French is one of the most spoken and taught languages on earth. French loanwords are present across several disciplines (from gastronomy to fashion and dance) and in almost all major languages. Apart from the language itself, very often French characters who speak with a thick accent appear on films and on television.
French is also the official language of 29 countries. Two of them (France and Canada) are in the top 10 of world-leading economies, and two of them have the highest GDP per capita (Luxembourg and Switzerland). Considering the economic prosperity of these French-speaking nation, as well as the language's cultural influence, it's no wonder the request for French translators is high and constant.
Having these facts in mind, one could ask about the relevance of French in business and culture in the years to come. While most projections label Mandarin and Spanish as the languages of the future, a few years ago, a study by investment bank Natixis suggested that by 2050, French would be the most-spoken language on earth.
But Natixis’ study counts all inhabitants of French-speaking countries as French speakers, which can be a questionable methodology. For instance, if we assumed all those who live in English-speaking countries are English speakers, we would dismiss the fact that the United States has a growing Spanish-speaking population, and our estimates would be highly inaccurate.
In a Forbes piece, scholar Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry links the future of French as a leading language, not to Switzerland and Luxemburg, but to a continent-wide fast-growing powerhouse: Africa.
But, as widespread and culturally relevant as French is and will continue to be, some French expressions are misrepresented in pop culture, and some interesting details of the language history mostly remain unknown.
In this graphic, we’ll explore ten interesting facts about the French language that you might not know. From the place of French in English history to an odd way of counting, and some people’s custom to speak the language backward.
Sean Patrick Hopwood is a language polyglot and a language enthusiast. He is also the President and Founder at Day Translations, Inc., a global translation company.
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