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Why Learn French?

Why learn French? 5 reasons, and it is an even better idea than you thought!

In some circles, the French language is considered a frivolous pursuit. “Sure, it’s a nice hobby, but what are you going to do with it?

If you need assurance that your children's time spent in a French immersion school is a good idea, or just want to know how to fend off naysayers, look no further. We’ve got you covered!

Myths and Misunderstandings About the Practicality of French

Those who grew up studying French in American schools during the past three decades or so were told time and again that learning Spanish was more advantageous, period. They were told Spanish would offer countless opportunities, while French would offer none. They were also told Spanish was far easier.

While Spanish is a wonderful language and learning it comes with many benefits (That is why it is now offered as a curriculum choice at the Arizona Language Schools), none of the above is inherently true.

Spanish grammar is sometimes simpler, and the accent is generally considered easier, but French gives English speakers a break in other areas, such as vocabulary. There also may be more jobs for Spanish speakers than French speakers, but there are more Spanish speakers, so supply and demand factors in as well.

Another idea heavy in the Western consciousness is that the French language is dying out. So many French people are learning English, and French is getting all cluttered up with English words! What’s even the point in learning French anymore, right?

Wrong.

One word: Africa. The majority of French speakers today are not living in France, and some key areas in which French is being spoken (African countries chief among these) are poised to gain importance on the world stage.

Also, those who complain about French being corrupted by English often neglect to mention that English owes nearly half its vocabulary to French, which brings to mind the proverb "plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose" (the more things change, the more they stay the same).

Still, things are changing, and it pays to think modern and global. Let’s explore the exciting reality of what French has to offer today.

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1. French has secured its status as a top international language

First, the basics. More than 300 million people speak French on the five continents.

It has official-language status in 29 countries, including Belgium, Haiti, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Monaco, Niger, Senegal, Togo, Canada, Mali and more. It’s one of six official languages of the UN. The OIF, an international organization of French-speaking countries, comprises 88 member States and governments. French is the second most widely learned foreign language after English, and the fifth most widely spoken language in the world.

French is also the only language, alongside English, that is taught in every country in the world. France operates the biggest international network of cultural institutes, which run French-language courses for close on a million learners.

If the French language were a credit card, it’d be MasterCard: inherently valuable and almost universally accepted. No matter what happens in the future, no matter what was ever going to happen, a language with that much influence and that much spread is in no danger of disappearing within the foreseeable future.

2. French is a language for the international job market

The ability to speak French and English is an advantage on the international job market. A knowledge of French opens the doors of French companies in France and other French-speaking parts of the world. As one of the world’s largest economies and a leading destination for foreign investment, France is a key economic partner.

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3. French is a language for higher education

Speaking French opens up opportunities to study at renowned French universities and business schools, ranked among the top higher education institutions in Europe and the world.

4. French is the other language of international relations

French is both a working language and an official language of the United Nations, the European Union, UNESCO, NATO, the International Olympic Committee, the International Red Cross and international courts. French is the language of the three cities where the EU institutions are headquartered: Strasbourg, Brussels and Luxembourg.

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5. French is a language for learning other languages

French is a good base for learning other languages, especially Romance languages (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian) as well as English, since over 40% of English vocabulary is derived from French.