Why Study Languages
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Why Study Languages?


Forty-four (44) countries with over125 million people on five continents around the world – Africa, Europe, and many areas in North America, as well as Haiti, French Guyana, and numerous islands in the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific, use French either as an official language or as a primary language.

French is a second language of over 100 million people living in non-francophone areas all around the globe.

French is the second most spoken language in Europe.

In Canada, our neighbor to the north and our primary trading partner, 20 percent of the population speaks French.

Twenty-three African countries speak French as an official or as a primary language.

French is among the principal languages of diplomacy and of important international organizations. French is an official language of the United Nations, the European Union, and is the official language of the Olympic Games.

French is the fourth language in the world for most books in print.

French is an important language of scientific and technological research.

French is the second language of the Internet.

Around 50 percent of English words come from the French language.

Knowledge of the French language and culture increases the ability to interact effectively with people around the world, giving direct access to knowledge and information from these countries and cultures. It allows face-to-face negotiations in political, business, and personal dealings.

The ability to communicate in French prepares students for school and community service projects, increases their employment options both at home and abroad, and expands their opportunities for leisure activities.

France and French-speakers played an important role in the history of the North American continent. Many place names in the U.S. show the presence of the French, who explored the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River down to the Gulf of Mexico. Writers of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution spent time in France and found inspiration in the writings of the French philosophers, such as Rousseau and Montesquieu. During the American Revolution, Lafayette gave assistance to General Washington, and France contributed to the decisive battle of Yorktown.

In the twentieth century, the U.S. assisted its French allies in World War I and World War II, and contributed to the renovation of such sites as Versailles and Monet’s garden in Giverny. Paul Revere was a descendant of the French Huguenots who came to settle in New England in the seventeenth century.

The United States is home to 1.7 million people who consider French their first language. There are over 12 million Americans who claim French or French Canadian ancestry, according to the 1990 Census Bureau.

The French language is admired for its beauty, clarity, semantic reliability, strength in verbs, and the way that it communicates the universals of contemporary material culture.

French culture is widely appreciated throughout the world especially in the areas of the arts, literature, music, film, theater, and cuisine. French is the language of many great literary masterpieces. Reading French allows the reader to enjoy these works and authors in their original form.

Students enrolled in the study of languages including French have higher SAT scores for each year of language studied than students who do not study a foreign language.

Learning a new language such as French increases problem-solving skills and improves memory, self-discipline, and self-esteem.

Studying French helps students expand their vocabulary. The study of French helps with the understanding of English

In Minnesota there are hundreds of companies that are owned and/or operated by French, Belgian, Swiss, or Canadian businesses.

French is essential for anyone wishing to work for the European Union, in translation, in the media, in business and in cultural industry.

The NAFTA treaty signed by the United States, Canada and Mexico opened the doors for additional trade and communication among those countries.

The African market represents an untapped market for American products.

Europe is the world's largest market; France is Europe's second largest market. France has the fourth largest world economy. France is and has been one of the three largest investors in the U.S.

Seven of France's top ten exports to the U.S. are industrial or high technology. For the past twenty years, France has dominated the market for new communications systems.

France is the leading tourist destination in the world. More people annually visit France than live in France. France is the hub and crossroads of Europe.

France is the second largest exporter of services and agricultural products, and first in wine production and Number 1 in sales of luxury goods,

More than three-fourth of Canada's exports are directed towards the U.S.

Belgium, where French is one of the official languages, is at the forefront of political activity and serves as residence to the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Switzerland, where French is one of the official languages, has a highly developed economy with trading and financial relations with countries all over the world.

There is great demand for teachers of world languages such as French in secondary education.

Considering a career in science or medicine? Over the centuries, France has played a leading role in the scientific world.
--1794 Smallpox Vaccine (Rabaud-Pommier)
--1811 Morphine (Bernard Courtois)
--1811 Iodine (Bernard Courtois)
--1815 Stethoscope (René Laennec)
--1818 Hydrogen Peroxide (Louis Thénard)
-- 1820 Quinine (Pierre Pelletier and Joseph Caventou)
--1853 Aspirin (Charles Gerhardt)
--1865 Pasteurization (Louis Pasteur)
-- 1885 Rabies Vaccine (Louis Pasteur)
--1889 Antibiotics (Vuillemin)
--1889 Typhus Vaccine (André Chantemesse and Fernand Widal)
--1896 Radioactivity (Henri Becquerel)
--1898 Radium (Marie Curie)
--1905 Intelligence Test (Alfred Binet and Théodore Simon)
--1906 -1923 BCG-a Tuberculosis Vaccine (Albert Calmette and Camille Guérin)
--1934 Artificial Radioactivity (Frédéric and Irène Joliot-Curie)
--1983 Isolation of HIV Virus (Luc Montagnier in France and Robert Gallo in the U.S.)

1. National Standards in Foreign Language Education Project. Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century. 1999. Allen Press, Inc. Lawrence, KS
2. Facts on France collected from the FL TEACH national listserv, August 1996)
3. Why Study French? Richard Shryock, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), Dept. of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Blacksburg, VA. http://www.fll.vt.edu/french .1997
4. "United States Government Country Commercial Guide FY 1999: France," Info-France USA, The Importance of the French Language/L'importance de la langue française by Alvord G. Branan, Co-Director Center for International Business Education and Research San Diego State University and Bernard Moreau, Attaché Linguistique Consulat Général de France, San Francisco, California. Special thanks to Dr. Eric DuPlessis of Radford University who also contributed information