At E-QIP, we—naturally—encounter a lot of students who come to us to learn French out of necessity, whether for immigration purposes, for work or school, or simply to make living in Montreal a bit easier.
Outside of this province’s unique context as one of the few French-speaking strongholds in North America, French often gets a bad rap as far as learning a language for “usefulness” goes.
Outside of Canada especially, the common refrain is that it’s far less useful to use French than Spanish, for example, which is the most common mother tongue of the Americas and has more native speakers than English. And while there’s no doubt that Spanish is a globally useful language, it’s not at all true that, unless you live in Quebec, the only time French could possibly prove useful is if you find yourself in France.
Here are five major reasons we think learning French is a great idea (though we’re sure all of our French students can probably think of dozens more)!
The commonly-held Western belief that French is mostly only spoken as a first language in France, Belgium and certain parts of Canada does a great disservice to the millions of other French speakers around the world. French is an official language in 29 countries on four continents. Most of those nations are located in Africa, including the world’s largest French-speaking country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
You’ll also find many French-speaking island nations and territories in the Americas (including Haiti) and Oceania. There are currently about 235 million people globally who use French fluently on a daily basis, but since many of the places where French is spoken are among the fastest-growing nations in the world, population-wise, that number is only going to get bigger.
We’re sure we don’t have to tell you that the province in Quebec isn’t the only place in Canada where French is widely spoken; roughly a million native French speakers live in other parts of the country, especially in New Brunswick and in certain regions of Ontario and Manitoba (plus smaller communities in other provinces).
Even if you find yourself surrounded entirely by Anglos in the farthest reaches of British Columbia, for example, French is still a career booster; because French and English have equal status in Canada, many positions within the federal government require some degree of bilingualism, and speaking French provides an obvious leg up in industries that do business with Quebec-based companies.
...and experience it in the language it was created in! In the past, French was the lingua franca of Europe (the language of international relations and diplomacy) and remains so in much of West and Central Africa. It was the language that many educated people strove to master, which contributed to the proliferation of French-language content from the 17th century onward. French-speaking artists have created some incredible art, from books to films to music, and nothing beats experiencing written words in their original language.
This is purely anecdotal and might not sound like a great incentive, but many people claim that French, unlike other languages that get more challenging the more you know, is actually most difficult at the beginning. Isn’t it nice to think that once the tricky stuff is over, it’s all (relatively) smooth sailing?
People often like to ask which languages are the hardest or easiest to learn, but if you’ve ever spent time learning
languages yourself, you’ll know that question is impossible to answer; the level of difficulty depends entirely on which language(s) you already speak (Japanese, for example, which is often labelled an incredibly hard language to learn, is rather easy if your native language is Mandarin).
People who speak a Romance language (including French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Catalan and others) will find it easier to learn others given the languages’ shared origins and vocabularies. Combined, Romance languages are spoken by one billion people worldwide… by learning French, you could, therefore, be laying the foundation to communicate with roughly 15% of the world’s population!