French - interesting facts
French is the native language of about 80 million people (about 1.5% of the world's population), which places it 18th in the world in terms of the number of native speakers.
Le français is the official language of France (spoken as a mother tongue by some 65 million). In addition, it has the same status in Belgium (in the Walloon part of the country and in Brussels), Switzerland, Luxembourg, Monaco, Canada (in the provinces of Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick) and Haiti. Apart from Europe, French is one of the official languages in several dozen African countries (former French colonies), including Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, Congo, Mali, the Central African Republic, Senegal and Côte d 'Ivoire. Paradoxically, however, this language is more popular in the Maghreb countries (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia), where it does not have the status of an official language.
French belongs to the group of Romance languages, it derives primarily from Latin (specifically from its oral variety, which was used in Gaul), and its early development in the vocabulary layer was influenced by Celtic languages, which were used in the early Middle Ages in northern Gaul. The oldest surviving French text is the Strasbourg Oaths of 842.
There are many dialects of the French language in France (e.g. Provencal, Alsatian, Breton, etc.). In almost every Francophone country, a specific variety of this language has been distinguished. In Canada itself, there are several variants of le français: Quebec, Newfoundland, and others.
Founded in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the French Academy is the oldest institution of its kind in Europe, while the promotion of the language outside of France is carried out by the International Organisation of Francophonie.
Le français is the official language of many international organizations and institutions, such as the EU, NATO, UN, OECD, International Olympic Committee, International Court of Justice and others.
In the Middle Ages, French was the language of the royal court in England. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was the language of diplomacy, playing a significant role in international communication.
Besides Latin, French is one of the most influential European languages. Approximately 30% of the words in the English language are derived from French.
The influence of French can be found in particular in the culinary domain. Popular galicisms include, for example, an omelet, champagne, mayonnaise or a menu.
The French Academy cares about the purity of the language, protecting le français from the excessive influence of English. Classic examples are native equivalents of such anglicisms as: computer (ordinateur) or email (courriel). This trend also applies to popular abbreviations, e.g. NATO is OTAN in French, and AIDS is SIDA.
The longest non-specialist word in French is the adverb anticonstitutionnellement, which in Polish means unconstitutionally.
Influence of French on English
The French language has profoundly influenced English over the centuries, resulting in an enormous influx of French words, expressions, and syntactical structures into the English language.
This influence dates back to 1066 AD, when William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy (a region in what is now France), invaded England and became its king. With this Norman Conquest, French became the language of the English court, the aristocracy, and the educated class. It was also the dominant language of literature, education, and the arts, resulting in many French words and phrases being adopted into English. This period, which lasted about 300 years, left an indelible mark on the English language.
Today, it's estimated that around a third of all English words are of French origin. These include countless everyday words, such as "age," "air," "country," "court," "place," "mountain," and "beauty," as well as myriad legal terms like "jury," "evidence," and "verdict," to name but a few. This French influence also extends to phrases that are used verbatim in English, such as "deja vu," "femme fatale," and "c'est la vie."
Furthermore, French has influenced English syntax. Using adjectives after the noun in expressions such as "attorney general" or "secretary general" directly borrows from French syntax.
In sum, the influence of French on English has been immense and continues to enrich and diversify the English vocabulary. This deep interconnection between the two languages often eases the learning process for English speakers studying French and vice versa.
Origins of French
The French language, known as 'français', is a Romance language that originated in France. It evolved from 'Gallo-Romance', the Latin dialect spoken in Gaul (modern France) by the Romans in late antiquity. The development and spread of French were influenced by a series of historical, political, and cultural events.
The transformation of Latin into Old French occurred between the 5th and 8th centuries, a period marked by the fall of the Roman Empire and the Franks' subsequent dominance. During this time, the Germanic languages of the Franks and other tribes influenced Latin, resulting in Old French, which was a mix of Latin and these Germanic languages.
A significant event in the evolution of French was the signing of the 'Oaths of Strasbourg' in 842, the earliest known text in French. The next stage, Middle French, used between the 14th and 16th centuries, was marked by significant phonetic and syntactical changes, greatly influenced by the renaissance of Latin and Greek studies during this period. The introduction of Francien, the Parisian dialect, as the official language by King Francis I in 1539 also played a pivotal role in unifying the various dialects spoken across the country.
Modern French began in the 17th century and is characterized by a reduction in variability and further development of syntax and vocabulary. The French language was spread worldwide through exploration, colonization, and trade, leading to the development of various French dialects and creoles around the globe.
French as an international language
French is one of the most influential languages worldwide, significant in diplomacy, academia, business, and culture. It is one of the six official languages of the United Nations and also an official language of other major international organizations like the International Olympic Committee, the International Red Cross, and Médecins Sans Frontières. Its role in diplomacy refers to when France was a major colonial power and was considered the lingua franca of European diplomacy and nobility.
French is the second most taught foreign language, after English, and it is spoken by over 275 million people on five continents. It's one of the primary or secondary languages in schools across many countries, highlighting its importance as a medium of academic and scientific discourse. The global influence of French literature, philosophy, and cinema also adds to the language's importance.
Regarding business, French-speaking Africa is one of the fastest-growing regions, leading to an increased demand for French language skills in trade, banking, and telecommunications sectors. France is one of the world's largest economies, making French crucial in business relations.
Furthermore, French is the official language of 29 countries, making it incredibly diverse in terms of accents, dialects, and cultural influences. It serves as a bridge between these different cultures, facilitating exchange and understanding.
In the digital world, French is one of the most used online languages, ranking among the top languages for web content. This signifies its continued relevance in the digital age.
French as the language of fashion
French has long been considered the international language of fashion, thanks to France's pioneering role in the industry. Paris, the capital, is renowned as the "Fashion Capital of the World," and French designers have set global trends for centuries.
The significance of the French in fashion can be traced back to the 17th century under the reign of Louis XIV, who turned fashion into a tool for controlling the nobility and establishing France as the cultural epicentre of Europe. Since then, French fashion houses such as Chanel, Dior, and Yves Saint Laurent have maintained this global influence.
Even today, the industry continues to use French terms extensively. Key concepts and items, like haute couture (high sewing or high dressmaking), prêt-à-porter (ready to wear), and défilé (fashion show), are universally recognized in their French forms. French fashion vocabulary is used worldwide in academia, retail, design, and journalism, regardless of the speaker's native language.
Additionally, France's premier fashion institute, L'École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, and the world-renowned fashion event, Paris Fashion Week, further cement the importance of French as the language of fashion.
Learning French can give fashion professionals an edge, allowing them to engage more deeply with the industry's rich heritage and connect with a wide network of designers, artisans, and fashion lovers. To immerse oneself in the world of fashion, then, is to dance to the rhythm of the French language.
Dialects of the French language
Like many languages worldwide, the French language features a variety of regional dialects, each with its distinct characteristics and nuances. These dialects form an integral part of France's rich linguistic heritage and are a testament to the country's diverse cultural influences throughout history.
Standard French (Français Standard): This is the formal version of the French language, taught in schools and used in official contexts. It's based on the dialect of the Île-de-France region, where Paris is located, and has been spread and standardized through education and media.
Occitan: Once the literary language of the troubadours, Occitan, also known as langue d'oc, is spoken in southern France. Its sub-dialects include Provençal and Gascon.
Oïl Languages: These include Picard, Walloon, and Gallo, spoken in northern France, and Norman, spoken in Normandy and the Channel Islands. These dialects are closer to Standard French, and their speakers often code-switch between dialect and standard language.
Franco-Provençal: This is a distinct language group spoken in eastern France, western Switzerland, and the Aosta Valley in Italy. It's considered separate from both the Occitan and Oïl language groups.
Alsatian: Spoken in Alsace, a region bordering Germany and Switzerland, Alsatian is a Germanic dialect influenced by French.
Corsican: Spoken on the island of Corsica, Corsican (Corsu) has been influenced by Italian and has its own distinct dialects.
Overseas French: French-speaking regions outside mainland France, such as Quebec, Acadia, Louisiana, and various African countries, have developed their own French dialects.
The regional dialects of French have been influenced by historical, geographical, and cultural factors. Although they are declining due to the predominance of Standard French, efforts are being made to preserve them. Despite regional variations, there is a mutual intelligibility among speakers of these dialects and Standard French, which testifies to the resilience and adaptability of the French language.
French as a culinary language
The French language is famous all over the world for its high-class cuisine. Not only does it have a rich tradition of culinary art, but it also impacts the world's cuisine. French words such as cuisine, restaurant, soufflé or quiche are known worldwide and used in different languages. Famous French dishes such as ratatouille, bouillabaisse or coq au vin are often pronounced with an original French accent.
One of the most important elements of French cuisine is words describing the taste and aroma of dishes. Words such as salé (salty), sucré (sweet), acidulé (sour) or épicé (spicy) are very characteristic of the French language and are often used in the description of dishes. The French culinary language has a rich range of words that describe the different flavours and textures of dishes, which makes it very useful for those interested in cooking.
The French culinary language also has its own specific vocabulary for cooking dishes. Words such as saute (fried), grill (grilled) or flambé (fried in alcohol) are just some of them. In French, there are also many words describing culinary cooking techniques, such as mijoter (stew), rissoler (baked), pocher (soft cooked) or gratiner (baked). Thanks to this, French is especially useful for people interested in cooking and preparing dishes.
Famous French dishes such as croissant, baguette or quiche are not only part of traditional French cuisine but also recognisable worldwide. In French many other words refer to various dishes and food products, such as charcuterie (meat products), pâtisserie (sugar factory) or fromagerie (cheese shop). The French culinary language also has its own specific vocabulary regarding different types of wine and other alcohols.
The French culinary language is unique for its elegance and precision.
|please||S'il vous plaît|
|good night||Au revoir|
|how are you?||Comment ça va?|
|well||Merci, ça va bien.|
|My name is...||Je m'appelle...|
|I don't understand||Je ne comprends pas.|
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