25 Reasons to Learn French

Updated on March 1, 2018

French is an important and renowned international language, with a lot of good reasons to learn it. Fast, useful, and with a great degree of relevance, the old jokes from Futurama about French being a dead language can't be farther from the truth, as more and more people flock to learn it every year. Without that much effort, you can join that tide!

Economic Reasons

1.) Languages are one of the highest traits desired by employers. Regardless of what language you learn, it’ll be a help for work, and one which is so easy to learn and with so many advantages makes it a charm to start a process which can make you bilingual and even beyond!

2.) There is no other world language other than English which is spoken on all continents. North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Oceania, even Antarctica (well, it has French territory at least, there is no permanent Antarctic population), all have some level of French speaking communities present. 29 countries have French as their official language, and this number actually understates its influence, since many more have it as a cultural, administrative, or business language.

The Francophonie is a surprisingly large organization. The level of French spoken there varies by country of course, but it still demonstrates its influence.
The Francophonie is a surprisingly large organization. The level of French spoken there varies by country of course, but it still demonstrates its influence.

3.) French is in demographic boom in Africa, where a huge population boom in French speaking sub-Saharan African countries has driven the Francophone population to a record 274 million in 2014, according to the Organisation internationale de la francophonie (OIF), in a 2014 report. There is extensive business, investment, and commerce going on there.

4.) This growth will only continue, and in 2050 up to 800 million people could be in Francophone countries - 9% of the world’s population (as compared to 3.5% today). Many of the countries which make up this figure are developing rapidly, so will also become more important economically.

5.) According to Le Figaro (a prominent French newspaper), French is the world’s third most important business language, only outranked by Mandarin and of course English.

6.) Within Europe, steady French population growth means that the number of French speakers will soon surpass the number of German speakers, meaning that even on the old continent it will be the most spoken language. France already has the 3rd highest level of foreign investment in the world, in addition to being the 5th/6th largest economy.

7.) All of this is matched by a significant online presence : the figures vary, but French has one of the largest online profiles.

UNESCO and the UN, two excellent examples of organisations with wide use of French.
UNESCO and the UN, two excellent examples of organisations with wide use of French.

8.) Other than English, French has the highest representation of any language in international institutions. The UN holds French as one of only two secretariat languages, the International Criminal Court holds its meetings in French and English, it is the second most important language in the European Union’s lawmaking, UN commissions on Africa use it as a preferred language, the Olympics holds it and English as its two languages (with French having preferred status in some regards), it is one of only two official languages at NATO, a preferred language at UNESCO, and used in the Red Cross. That’s only the tip of the iceberg!

9.) The teaching of French is on the rise in vital economic boom regions, such as in East Asia; where it has risen to over 120,000 learners in China (where it is the third most taught language) and growth of up to 30% in Korea.

10.) French opens doors into French universities, which are in particular well renowned for both certain humanities topics, but also for hard sciences and STEM fields - and at cheap prices too! English is still marginal in presence, making French important. Some level of French is often required at certain institutions as well.

French has a brilliant literary tradition, which continues today.
French has a brilliant literary tradition, which continues today.

Cultural Reasons

11.) The French language encompasses one of the largest, most illustrious, and prolific collections of literature in the world. France has the largest number of Nobel Prizes in literature of any country - 16 - and a thriving Francophone literary tradition exists in many other countries, as well as other writers who write in French.

12.) No translated work ever really matches the original language : even the best are always different, inherently due to the way languages work, and books which aren’t translated well can fall short of that standard. This isn’t a critique of translation, just that it has inherent shortcomings. Reading French books in their original state will be a different experience than reading them translated into English.

13.) There is a large market for translated books in France : some 27% of published works in France are translated from other languages. By comparison, in the English-speaking world, only around 3% are. Many of these share commonality and overlap with English or are translated from English, but the point stands : learning French doesn’t just give a window into one literary tradition, but into a host of others, and even if there are the previously mentioned translation shortcomings, it gives multiple windows for reading foreign literature, multiple perspectives.

The Festival de Cannes : an excellent example of continuing French cinematic prominence.
The Festival de Cannes : an excellent example of continuing French cinematic prominence.

14.) Such success is literature is matched by one of the most prolific and renowned film industries in the world, and France boasts the premier international film festival, the Festival de Cannes. It also has a brilliant music industry.

15.) While there is extensive knowledge of English at tourist destinations and other sites in France, it is less so in the countryside, and it never will grant the same level of experience. Learning French is a great way to enhance any trip into France, especially outside of the big cities.

You can get by just knowing English in France, but knowing French makes it a more pleasurable, rich, and enjoyable experience.
You can get by just knowing English in France, but knowing French makes it a more pleasurable, rich, and enjoyable experience.
But there's a lot of sites in Francophone regions beyond France
But there's a lot of sites in Francophone regions beyond France

16.) France is the most famous Francophone nation by far, but think about how many other rich and fascinating places to visit that there are, that fall in Francophone regions… Quebec, various places in the Caribbean, West Africa, North Africa, Lebanon, all have greater access opened there by knowing another language extensively spoken!

17.) French has immense prestige attached to it and is a great tool to impress other people… especially the opposite sex! Of course, any such ranking of a language by beauty is subjective, but such social prestige is undeniable.

Intellectual Reasons

18.) For anglophones, French is one of the most similar languages to English. It shares a vast amount of words, particularly formal, scientific, cultural, and political terms, which makes learning it extremely easy despite belonging to the Latin and not Germanic language family. Some 33% at least of English words come from French, and another 33% come from Latin which adds further word commonality, and it makes understanding formal French writing and speaking relatively a breeze!

19.) This ease of learning also makes French an excellent stepping stone towards learning other Latin languages, as it has high word commonality with them as well. French has a higher divergence from Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian (as well as even Romanian), than they do among themselves, but it still shares many of the same grammatical concepts and many of the essential grammatical words are similar.

20.) French has given many loan words throughout Central and Eastern Europe, and thus knowledge of it can be helpful for learning technical words from these languages (an example is Russian, where the Russian word тротуар is a loan word from the French term trottoir, for sidewalk).

21.) Learning French is something which is of particular benefit for anglophones, or even those learning English, since it gives both insight into how English words are spelled and their origin, given the huge breadth of English words which come from French. This is in addition to the improvement that learning any other language brings, in regards to learning more about grammar and the structures of your own.

22.) Given its extensive breadth and presence, there are few languages which have the same degree of online learning material as French. There is a huge wealth of material placed available, which is very complete. An example could be the site Wordreference, for providing an online dictionary, conjugator, and language learning forum - for many languages there are incomplete words when one tries to look them. Not the same for French, where every word imaginable is covered!

23.) The same online stats bear themselves out outside of the internet as well : French has the highest number of learners of any language in the world, barring English! This means that an unmatched numbers of schools or universities teach it : over 120 million learners, and 500,000 teachers. In the UK for example, French has by far the highest number of schools that offer it, some 99% (followed by Spanish at 76%) as of 2011.

A map of Alliances françaises in the world
A map of Alliances françaises in the world

24.) A huge number of different media and communication services use French, which makes it easy to practice skills and keep learning outside the classroom. TV5 Monde, France 24, RFI (Radio France internationale), and hosts of other programs all exist, and plenty of major official newspapers in foreign countries include French sections.

25.) Even if just a general observation, learning a foreign language correlates with higher IQ, multi-tasking capability, improved memory, better perception, and decision making, as well as delayed onset of mental deterioration. Some of this is subjective, since generally people who would already perform better anyway are higher represented in language learner’s ranks, but at least some effect does exist! Learning a foreign language makes sense, regardless of what language you learn! And with so many benefits outlined for French, why not start with it?

© 2018 Ryan Thomas


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