The French Language
French is descended from Latin, and it is a Romance language from the branch of the Indo-European language family, along with other Romance languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. French has evolved since the time when Gaul was conquered by the Romans in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. With the conquest of Gaul, the Gaulish language came under threat, and eventually, Latin superceded Gaulish to become the region's predominant language. While the Gaulish language gradually disappeared, a few hundred words of Gaulish origin were absorbed into Latin, and later on, a smaller percentage of those words became part of the French language.
French is spoken as a first language in France. It is also an official language across five different continents. These countries include Belgium, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Ontario, and Quebec, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Haiti, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Monaco, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Switzerland, Togo, and Vanuatu.
In Europe, about 40% of its population are French-speaking. In sub-saharan Africa and the countries near the Indian Ocean, approximately 35% of the population speak French. In North Africa and the Middle East, about 15% speak French, and about 7% in America and the Caribbean, as well as 1% in Asia and Oceania.
It is ranked as the sixth most widely spoken language in the world after Mandarin Chinese, English, Hindi, Spanish and Arabic. There are altogether over 230 million French speakers worldwide, including 76 million speakers who do not speak French as a first language.
French is an important language as it is one of the working languages of the United Nations (UN), and one of the three procedural languages of the European Union (EU) alongside English and German. French is also the sole language used for the deliberations of the Court of Justice of the European Union. Besides the UN and the EU, French is one of the working languages of many other international institutions such as the:
- Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD),
- United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),
- United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD),
- United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC),
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO),
- Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),
- North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the International Labour Organization (ILO),
- Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS),
- World Health Organization (WHO),
- World Trade Organization (WTO),
- World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO),
- United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF),
- Council of Europe, the African Union (AU),
- World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and
- International Federation of Association Football (FIFA)
In 2011, Bloomberg Businessweek ranked French as the third most useful language for business, after English and Mandarin Chinese.
The French language may sound pleasant to the ears due to its melodic intonation and smooth-flowing sounds coming from native speakers. However, it will take a while to get used to the way French words are pronounced. For starters, French pronunciation of every alphabet and word ought to be the top priority for one to master before moving on to the grammar and vocabulary.
French Alphabets, Consonants and Vowels
The French Alphabet contains 26 letters of the ISO basic Latin-script alphabet. It is similar to that of the English alphabet, except for K and W, which are usually found in foreign loan words. French pronunciation is also different from the way English words are pronounced.
Adjectives in French have to agree in gender and in number with the nouns that they accompany. It is slightly more complex as compared to English because English adjectives are invariable. French masculine singular nouns require masculine singular form of all adjectives, and this is similar to its feminine counterparts. Feminine plural nouns require feminine plural adjectives. Therefore, there are altogether four different forms of adjectives in the French language - masculine singular, feminine singular, masculine plural, and feminine plural.
French adjectives usually follow the nouns they modify, which is so unlike the normal English usage. In English, the adjective precedes the noun. In French, the noun precedes the adjective.
French verbs are more complex than their English counterpart. French verbs are slightly harder to learn because they require more changes to the enings which vary according to the number of subjects involved. There are three main types of verb conjugations - the '-er' conjugation, the '-ir' conjugation, and the '-re' conjugation.