Today it’s the UN’s French Language Day or Journée de la langue française, so let’s celebrate this beautiful language by 10 interesting facts!
- French belongs to the Romance languages in the Indo-European language family which means it’s closely related to Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Romanian.
- It’s estimated that there are about 80 million native speakers throughout the world, and it’s spoken as an official language not only in France but for example in Belgium, Switzerland, Gabon, Ivory Coast and Canada and many more countries. French is also the official language of CIO (Comité International Olympique), FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) and some sports such as fencing.
- French counting system is partly “vigesimal”, so it’s based on twenty rather than ten for the numbers between 80 and 99. (For example, 80 is quatre-vingts which literally means “four twenties”.)
- French has had a huge influence on the English language. There are many French words in English, in fact some estimates go as far as saying that 45-50% of all the words have French origins. Would you have thought that veal, blue, cabbage and embassy all came from French?
- Several words we use in English come from the name of French people: inventors, scientists, philosophers, for example daguerreotype (after Louis Daguerre), nicotine (Jean Nicot) or saxophone (Adolphe Sax).
- Some overseas cities and place names in English are spelled the French way even though they are in different countries. These include Venice (Venezia in Italian), Vienna (Wien in German) and Prague (Praha in Czech).
- The Little Prince is the most widely translated French book as it’s available in 252 languages other than French. (Including an English version recently translated by First Edition Translations!)
- French is the second most commonly taught foreign language, after English.
- The letter “w” is not part of the French alphabet and can only be found in words with foreign origins.
- At the time of the world-famous French revolution in 1789, at least half of France’s population did not actually speak French. Much of the country communicated in various regional dialects.
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