Bonjour! March 20th is French Language Day, so we’ve put together 10 facts about the French language…
Official status in 29 countries
French is second only to English for the number of countries where it has official status. French is an official language in 29 countries whereas English is one of the official languages in 67 countries. French is an official language in countries such as France, Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Congo, Mali, and Senegal.
Over 300 million speakers
Around 80 million out of 300 million French speakers are native. As well as the 80 million native French speakers in the world, there are an estimated 220 million partial speakers, and these numbers are increasing. Owing to population growth in Africa, the total number of French speakers could rise to as much as 700 million by 2050, according to demographers.
Around 30% of English words are of French origin
About 30% of modern English words are of French origin. After the Norman conquest of England in 1066, French became the language of the aristocracy and administration, which resulted in a great number of French words and expressions being incorporated into English. Over the centuries, French remained a major language influencing modern English. English continues to borrow words from French and adapt them into its everyday lexicon, for example, words like déjà vu or cul-de-sac.
Kinshasa is the second-largest French-speaking city
Every language approaches counting in their own, unique way, but with French, it can be particularly interesting, especially between 80 and 99. While in English you would say “eighty”, in French you would say, “quatre-vingts”, or “four twenties”. It gets really interesting when you reach 99. Instead of saying, ninety-nine, you would say, “quatre-vingt-dix-neuf” or “four twenties, ten, nine.”
French is a Romance language descended from Latin, with influences across the centuries from the Celts, the Romans, and the Vikings.
French is a language of literature. You’re probably familiar with Les Misérables but did you know that some of the most famous children’s fairy tales were originally written in French as well? Think La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast), Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (Little Red Riding Hood), Le Chat Botté (Puss in Boots), Cendrillon (Cinderella), La Barbe bleue (Bluebeard), and La Belle au bois dormant (The Sleeping Beauty).
When we think of Bradley Cooper, we think of a talented actor (and singer), but did you know he also speaks French? Other French-speaking celebrities include Jodie Foster, Johnny Depp, Serena Williams, and Emma Watson!
Liberté, égalitié, fraternité
‘Liberty, equality and fraternity’ (or brotherhood) is the national motto of France. It first appeared around the time of the Revolution and today you’ll see it on coins, postage stamps and government logos often alongside ‘Marianne’ who symbolises the ‘triumph of the Republic’.
French Language Day
The United Nations celebrates six “Language Days” each year, dedicated to the six official languages of the United Nations, which are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. Language Days at the United Nations were introduced in 2010 to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity. The date of the Day of the French language was chosen symbolically with reference to March 20, 1970, which marks the creation of the Agency for Cultural and Technical Cooperation (ACCT), which has become the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF).
So, there you have our ten facts about the French language! If you have any other interesting facts about French then let us know in the comments below.
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