2018 might be a good year to rediscover our closest continental neighbour. With its new young premier, France feels once more on the ascendant, and with Britain shortly to exit the Union, there is even talk of French becoming the lingua franca of Europe once again.
We’ve been taking a look at the language: Where it is spoken, its history and why it’s a great language to learn! Or re-learn.
French is about a lot more than just France itself. It is a truly global language with millions of Africans, the French Guineans in South America, millions of Canadians, and many more people around the world calling the language native. It is the national language of 29 separate countries, and 11 dependent entities such as French Polynesia, Jersey and Saint-Barthélemy and widely used in over 50.
Across this incredible map of countries and districts, a total of 275 million people are reported to speak French. As such, it’s an important language to know in terms of future career prospects, as well as helping to make travelling a breeze. In fact, a recent report by the World Economic Forum put French in third place behind only English and Mandarin in a ranking of the world’s most powerful languages.
French is considered one of the easier languages to learn if you are an English native. The languages share a lot of common vocabulary and the grammar is relatively simple, compared with some other European languages. What’s more, French is still the language most widely taught in the British school system, so many of us in the UK have a head start.
Perhaps more than in some other countries, the French do like to see you making an effort to speak their language. Many in France are fearful of the Anglicisation of global communication and the country has enacted laws to mandate the use of French in certain areas of business, including in advertisements and some other publications.
French is considered amongst the easiest languages to learn for an English speaker. With relatively simple grammar rules and many words in the English language coming directly from the French, we have a head start. It is only really the pronunciation part of learning French that is considered tough (as author and expat-blogger Janine discovered when she moved to France)
Unfortunately, in French, what you see isn’t necessarily what you say. The language is not especially phonetic and French has a habit of changing the pronunciation of certain sounds depending on the letters that sit next to it, or the accents that sit above it. It also has lots of silent letters.
The French vernacular includes four accents which appear over certain letters. These are named as the acute (É), the grave (È), the circumflex (Ê) and the trema (Ë), though the acute and the grave will be the most common accents you use. It’s worth remembering that if the accent is acute, the sound is slightly elongated, and the grave accent slightly staccatos the letter.
While Pronunciation can be a challenging topic, you shouldn’t be put off. French is a beautiful language to get your tongue around and, while you might need a lot of it to get it right, practising French is a pleasure.
Basic French grammar is thankfully lite and made up of fairly consistent rules, making this aspect of the language relatively easy to get the hang of. For one example, French has only two genders. So all French nouns are either masculine (‘le’) or feminine (‘la’). This applies to a boy (le garçon) and a girl (la fille), but also to nouns that are objects like books, tables and drinks.
Rosetta Stone is the perfect tool for starting or revising your French knowledge and especially for mastering your French pronunciation skills. With the best pronunciation trainer on the market and weekly training sessions with French tutors, you’ll be in good hands.
Like all Romance language, French is derived from the vernacular Latin introduced under the Roman Empire in Gaul, but then was heavily influenced later by the Germanic tribes. French has long been an important global language and was once considered the international language – especially in diplomacy. While English has taken over this primacy as the global language, it is still spoken all over the world, spoken on all continents and currently being studied by approximately 100 million people.
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