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Why French Remains an Important Language Today

By Sean Patrick Hopwood | Published: November 12, 2019

French, an Indo-European language and a member of the Romance languages, remains an important language worldwide. It's currently the fifth most spoken language in the world, with about 279.8 million speakers, and 77.2 million of them speaking French as their first language.

Early Development

The first documented written French material was found in 842 AD. Since the document was already written in Old French, this means that the start of the development of the language was much earlier. French is a descendant of Vulgar Latin, which gradually replaced the Gaulish language spoken by the people inhabiting the northern part of France that was first conquered by the Romans.

As an Established Language

The French language has come a long way. By the 13th century, it was a well-established language that was spoken in most parts of Europe. The language became linked to high society because it was considered a sophisticated language, which made people choose to learn French to gain social status and more wealth.

During the mid-14th century, French was Europe's most spoken language. It was used by many countries as the language of international relations and diplomacy from the 17th century onward. It was also the official language used in the English courts for several centuries.

Why French is Still Relevant Today

Several vital factors lead to French being a relevant language today, just as it was a few centuries back. The language may have lost some of its 17th century prestige, but it hasn't stopped growing. The number of French speakers continues to grow and the projection is that the number will reach 500 million by 2025, with about 150 million more in 2050.

As a speaker of English, you cannot escape French. English is derived from German and—you guessed it—French. French is spoken in several areas in the United States, most of them in New Hampshire, Maine and Louisiana. There are even French dialects that originate from the U.S., such as New England French, Missouri French and Louisiana French.

French is a dominant language in Europe and is the second language that is continuously taught in schools in Europe. But it is not only in Europe that French is one of the main languages. Africa has the most French speakers outside of Europe. In fact, 22 African countries use French as their official language and these countries are some of the fastest-growing economies in the African continent. Would you believe that aside from English, French is the only language spoken in five continents?

According to Bloomberg, French ranks third most useful language for international business, after Mandarin Chinese and English. It's because the French economy ranks as the sixth largest worldwide and ranks third in Europe. In the 2019 Fortune Global 500 list, the four countries with the most listed companies are the United States, China (including Hong Kong), Japan and France. You'll find more interesting facts about the French language in the specially-designed infographic above.

Do not believe that learning French is difficult for an English speaker to do. Remember that nearly 25% of the English vocabulary is from the French language, so you're bound to recognize these words in no time.

About the Author

A headshot of author Sean Patrick Hopwood

Sean Patrick Hopwood is the polyglot CEO of Day Translations, Inc., a transcript translation services provider that serves clients in a wide range of industries including healthcare, finance and government.

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