“Allons enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé”
The French language has traveled far beyond the borders of France. This beloved native tongue is considered one of the most beautiful sounding language in the world. French language speakers circle the globe, from Cameroon to Quebec, from Paris to French Polynesia, and from Martinique to Missouri. The United States alone possesses more than 1.5 million French language speakers. Moreover, several U.S. cities and states, like St. Louis and Louisiana, boast French names. And as many people already know, one of America’s most unique cities, New Orleans, was once under French rule.
The Beloved French Language
As one of the world’s most spoken languages, French claims over 75 million native speakers and 275 million speakers globally. The United Nation’s designated the French language as one of its six official languages in 2010. Consequently, French language day is celebrated by the U.N. every March 20th. This observance promotes multilingualism and diversity. Even if one does not know all the words to ‘Les Marseilles,’ the French national anthem, nonetheless we have all felt the influence of the French language.
Roots In Romance
French is a Romance Language that has its roots in Latin. The language also draws on the languages of the Celtic and Germanic tribes that once inhabited modern day France, especially those of the north. The French tongue has existed for over thirteen hundred years. Moreover, French has had a tremendous impact on many other languages, especially English. In 1066 William the Conqueror of Normandy (In northern France) invaded England and bested the English king in battle. Subsequently, over 10,000 French words came into the English language. The French wielded power in England for over 300 years.
French Words In English
The French language, as a result, influenced the language used by the government, the power brokers, and the educated classes. Consequently, English speakers today know tens of thousands of French words without having studied French.
Don’t believe it? How about a brief salute to the influence of le français on English:
- We recognize a mistake as a ‘faux ‘paux.’
- We talk about George Washington’s aide-de’camp during the Revolutionary War.
- Our diplomats are known as ‘attachés.’
- We say ‘au contraire’ when we disagree.
- Our nanny’s are referred to as ‘au pairs.’
- When we go on a trip, we may say ‘bon voyage.’
- We say ‘c’est la vie’ when things happen outside of our control.
- When a government overthrow occurs, we call it a ‘coup d’état.’
- We build houses on ‘cul de sacs.’
- When if feels like we’ve been someplace before, we call that ‘déjà vu.’
- We play with language using double ‘entendres.’
- At the end of musical performances that are worth repeating, we say ‘encore.’
- Once engaged, we call that person our ‘fiancé.’
- When we live happily, we call it ‘joie de vivre.’
- Many of us believe in ‘laissez faire’ economics where the government keeps their nose out of business.
And that is just up to the letter ‘l’. We can suffice to say that the impact of French on English is not petit.
The Global French Language
The influence of the French language extends beyond America and the English language. Along with English, French travels well. Millions on five different continents speak the language. Notably, roughly 40 percent of French language speakers reside in Africa. That nation alone has over 48 million French speakers. By some estimations, French may become the most widely spoken language in Africa by 2050. This estimation results from Africa’s steady population growth. However, the importance of French is not limited to one continent. Moreover, globally trillions of dollars’ worth of goods and services are exchanged in the French language, making it indispensable to the world economy.
Mother Tongue of Artists
Besides its economic impact, French furthermore shapes culture. The language has been spoken by theologians and mathematicians like Blaise Pascal, philosophers like Jean Paul Sartre, and novelists such as Victor Hugo. French also serves as the mother tongue of famous architects like Gustave Eiffel, who created the metal framework for the Statue of liberty and created the Eiffel Tower. Other artists and architects who have spoken French include sculptors like Rodin and Bartholdi. Some of the world’s most famous of artists who have spoken French include Monet, Manet, Renoir, Matisse, Delacroix, Cezanne and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.
We have much to celebrate due to the impact of the French language. Through its historical and cultural influence, French serves as one of our most influential global languages. We do not have enough space to explore all that French language and culture have given to the world. This long list encompasses everything from French cuisine, chocolate, and film festivals, to inventions and humanitarian organizations. So perhaps the time has come to grab a baguette and vin rouge for lunch while watching Amelie. Or perhaps we can travel to Paris for a stroll down the Champs Elysée and a sampling of crepes. However we celebrate this beloved language, we can all cheer ‘Laissez le bon temps roule!’
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