Why French as a Second Language?
French is an extremely popular option for people who are looking to learn a second language, in part due to its importance on the global stage. Indeed, it is currently estimated that there are more than 75 million native French speakers in the world, while 229 million people are able to speak the language in total.
At present, French is an official language in 29 countries, with some of the most prominent examples including France, Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast and Haiti. It is the fourth most spoken mother tongue in the European Union and the third most known language in the European Union, with 20 percent of all EU citizens reporting that they know how to speak and understand French.
Historically, the language has been at the forefront of business, science and literature. It was also the accepted language of diplomacy for centuries and its continued significance is assured by its status as an official language of the United Nations, NATO, the World Trade Organisation, the EU and the International Olympic Committee.
On a global level, French is one of the most important languages in the field of law and it serves as a major language in many international and regional courts, as well as human rights institutions.
Advantages of Learning French as a Second Language
As a general rule, being able to speak and understand the French language can significantly enhance a person’s career prospects and knowledge of the language is ranked by business owners as an extremely desirable trait for employees to possess. At the same time, learning French as a second language can improve travelling experiences and open up the possibility of emigrating to one of the many French-speaking countries in the world.
Here are some of the other advantages to acquiring French as a second language:
- More than 220 million people speak the language worldwide;
- French is extremely influential in the worlds of trade and law;
- Consistently ranked as one of the top three most important languages in business;
- French is a global language, with large numbers of speakers in Europe, Africa and North America;
- Its popularity as a second language mean there are great job prospects in French language teaching;
- There are projected to be more than 650 million French speakers by 2050.
French is currently the second most commonly taught second language in the European Union, behind English, and one of the most commonly taught second languages in North America as well. The global popularity of the two languages means that knowledge of both English and French can open up doors in terms of careers in language teaching – either in teaching English to French speakers, or in teaching French to English speakers.
Potential Difficulties to Speak French
While the French language is considered fairly easy for English speakers to learn, it will require time, effort and a certain amount of patience. Certainly, there are some potential pitfalls to be aware of and many English speakers learning French encounter a few difficulties along the way. At Lingoda, we believe the best way to cope with these potential problems is to familiarise yourself with them in advance.
One of the most obvious difficulties you may encounter is the range of dialects and variants of the language that exist around the world. Although Metropolitan French, as spoken in Paris, is widely considered to be ‘standard’ French, many other dialects are also spoken in France, while Belgian French and Swiss French are both common in Europe. Moreover, Canada is home to multiple distinct dialects, with Quebec French and Acadian French being the most notable.
Another potential difficulty for English speakers is the features of the French writing system. Despite using the same 26 letters of the Arabic alphabet used in English, the French language utilises accent marks. The French accents are:
- Acute accent (é)
- Grave accent (à, è, ù)
- Circumflex (â, ê, î, ô, û)
- Diaeresis (ë, ï, ü, ÿ)
- Cedilla (ç)
French language students may also occasionally encounter two ligatures, “œ” and “æ”, although these are becoming less common. Understanding how and when to use accent marks will form a key component of learning the language and may seem daunting at first, but most students do not find it to be too problematic in the long run.
Finally, some students have trouble understanding the French counting system, because it is partly vigesimal. Essentially, the names of the numbers between 70 and 99 use the name for 20 (“vingt”) as a base. For instance, the French word for 80 is “quatre-vingts”, which literally translates to “four twenties”.