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French

Native name: français ()
ISO Code: fra
Family: Indo-European
Est. L1 speakers: 76,000,000
Est. L2 speakers: 153,486,000
Est. total speakers: 229,486,000
(Co-)official in:
  1. European Union
  2. United Nations
  3. World Trade Organization

Profile

Though it has lost a lot of ground to English over the past century or so, French continues to be one of the international languages par excellence, used as an official or co-official language in countless international and supra-national organizations – most importantly the United Nations and the European Union. In diplomatic circles, therefore, knowledge of French is still very much de rigueur. To a lesser degree, the same goes for "high society" circles on every continent.

In addition to the points of pure prestige, speaking French will enable you – at least in theory – to study, work, live, or do business in well over a dozen countries, most importantly France (the world's seventh economy as of 2017), Belgium, and Québec (Canada). Professionally, the French language is extremely important in the fashion industry, as well as in such sectors as hospitality, viticulture, and interior design. In the academe, humanities researchers (particularly those in philosophy and the social sciences) are still combing through the rich legacy of the French intellectual giants of the second half of the 20th century (Bourdieu, Foucault, Deleuze, Derrida, Sartre, Barthes, etc).

Finally, with French, you will have access to an astounding array of cultural riches, from literature to philosophy to music and film, in the native tongue of the creators.

The Lowdown

French is an Indo-European language, spoken in many countries. It belongs to the Romance language group of the Indo-European family. The language has 2 genders (masculine, feminine), a rather elaborate system of verbal tenses, but no cases. Certain pronunciation quirks aside, French is generally considered to be one of the easiest languages to learn for native English speakers.

Studying French

News, Essays & Blog Posts (3 / 3)

Couver quelque chose
By: Céline Graciet at Naked Translations   Published: 06/Apr/2018
Languages: French

I wasn’t feeling well on Tuesday, but thankfully there is a French expression that allowed me to verbalise exactly my state of being. »

Differences between French in Quebec and France: accent, attitude & curse words
By: Benny Lewis at Fluent in 3 Months F3M   Published: 17/May/2011
Languages: French Themes: L2 Learning Immersion

Two years after my experience in Paris, I decided to get back into French and move to Montréal (in 2007). It was a drastically different experience to my time in Paris! Everyone was so incredibly nice to me, people were much less formal and more open to making friends, and they especially had more patience to help me with my French. »

Taking CEFRL tests for quality European language certificates with no classes
By: Benny Lewis at Fluent in 3 Months F3M   Published: 29/Jun/2010
Languages: French German Spanish Themes: L2 Learning

The Common European Framework of References for Languages (CEFRL) is a language level evaluation system, which is used as a standard in Europe. »

Where French Is Spoken

Diplomas/Tests

French Notes

Well-Known L2 (Non-Native) Speakers

  • Art, Sports, and Entertainment: Oliver Stone (director), Serena Williams (athlete), Hugh Grant (actor), Johnny Depp (actor), Marlon Brando (actor), Brad Cooper (actor), Jodie Foster (actress), Gwyneth Paltrow (actress), Anthony Bourdain (chef, TV personality), Diane Kruger (actress), Audrie Hepburn (actress), Emma Thompson (actress), Kirk Douglas (actor), John Malkovich (actor), Salvador Dalì (artist), Elle Macpherson (model), Elton John (musician), Pablo Picasso (artist), Peggy Guggenheim (socialite)
  • Literature: Ernest Hemingway (writer), A.J. Liebling (journalist, writer), Adam Gopnik (journalist, writer), Gertrude Stein (writer), Vladimir Nabokov (writer)
  • Politics: Tony Blair, Mitt Romney, Stephen Harper, John Kerry
  • Science: Eve Marder (neuroscientist)