French - The most practical foreign language

French: The Most Practical Foreign Language

While any language will be useful for some jobs or for some regions, French is the only foreign language that can be useful throughout the whole world. French as a foreign language is the second most frequently taught language in the world after English. It is spoken as an official language in 33 countries around the world and is the only language other than English spoken on five continents. Therefore, French and English are the only two global languages.

When deciding on a foreign language for work or school, French is the language that will give you the most choices later on in your studies or your career.

French, along with English, is the official working language of:

  • The United Nations
  • The International Monetary Fund
  • The International Labour Bureau
  • The International Olympic Committee
  • The 31-member Council of Europe
  • The European Community

French is one of the official languages of:

  • Postal services throughout the world
  • The International Red Cross

French is the dominant working language at:

  • The European Court of Justice
  • The European Tribunal of First Instance
  • The European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg
  • The Press Room at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium

One example of the importance of French can be seen in a recent listing of international jobs (4/8/97) distributed by the US State Department: 47 required or preferred French, 29 Spanish, 10 Russian and 3 German.

Importance of French in school and work

Historically France and the French language have had an enormous influence over western society. French played a dominant role among the founders of the United States in the 18th century and it continues to shape the west today, through the influence of such intellectual currents as post-structuralism and post-modernism. In the humanities and the social sciences many of the most important writings have come from France. Students and researchers who know French have access to these works for several years before they are translated into English. Many significant works are never translated and remain accessible only to those who know the language. In addition, many post-graduate schools require knowledge of at least one foreign language and French remains the most commonly used language after English.

When employers and universities look at applicants, they do not start looking at the bottom of the list to see who has done only the minimal amount of requirements necessary or taken the easiest route available, they start at the top of the list and look for those students who have risen above the rest. High school students should consider studying at least four years of a foreign language. College students should seek to earn a minor in French or have French as a primary or secondary major. With French they have access to the most widely spoken foreign language in the world after English and they become familiar with a culture that significantly influences our own. The French economy is one of the strongest in the world and is increasingly a leader in technological innovation. In sum, French is the language of the future.

Reasons to study French

  • It is not limited to one or two continents.
  • French is spoken in two of the G7 countries.
  • France is the world's major tourist destination (60 million tourists a year).
  • France is Europe's foremost investor abroad.
  • France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany have the lowest rates of inflation in the European Union. This is an indicator of the health of these countries.
  • France is in 4th position in terms of world power and it does not have the debt problems facing many other major industrialised nations. (A positive sign for joint projects, business and scientific co-operation).
  • France is renowned for the quality of its high tech,. (The TGV is the fastest train in the world - 515 kph).
  • French is the official language of the International Red Cross.
  • French is one of the official languages of post offices across the world.
  • France is one of the two official languages at the Olympic Games.
  • French-speaking Africa represents an area larger than the USA.
  • French is the most widely taught second language after English.
  • French is one of the official languages of the United Nations.
  • Over 20,000 English words have their origins in French.
  • In terms of number of words, French is the second largest language after English.
  • Paris had 1,100 congresses in 1993 (including 400 international congresses) - a world record.
  • France has the world's greatest number of Nobel Prize winners in literature (12).
  • Montreal is the second largest French speaking city in the world.
  • Le Courrier Australien, founded in 1892, is the oldest ethnic newspaper in Australia.
  • Paris is considered the capital of the world in terms of quality of life (Healey and Baker 1991).
  • Megabucks for trade: In 1994 the United States did business/trade with the following countries in order of importance: 1. French speaking countries; 2. Japan; 3. Spanish speaking countries.
  • A good knowledge of French enables you to fully enjoy, at the cinema or on TV, the best films from the French speaking world.
  • Learning French can help you improve the interpersonal skills you bring to your international career.
  • You can do so many more interesting things on the internet if you speak French. There are many high quality internet sites available in French, ranging from fashion to finance; society to science; music to medicine… just to mention a few.

For those with the appropriate skills there are also possibilities for work in the following fields:

  • International business
  • International agencies
  • The tourism and hospitality industries
  • The diplomatic service
  • French research institutes
  • As a teacher
  • As a translator or interpreter

And don't forget, French is spoken in over 43 countries in the world.



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