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The UN French Language Day, observed annually on 20 March, was established by the UN’s Department of Public Information in 2010. The day is observed to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity as well as to promote equal use of all six official languages throughout the Organization. The United Nations celebrates six “Language Days” each year, devoted to the six official languages of the United Nations, which are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. This day recognizes the potential of languages and cultures to unite people and create spaces of solidarity and understanding.
When we hear ‘French’ we think of France, but an astonishing fact is that it’s actually Africa that has the most French speakers. There are an estimated 120 million Africans from 29 countries that speak the language alongside their indigenous languages. French is an official language in 29 countries. It is also one of the six official languages used in the United Nations.
UN French Language Day – History
March 20 was chosen as the date for the French language day since it marks the creation of the Agency for Cultural and Technical Cooperation (ACCT) on 20 March 1970, which became the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF). This organization represents countries and regions where French is a customary language.
In 2010, the UN’s Department of Public Information made French Language Day official to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity. The day is also used to promote the equal use of all six official languages throughout the UN which are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.
Significance of French Language Day
Language Days are an opportunity for people to become aware of the history, culture and use of language. Multilingualism is a core principle of the United Nations. The decision of the UN to observe Language Days shows its aim in promoting multilingualism thus bringing in cultural harmony. It also create spaces of solidarity and understanding.
History of the French Language
French has been described as a smooth, flowing, elegant and aesthetically pleasing language. The French language comes from Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire. France was then known as Gaul and was under the Romans. The people of France used to speak Gaulish, a Celtic language, which was later replaced by Latin from the Romans. The Gauls were later invaded by the Germans and as a result modern French owes its origins to Celtic, Germanic and Latin.
Old French was spoken from ninth to thirteenth century and it was different from Latin. The seventeenth century marked the modern period of French. In 1635, Cardinal Richelieu founded the French Academy to maintain the sanctity of the language and its literature.
Interesting Facts About French
- French Is the sixth most spoken language in the world and fourth most spoken language in the European Union.
- There are around 220 million French speakers worldwide.
- About 45% of modern English words are of French origin.
- Around 220 million people worldwide speak French.
- French is an influential language in the diplomatic world.
- Apart from English, French is the only language that is taught in every country in the world.
- The French language wasn’t widely used across France until after the French Revolution.
- French culinary words are global for eg julienne, sauteing, blanching, chef etc.
- Almost every ballet word comes from French.
- French has a lot of homophones.
- French doesn’t have any words with “W”.
- At one point, French was the official language of Europe.
- The four largest French-speaking cities are Paris (France), Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo), Montréal (Canada) and Brussels (Belgium).
UN French Language Day Quotes
“In the French Language, there is a great gulf between prose and poetry; in English, there is hardly any difference found. ” – Victor Hugo.
“One thing I can say about the French language is thar no one in the World loves their language as much as they do.” – Mads Mikkelsen.
“If French is no longer the language of a power, it can be the language of a counter power.” – Lionel Jospin
“French is the language that turns dirt into romance.” – Stephen King
Commonly Used French Words
- Bonjour – Hello, Good morning
- Au revoir – Goodbye
- Merci – Thank you
- Oui – Yes
- Non – No
- Monsieur – mister, sir, gentleman
- Excusez-moi – Excuse me
- Beau – Handsome
- Amour – Love
- Bonsoir – Good evening
We use plenty of French words in English. Around 30% of English words come from the French language. There are around 7,000 French words in the English language at present. Let’s have a look at some of the common French words used in English.