Friday, August 8, 2008

French vs. English in the World.

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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.

French is in 9th position among all languages people use in our world. Approximately 200 million people speak French on the planet. Fifty one countries have French as a 1st or 2nd language. It is used on all continents, only English is also 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.

Certain new English words that are quickly adopted by the French like e-mail , DVD and CD-ROM are eventually officially replaced by new French words: ecourrier, devede, and logiciel. It is particularly funny to note that these changes are made official by the government.

In France, the use of French is mandatory in broadcasting, advertising, instruction manuals, billing and in the workplace. In 1992, the French constitution was amended to make French the official language of the Republic of France.

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.

French was always the language of diplomacy. In the past, treaties between countries used to be written in French. It was spoken by the Tsars and Kings. Still today, it is one of the official languages of the United Nations and the African union. Because Pierre De Coubertin, a Frenchman, created the modern Olympics, it is its official language.

The French can be reassured, their language is not dying. Actually its usage is growing and it is estimated that it will keep growing. The simple reason is that French is mainly spoken in countries with very high birth rates (3 out of 4 French speakers leave in such a country). With them the future of the French language is assured.

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