizations, such as the African Union. It is also one of the two official languages of the Olympic Games.”
3. French speakers are in great demand internationally.
French is an obvious choice for students aiming for careers in diplomacy or international politics. And if you’re considering an international career, the ability to speak French is a major selling point in both France and other French-speaking parts of the world, as well as with French companies and those that do business with them.
In fact, France’s positioning with foreign investors in on the rise. “Today, foreign investors are hailing our country as a sound business destination, with a fascinatingly creative economy. More than half of foreign decision-makers (54 percent) believe that France has become a more compelling proposition in recent years, while 84 percent (up 10 percent) now consider France to be an attractive business location,” reveals Business France’s 2017 report, The International Development of the French Economy.
And then there’s Africa. Wile points out that as Chinese companies continue to turn to Africa for its affordability and abundant resources, the fact that half of the continent’s fastest-growing countries have French as their official language makes the ability to speak the language a sought-after attribute in global trade and international relations. Quartz Africa adds, “It’s worth noting French, like English and Portuguese in other African countries, serves as a lingua franca in part because of the multitude of languages spoken in many African countries.”
French is so increasingly pervasive, in fact, that one study by investment bank Natixis suggests that as many as 750 million people may speak French by the year 2050, positioning it with the potential to become “the language of the future.”
4. French language skills open the door to France’s higher education institutes.
France is home to some of the world’s best higher education institutions known for everything from undergraduate studies to business schools. While many of these offer English language programming, there’s no more immersive experience than studying in the native language of your international study destination.
5. It offers direct access to France’s inimitable culture.
France has been dubbed the “cultural capital of Europe,” and with good reason: from art and architecture to cinema and cuisine, France is a one-of-a-kind cultural extravaganza. When it comes to truly taking it all in, speaking the language is key. We’re not saying it’s impossible to appreciate French culture without knowing French. However, learning the language will give you a deeper, more layered understanding of it.
Consider French-language films, for example. The phrase “lost in translation” absolutely holds up. Subtitles and voice-overs are a pale imitation when compared to hearing actors’ deliver lines in their native tongue.
The French Embassy’s New Zealand website sums it up nicely: “A French lesson is a cultural journey into the worlds of fashion, gastronomy, the arts, architecture and science. Learning French also offers access to the works of great French writers such as Victor Hugo or Marcel Proust and famous poets like Charles Baudelaire or Jacques Prévert, in the original text. It means being able to hear the voices of actors Alain Delon or Juliette Binoche, and the pleasure of being able to understand the words of French songs sung by an Édith Piaf or a Charles Aznavour and even sing them yourself.”
And France is far from the only country where the French language is inextricably linked with the culture. Morocco; the US’s New Orleans; Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion and the Seychelles; Saint Martin; French Polynesia and Quebec are among the many places where the French influence is still alive and well -- and the unique local culture is most accessible when you speak the language.
6. It’s a language of love (and reason).
We’ve all heard that French is the language of love. This is more than just a saying; it’s backed by data. Explains The Connexion, “Google says [French] is the language in which people are most likely to use romantic expressions. [...] It identified phrases in French, English, German, Spanish, Italian and Russian most frequently translated into other languages – and found that out of 1,000 phrases in France, 34 were of a romantic nature.” Now, compare this to just 17 romantic expressions out of 1,000 translated to English.
But if you lean more toward the pragmatic, French has you covered there, too. The website of the New York French American Charter School explains, “Learning French is the pleasure of learning a beautiful, rich, melodious language, often called the language of love. French is also an analytical language that structures thought and develops critical thinking, which is a valuable skill for discussions and negotiations.” After all, many of the world's greatest philosophers, past and present, are French.
Speaking of critical thinking, we know that seeking out different points of view help to hone this invaluable skill. Learning French is one way to expose yourself to different ways of looking at the world, and to broaden your lens in the process. A great example of this phenomenon? Contemporary news sources. While relying exclusively on English-language sources like CNN and the BBC may offer a narrow perspective of world events, adding French-language sources, such as TV5MONDE and Le Monde, offers an enriched and more global perspective.
When it comes to one last reason to make French your second, third or fourth language, we can think of no better way to put it than this declaration from FluentU: “If the French language were a credit card, it’d be MasterCard: inherently valuable and almost universally accepted. No matter what happens in the future, no matter what was ever going to happen, a language with that much influence and that much spread is in no danger of disappearing within the foreseeable future.”
Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.