I recently saw this question asked while browsing the web. Is French a dying language?
I don’t believe in “bad” questions. The question might be oddly put, but I think that it hints at something a little deeper. French, a language spoken natively on all populated continents, might be slowly losing some of its importance.
It might not be dying in terms of going extinct, but is the influence of the French-speaking world slowly fading next to the likes of Chinese, Arabic, and, of course, English?
The French language is not dying, but rather, it is growing due to rising French-speaking populations namely oi Africa. Along with German, it’s one of the most important natively-spoken languages in the European Union, and despite being strictly controlled by the Acadamie Française, it’s evolving. The French language is, however, no longer as important as English, which has become the new “lingua franca” of the world.
The French Language Has Strong Roots
In our époque, nobody questions the influence and importance of the English language. People all over the world are learning English and the language is used for international communication everywhere, even among groups of people where no one person is a native English speaker. It’s become the universal means of communication.
But English is not the first of its kind to play this role. In the middle ages, Latin was the universal language used for speaking with anyone from foreign soils. (At least in Europe.) But with some of the religious, philosophic, and scientific movements that happened in the 15th century and onwards in Europe, Latin slowly began to lose its grip on the world.
While the change wasn’t abrupt, French slowly became the language of science, literature, fashion, innovation, and everything new and fresh in the world. It became a “lingua franca” – a language which was not only useful to know, but extremely prestigious to master!
Royal families, noblemen, writers, and thinkers all over Europe (and even as far as Turkey!) took pride in being able to speak French, and with the French empire’s conquests, invasions, and submission of foreign territories and their establishments of colonies all around the globe, French became one of the most important languages in the world. Maybe even more so than English.
The French language’s profound influence and its strong grip on Europe are still visible today. For one thing, almost all languages in Europe have a range of French loan-words.
But the French language has also been ingrained into the European administration, its politics, and its institutions as well as world-organizations like the UN, where French is an official language. The same goes for the EU as well as cultural organizations such as the Olympic Committee, the Eurovision Song contest and so on.
All of this speaks to French being a strongly founded language with a huge influence. It’s hardly dying out anytime soon.
French Is A Living Language In Constant Movement
For French to be dying, it would have to be losing its speakers. This is far from the case. French is, in fact, growing, and estimates indicate that it will be spoken by 750 million people by 2050 as opposed to some 275-300 million in 2020.
While the populations of France, Belgium, and Quebec might be more or less stagnant, French-speaking Africa isn’t. French is spoken in many countries around the world, and quite a few of them are African. And with the growing economies of African countries, it’s more than probable that French will become much more important than it is today.
But what about other “lingua francas”? Maybe you’ve heard someone say that we’ll all end up speaking Chinese at some point?
It’s true that the amount of Chinese speakers in the world is impressive, and with a growing population and economy, Chinese is becoming a more important language as well.
But despite Chinese being spoken by more people, it’s geographically confined to Asia. Chinese isn’t spoken all over the world like French is, and as China begins to grow on the world scene, the Chinese seem to learn English at a rate that’s incomparable to everyone else learning Chinese.
Another thing that speaks to the French language’s longevity is that it’s evolving. Despite the language being strictly controlled and governed by the infamous “Académie Française“, new words are constantly admitted into the French dictionary. And those that are deemed too “modern” are used by the population anyway.
Terms and phrases come from far and wide. Immigrants from North African countries like Algeria and Morocco have brought loan-words into French, which are used today by young and old. Innovations are also happening like it’s the case in most countries where especially the youth finds new and clever ways of using old words.
French is very much alive!
Conclusion: Is French A Dying Language?
The French language might not be as prestigious as it used to, and it might not be a universal key to being able to communicate with everyone in the world anymore. But French is well and alive.
It is a language that is evolving, growing, and continuously strengthening its grip on the world, and with the UK’s exit from the EU, it’s one of the most obvious choices as a legitimate European lingua franca.
Who knows what the future might bring for the French language? It would seem that it will continue to grow, but will it one day rival English again?
Only time can tell.