Why Learn French

Reasons to Learn a Foreign Language

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There are all kinds of reasons to learn a foreign language in general and French in particular. Let's start with the general.

Why Learn a Foreign Language?

Communication

An obvious reason to learn a new language is to be able to communicate with the people who speak it. This includes both the people you meet when traveling as well as people in your own community. Your trip to another country will be greatly enhanced in both ease of communication and friendliness if you speak the language.

Speaking another's language shows respect for that culture, and people in every country prefer it when tourists make an effort to speak the local language, even if all you can say in it is "hello" and "please." In addition, learning another language can also help you to communicate with local immigrant populations at home.

Cultural Understanding

Speaking a new language helps you to get to know another people and culture, as language and culture go hand in hand. Because language simultaneously defines and is defined by the world around us, learning another language opens one's mind to new ideas and new ways of looking at the world.

For example, the fact that many languages have more than one translation of "you" indicates that these languages (and the cultures that speak them) place a greater emphasis on distinguishing between audiences than does English. French distinguishes between tu (familiar) and vous (formal/plural), while Spanish has five words that indicate one of four categories: familiar/singular ( or vos, depending on the country), familiar/plural (vosotros), formal/singular (Ud) and formal/plural (Uds).

Meanwhile, Arabic distinguishes between nta (masculine singular), nti (feminine singular), and ntuma (plural).

In contrast, English uses "you" for masculine, feminine, familiar, formal, singular, and plural. The fact that these languages have such different ways of looking at "you" indicates cultural differences between the people who speak them: French and Spanish focus on familiarity vs formality, while Arabic emphasizes gender.

This is just one example of many of the linguistic and cultural differences between languages.

In addition, when you speak another language, you can enjoy literature, film, and music in the original language. It is extremely difficult for a translation to be a perfect replica of the original; the best way to understand what the author really meant is to read what the author actually wrote.

Business and Careers

Speaking more than one language is a skill which will increase your marketability. Schools and employers tend to prefer candidates who speak one or more foreign languages. Even though English is widely spoken in much of the world, the fact is that the global economy depends on communication. When dealing with France, for example, someone who speaks French will have an obvious advantage over someone who doesn't.

Language Enhancement

Learning another language can help you to understand your own. Many languages have contributed to the development of English, so learning those will teach you where words and even grammatical structures are from, and augment your vocabulary to boot. Also, in learning how another language differs from your own, you will increase your understanding of your own language.

For many people, language is innate - we know how to say something, but we don't necessarily know why we say it that way. Learning another language can change that.

Each subsequent language you study will be, in some respects, a little easier, because you've already learned how to learn another language. Plus, if the languages are related, such as French and Spanish, German and Dutch, or Arabic and Hebrew, some of what you've already learned will apply to the new language as well, making the new language that much easier.

Test Scores

As years of foreign language study increase, math and verbal SAT scores increase. Children who study a foreign language often have higher standardized test scores in math, reading, and language arts. Foreign language study can help to increase problem-solving skills, memory, and self-discipline.

Why Learn French?

If you are a native English speaker, one of the best reasons to learn French is to help you understand your own language. Although English is a Germanic language, French has had an enormous impact on it. In fact, French is the largest donor of foreign words in English. Unless your English vocabulary is much higher than average,  learning French will greatly increase the number of English words you know.

French is spoken as a native language in more than two dozen countries on five continents. Depending on your sources, French is either the 11th or the 13th most common native language in the world, with 72 to 79 million native speakers and another 190 million secondary speakers. French is the second most commonly taught second language in the world (after English), making it a real possibility that speaking French will come in handy practically anywhere you travel.

French in Business

In 2003, the United States was France's leading investor, accounting for 25% of the new jobs created in France from foreign investment. There are 2,400 US companies in France generating 240,000 jobs. American companies with offices in France include IBM, Microsoft, Mattel, Dow Chemical, SaraLee, Ford, Coca-Cola, AT&T, Motorola, Johnson & Johnson, Ford, and Hewlett Packard.

France is the second leading investor in the United States: more than 3,000 French companies have subsidiaries in the US and generate some 700,000 jobs, including Mack Trucks, Zenith, RCA-Thomson, Bic, and Dannon.

French in the United States

French is the 3rd most frequently spoken non-English language in US homes and the second most commonly taught foreign language in the United States (after Spanish).

French in the World

French is an official working language in dozens of international organizations, including the United Nations, International Olympic Committee, and International Red Cross.

French is the lingua franca of culture, including art, cuisine, dance, and fashion. France has won more Nobel Prizes for literature than any other country in the world and is one of the top producers of international films.

French is the second most frequently used language on the internet. French is ranked the 2nd most influential language in the world.

Oh, and one other thing - Spanish is not easier than French!  ;-)

Sources:

Admissions Testing Program of the College Board.
France in the U.S. "Franco-American Business Ties Rock Solid," News from France vol 04.06, May 19, 2004.
Rhodes, N. C., & Branaman, L. E. "Foreign language instruction in the United States: A national survey of elementary and secondary schools." Center for Applied Linguistics and Delta Systems, 1999.
Summer Institute for Linguistics Ethnologue Survey, 1999.
United States Census, Ten Languages Most Frequently Spoken at Home Other than English and Spanish: 2000, figure 3.
Weber, George. "The World's 10 Most Influential Languages," Language Today, Vol. 2, Dec 1997.