French is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, and it has a long and fascinating history. In this article, we’ll be looking at 13 interesting facts about the language.
1. French is a Romance language
It is one of the Romance languages, descended from Latin, and is closely related to other Romance languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian.
French as a language has evolved over centuries and is today recognised as a language of culture, diplomacy and international communication. Its influence can be seen in the many words which have been borrowed from French into other languages. It has also served as the language of diplomacy, not just in Europe but also in parts of Africa and the Middle East.
2. French has several regional dialects
Although the standard form of French (known as ‘Parisian French’) is spoken in most parts of the world, there are also several regional dialects which are spoken in different areas. For example, in northern France, the Picard language is spoken, while in the south, Occitan is spoken.
The regional dialects of French have long been recognised as part of the cultural identity of the different regions, and many of them have been officially recognised by the French government. Although Parisian French is the most widely spoken form of the language, in some areas, the regional dialects are more widely used. This can make it difficult for some speakers of standard French to understand the regional dialects.
3. French is the official language of 29 countries
This includes France, of course, but also countries such as Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, Monaco and many African countries.
French is not only a popular language in Europe, but it is also widely spoken in many countries in Africa and the Caribbean. This is due to the influence of French colonialism in those regions, and it is estimated that there are over 220 million native French speakers worldwide. French is also an official language of many international organisations, such as the United Nations, the European Union and NATO.
4. French has influences from many other languages
Because of its long history, French has been influenced by many other languages, including German, Arabic, Spanish and Italian.
The influence of other languages is most evident in the vocabulary, which contains many words borrowed from other languages. For example, the French word for ‘television’ is derived from the Latin ‘televisio’, while the French word for ‘computer’ is derived from the Greek ‘kybernetes’. These examples demonstrate the long-standing influence of other languages on French.
5. French has two genders
Unlike English, French nouns are divided into two genders – masculine and feminine. This means that a noun’s gender must be known in order to use it correctly.
The gender of nouns in French is not always straightforward, as it does not always correspond to the gender of the person or object being referred to. For example, the French word for ‘girl’ is ‘fille’, which is a feminine noun, even though the object being referred to is a female. This means that French speakers must always be aware of the gender of nouns in order to use them correctly.
6. French is the language of love
It has been said that French is the language of love, and this is reflected in the many romantic French phrases which are used to express love and affection.
The language of love is also reflected in the language of French literature and poetry, which is often full of romantic imagery and sentiment. French literature has had a major influence on other European literatures, and some of the most famous authors of the French language include Victor Hugo, Gustave Flaubert and Marcel Proust.
7. French is the language of fashion
The French language has a long history of being used in the fashion industry, with many of the leading fashion designers and labels based in France.
French is also the language of choice for many fashion magazines and websites, and there are many French words and phrases which have become part of the fashion world’s lexicon, such as ‘haute couture’ and ‘démodé’. The influence of French in the fashion world is also reflected in the fact that French is the official language of the fashion capital of the world, Paris.
8. The French keyboard has a unique layout
Most French writers located in Europe use the “AZERTY” keyboard, with has a different layout than the QWERTY keyboard that is widely used by English writers. But what makes the French Azerty keyboard unique is the addition of the grave-accented letter ù key. However, there is only one French word that uses this letter – the word où that means “where.”
9. There are French words that don’t rhyme with anything
If you’re a French language learner and you want to write a poem, remember that there are words in French that do not rhyme with any other word in the language. Examples are monstre, quinze, quatorze and simple.
10. Some French words have three e’s in a row
About 17 words in French have three successive e’s, such as agréée (approved), créée (created) and énucléée (remove).
11. In French there is a difference between singular and plural forms
The word for eye in French is oeil. It’s distinct because it is the only word wherein the plural form begins with a different letter. The plural form of oeil is yeux.
Amour is another peculiar word. In the singular form it is masculine, such as in amour fou (obsessive or uncontrollable passion). It becomes feminine in its plural form, though, such as in belles amours.
12. French also has a phrase that contains all the letters of the alphabet
English typists have “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” as a phrase to use all the letters of the alphabet. The French has an equivalent to this phrase — Allez porter cevieux whisky au juge blond qui fume un havane. It means, ”Take this old whiskey to the blond judge who is smoking a cigar.”
13. One of the biggest French-speaking cities is not in France
Paris is the city with the biggest number of French speakers. Coming at second place is not a city in France, but a city in Congo, Africa. About 40% of the population of Kinshasa, or 24 million people, are French speakers.