Is the French Language Dying? French Course Anyone?

Pascale Chauvot

7 Apr 2015

As the business world continues to globalise and tourism continues to grow from a more diverse collection of nationalities, the question of finding a common language continues.  Most people consider English to be the most commonly spoken language across cultures, at least outside of parts of Asia and perhaps Latin America.

The Role of the French Language

But it wasn’t that long ago when the French language was considered to be the lingua franca, especially amongst the educated and well travelled as well as in diplomatic circles.  But with the rise of English, does that mean that the French language is dying? Is there no longer any need for one to follow a French course?

The use of French has been explored in an article published in The Local.  It is reported by the Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF) that the number of French speakers has actually grown by 25% since 2010 in spite of French no longer being the language of diplomacy.  At 274 million speakers in 2014, the French language is the sixth most popular language spoken, following Mandarin, English, Spanish, Arabic and Hindi.  French is also the fourth most popular language on the internet and the third most popular business language.

So Where Is the French Language Spoken?

In addition to France and its dependencies, French is also an official language in several other European countries, including Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco and Switzerland.  However, most French speakers are found outside Europe, from Canada and especially throughout much of North and West Africa.  Interestingly, most non-French national speakers may speak French as an additional language.  Some French speakers from outside Francophone countries may not use their French language skills on a daily basis.

Investment in French

The OIF recognises the need to support the ongoing growth of French speakers.  This includes investment in education and support from additional organisations such as the Académie Française. The same article published in The Local also points out trade advantages gained by companies employing French speakers.  These advantages include the recognition that organisations that share a common language do as much as 65% more business with each other than with organisations that struggle to find a common language.

It’s Not All About English

Although few linguists are predicting the demise of English as the preeminent global language, having the ability to speak French undoubtedly increases the probability of successful business transactions that may not have been otherwise gained.  And having the ability to speak French in some of the most interesting parts of the world where French not English is widely spoken is culturally enriching to curious tourists.

Vive la langue française!