French is an international language par excellence.
If you’re reading this post, it’s undeniable that you’re already blessed with fluency in an international language; but if you want to broaden your opportunities and to communicate with a wider range of cultures, French also tops a surprisingly short list of languages that are spoken globally.
Whilst the English-speaking world in general can be accused of a somewhat laissez-faire attitude when it comes to acquiring new languages, the popularity of French in particular has dwindled in British schools. Back in the mists of time when I was at school, the study of French was presented to us as a fait accompli, so it’s been something of a puzzle to me to observe an increasing malaise in schools about the learning of this vastly influential language.
France consistently attracts more international tourists than any other country in the world, according to the World Tourism Organisation. French is one of the working languages of the United Nations and the sole language used for the deliberations of the Court of Justice of the European Union. More importantly still, with native and second-language speakers in every continent, the influence of French stretches far beyond the borders of Europe; it currently ranks as the sixth most widely spoken language in the world and – crucially – is the only language other than English to be spoken in all five continents.
Of an estimated 275 million French speakers, more than 96 million live in Africa, and dozens of African countries from Morocco to the Seychelles have French as their official or second language. French is also spoken in the Americas, the Carribean and the Pacific islands.
As a foreign language taught in most countries across the globe, French is the second most widely acquired language in the world, and to ignore its significance in our increasingly global milieu seems something of a faux pas.
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