Is the French language on the decline?

Guest   Sat Mar 21, 2009 3:04 pm GMT
Is the French language on the decline?

Top of the day to you! I'm Donna J Jodhan, president of, a subsidiary of
Today I would like to focus some attention on the possible decline of the French language.

This is the question that is on the mind of several experts these days. There is a trend that has quietly been growing across Europe for the past few years and this trend involves more and more schools teaching their students such languages as Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish. The demand is being driven by the students themselves who are trending away from learning French and towards these languages.

The reasons for this picture could be as follows:
The children of immigrant families now living in Europe wanting to stay in touch with their native tongues. More opportunities opening up for students to use these languages. French on the decline because its use is not as attractive as it used to be. The Chinese are doing more business in Europe. Europe forging closer ties with South America. Immigration from Arab and Middle Eastern countries is on the rise.

Whatever the reason, it is worrisome to the French and it would be interesting to see how things shape up in the coming years. I will close by giving you a reference to check out.
Speaking of Languages: The Decline of French
Brussels Journal - Brussel,Belgium
How can schools teach French if the overwhelming number of students demand Arabic or Spanish or Chinese? Above all, how can French compete with English? ...
Read more at:
Sanskrit   Sat Mar 21, 2009 3:06 pm GMT
This boring and stupid topic again??? Get a life, maroon!
Gaulois   Sat Mar 21, 2009 3:40 pm GMT
Well said.
declinación   Sat Mar 21, 2009 9:52 pm GMT
El frances se declina pero no declina. Parece una tonteria pero no lo es,jeje.
diosa   Sat Mar 21, 2009 9:58 pm GMT
El francés no se declina, sino que se conjuga
Frenchy   Sat Mar 21, 2009 10:51 pm GMT
diosa you are right. From wikipedia:
El francés poco a poco se transformó de idioma declinado en idioma analítico, en el cual el uso de preposiciones y el orden de las palabras en la oración reemplazan al sistema de casos.
Con_jugo   Sun Mar 22, 2009 12:36 am GMT
El francés se chupa.
Visitor   Sun Mar 22, 2009 9:53 am GMT
You never learn your lesson Guest. French is the second most studied language in the world as found on the following links written by non-French people:

Communication — Uses French language in global information networks. French is the second language of the Internet. Translates from French to English and English to French in areas of science, technology, electronics and literature.

French is the second most frequently used language on the Internet

Stop dreaming that Spanish will become important in the world because it's too remote. It's only important in Castilia and Hispanic America like it or not.
Guest   Sun Mar 22, 2009 12:15 pm GMT
<<French is the second most frequently used language on the Internet >>

That is absurd. Chinese has more Internet users than the total amount of French speakers. Let alone the fact that most of the French speakers live in Africa and they don't have Internet connection there.
Guest   Sun Mar 22, 2009 12:28 pm GMT
Where is French the second most studied language?. In USA and Brazil it's Spanish and the respective populations of these countries are 300 and 200 millions respectively. First of all, teach those "French" African speakers to speak French properly because they only speak a creole.
Shuimo   Sun Mar 22, 2009 3:52 pm GMT
France has long sunk into a third rate country!
Kyroe   Sun Mar 22, 2009 7:58 pm GMT
Shuimo wrote:


France has long sunk into a third rate country!


In what way do you mean?
Visitor   Mon Mar 23, 2009 3:07 am GMT
<< That is absurd. Chinese has more Internet users than the total amount of French speakers. Let alone the fact that most of the French speakers live in Africa and they don't have Internet connection there. >>

How ignorant you are. How many times do I have to tell you that it lies on the number of articles written and translated into a language. The evident is Wikipedia where articles written in Spanish is fewer than English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Dutch, and even Polish and Portuguese.

This means that is not a so practical to write knowledge in Spanish since an average hispanic read lesser number of books or informative links compared to other Europeans or Asians like Japanese or Chinese.

Oh yes they read, but the articles have something to do with gossips, vanity and entertainment.

Visitor   Mon Mar 23, 2009 3:52 am GMT
Writing Africa in French
VERONIQUE TADJO: COMMENT - Apr 03 2007 00:00

Recently, French studies at Wits University invited Aminata Sow Fall, a leading woman writer from Senegal, to talk about African literature, the issue of language and the state of French-speaking Africa.

When asked why she wrote in French rather than in Wolof, her mother tongue, she replied that when she began her literary career back in 1963, Wolof, the most widely spoken language in Senegal, had not yet been properly codified in the Roman alphabet. So she had no choice, she said. But she was quick to add that if she had not felt at ease in French, she would not have written a book.

Sow Fall's response prompted me to revisit this burning issue as it is my belief that, to some extent, this debate also applies to English in Africa.

When most of the former French colonies became independent in the 1960s, it was a time of euphoria and great hope for the future of Africa. Less than a decade later, things were not going that well in francophone Africa. Neo-colonialism took hold of the economy and the political elites proved too greedy to honour the promises they had made at independence. A period of disillusionment followed.

The saga of Les soleils des indépendances (The Suns of Independence), a novel by Ahmadou Kourouma from Côte d'Ivoire, best illustrates this post-independence disenchantment. When Kourouma submitted his manuscript, it was refused by publishers in France and in Africa on the grounds that it was written in "incorrect" French. The manuscript was passed around until it was finally published in Canada in 1968. It became an instant bestseller and was subsequently bought by a prestigious French publisher in 1970.

Cheaper editions were produced for the African market and the book was read by millions of school children and is still being taught today.

What was revolutionary in Kourouma's novel was the fact that for the first time a writer attempted to recreate the way common people in Africa really speak. Kourouma fused French with his Malinke mother tongue -- French syntax and grammar were twisted and some words took on a whole new meaning. His language ignored basic rules. The style was exuberant and full of a raw sensuality.

Kourouma's book showed that French wasn't just the language of the former oppressors, that it was also possible to use it to serve our purpose and render our African experience. He demonstrated that the language belonged to us, too, and that we were free to use it how we wanted in order to communicate our reality.

Roughly 10 years later, Sony Labou Tansi, a Congolese novelist, poet and dramatist, came onto the literary scene to continue this linguistic revolution. His writing dealt with the rampant corruption and entrenchment of a decadent leadership. His weapon was political satire and his irreverence was also directed at the French language, whose conventions he deliberately broke, inventing his own literary aesthetics.

Labou Tansi had learnt French in a Congolese school where using his mother tongue was forbidden. He used to say that French was the language in which he was "raped".

If it is true that the colonisers wanted to use French in the school system to make sure that they could impose a French linguistic and cultural model that would ultimately lead to assimilation, things did not go quite as planned. The French language has become a language in which Africans can express their own aspirations and fight for freedom. A language is at the service of whoever wants to use it, as long as it is seen not as an imposition but as something to be conquered.

Daniel Maximin, a writer and poet from Guadeloupe, says it is important not to confuse language and citizenship, to understand that the French language is not confined within the geographical borders of France. The French language is used to express many identities, from the Congolese to the Vietnamese, to the Canadian. There are more than 20 African countries in which French is the official language. Therefore, the question that remains is not why we write in French, but how we write in French.

Véronique Tadjo is a writer from Côte d'Ivoire and Head of French Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Friday, March 13, 2009
The future of the French language passes through Africa / L’avenir du français passe par l’Afrique

There are quite a few articles out there about how Africa holds the key to whether French will retain its status as a major world language or not, so I thought I'd gather some info from a few of them here.

First from this one, an older article (2003) but still with a great deal of good information:

Avec plus de 170 millions de locuteurs sur les cinq continents, le français devrait sans ambiguïté être considéré comme une langue mondiale.

With more than 170 million users in the five continents, French should clearly be regarded as a world language.


La bataille de la science est désormais quasiment perdue. Durant les trois dernières années, sur les quelque deux millions d’articles publiés dans le domaine des sciences exactes, seuls 25 000 l’ont été en français.

The battle of science is now almost lost. During the last three years, out of some 2 million articles published in the domain of exact sciences, only 25,000 were in French.

On the geographic distribution of the language compared to others:

L’un des principaux atouts de la langue française réside dans son implantation géographique. Alors que le chinois n’est parlé qu’en Chine, l’hindi en Inde, l’arabe dans une zone géographique concentrée (Maghreb, Moyen-Orient), l’espagnol en Espagne et en Amérique latine, le français est plus «dispersé». Et de ce fait plus, il est plus «international».

One of the main strengths of the French language resides in its geographic implementation. While Chinese is only spoken in China, Hindi in India, Arabic in a concentrated geographic location (Maghreb, Middle East), Spanish in Spain and Latin America, French is more "dispersed", and thus it is more "international".

And finally, how paradoxically French is having a harder time in Europe than in a region like Africa:

L’un des signes de ce manque de combativité est perceptible au sein des institutions européennes où le français ne cesse de céder du terrain...Pour Bernard Cerquiglini : «Si nous perdons dans l’Union européenne, nous perdrons pour la terre entière». Pierre-André Wiltzer, le ministre français délégué à la Coopération et la Francophonie, partage ce point de vue et estime que «le plus difficile combat» de la francophonie est celui de l’Europe.

One of the signs of this lack of fighting spirit is evident in European institutions where French continues to lose ground...For Bernard Cerquiglini: "If we lose in the European Union, we lose over the entire world". Pierre-André Wiltzer, the French Minister Delegate for Cooperation and Francophonie, shares this view and believes that "the most difficult battle" of the Francophonie is that of Europe.

Par contre, c’est en Afrique que le français peut trouver le nouveau souffle qui lui permettra, dans les décennies à venir, de rester démographiquement concurrent. Pierre-André Wiltzer a ainsi déclaré que «le continent africain est une ressource considérable pour la francophonie» parce qu’il bénéficie d’une «vitalité démographique très importante». L’Afrique demeure en effet le plus grand bassin de locuteurs de français.

On the other hand, it's in Africa where French is able to find new life, which will enable it in the decades to come to remain demographically competitive. Pierre-Andre Wiltzer also said that "the African continent is a considerable resource for the Francophonie" because it benefits from a "very important demographic vitality". Africa remains indeed the largest pool of French speakers.

Next, from an article from 2008:

...le continent africain qui connaît une forte croissance de sa population, qui passerait ainsi d'environ un milliard de personnes en l'an 2000 à deux milliards en 2050...À l'évidence, le nombre de locuteurs francophones d'Afrique augmente également.

...the African continent which is experiencing a strong growth in its population, which would increase from about 1 billion people in 2000 to two billion in 2050...naturally, the number of French speakers in Africa is also increasing.


...ajoute-t-il, outre cinq pays européens -- principalement la France, la Belgique et la Suisse -- le Québec, le Canada et Haïti, «tous les autres pays sont situés en Afrique!». Mieux, si dans les années 1960 les locuteurs des pays francophones du Nord représentaient 80 % de l'ensemble des francophones de la planète, ce taux est passé à 50 % en 2000. Et selon des études expertes, ils ne représenteront plus que 15 % des francophones en 2050. Présentement, on estime à 200 millions le nombre de francophones dans le monde, alors qu'ils seront plus de 600 millions en 2050.

...he adds, besides five European countries -- mainly France, Belguim and Switzerland -- Quebec, Canada and Haiti, "all the other countries are located in Africa!" Moreover, if in 1960 the users of francophone countries represented 80% of the francophones on the planet, this figure has become 50% in 2000. And according to expert studies, they will only represent 15% of the francophones in 2050. Presently, there are an estimated 200 million francophones in the world, while they will be more than 600 million in 2050.

And finally, also from 2008:

«les Africains ne font plus beaucoup référence au français comme langue coloniale» et que «cette vision est largement dépassée».

(he says) "Africans do not refer to French all that much as a colonial language", and that "this vision is largely outdated."
Visitor   Mon Mar 23, 2009 4:04 am GMT
Nearly 1/5 of non-Francophone Europeans say they know French.

Which means 132,800,000 out of 664,000,000 of Non-Francophone Europeans speak it.