French Language 101

Once the lingua franca of the world, French has marked global and Western history throughout time. This romance language’s strongest roots come from Latin, which means it is similar to languages such as Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese.

Besides Latin, French also has roots in Gallic, Celtic, and Germanic languages. This mix of roots has created not only French, but several of the regional dialects of the country, which are very rich and varied. All French regions have a regional language, but not all regional languages are equally strong or widespread. In regions where there is a strong cultural identity and pride, regional languages tend to be considered more important. In fact, in the past decades, there has been a big emergence of groups that defend regional languages, and open up language schools. Brittany, for example, has asked for its regional language, Breton, to become part of the public school curriculum. In Languedoc-Roussillon, people are looking for Occitan and Catalan to be given a more important place in the cultural development of the region.

The interesting thing about French is that, besides all its different roots, it has also influenced other languages. Because for a long time English Kings were French, French used to be the language of English courts, whereas English was the language of the peasants. It is because of this that English has many words that come from French. There are even some French expressions that have been adopted by Anglophones around the world. For example, “deja vu”, “joie de vivre”, and “coup d’etat”, have never been translated, but simply transplanted into everyday use in English.

Moreover, because of the widespread Imperialism practiced by the French, especially from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century, there are several former colonies, and current territories that speak French. This has made French the world’s second most spoken language, with the first one being English. Of course, all francophone countries have their own particular linguistic style, accents, and words. Even numbers are different, since the Hexagonal French opt to make numbers over 60 a sum rather than a number. That is, instead of creating a word for seventy, they simply say “sixty-ten”, or “four-twenty-fifteen” for ninety-five. This is not true, for example, for Canadians, who have come up with a specific name for these numbers.

Some former colonies do not speak French as their primary language, but still use it as their secondary one. Morocco, for example, implements strong French programs into their schools, even though the official, and primary language of the country is Arabic. Other countries have not given it a secondary language status, but have rather witnessed the emergence of new languages, often referred to as creole. Creole varies by country and, although it is similar to French, it is also unique and different enough that it would require a francophone to study it, at least to an extent.

From the Hexagon, its territories, Northern Africa, South America, North America, and South East Asia, French is a language that has spread around the world.