French: The Most Practical Foreign Language
Richard Shryock Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University(Virginia Tech)
The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language 2008 Survey indicates that more students are interested in studying French than any other foreign language in the United States.
The most recent survey by the Modern Languages Association (2006) shows that French enrollments in the United States are on the rise.
While any language will be useful for some jobs or for some regions, French is the only foreign language that can be useful throughout the world as well as in the United States. French as a foreign language is the second most frequently taught language in the world after English. The International Organization of Francophonie has 51 member states and governments. Of these, 28 countries have French as an official language. French is the only language other than English spoken on five continents. French and English are the only two global languages.
When deciding on a foreign language for work or school, consider that French is the language that will give you the most choices later on in your studies or your career.
French, along with English, is the official working language of
The United Nations
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
the International Labor Bureau
the International Olympic Committee
the 31-member Council of Europe
the European Community
the Universal Postal Union
the International Red Cross
Union of International Associations (UIA)
French is the dominant working language at
the European Court of Justice
the European Tribunal of First Instance
the Press Room at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium
One example of the importance of French can be seen in a recent listing of international jobs (8/25/08) distributed by the US State Department: 78 required or preferred French, 27 a UN language (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish), 17 Spanish, 10 Arabic, 5 Russian, and 3 German, 1 Chinese.
Of the various types of professional positions for which international organizations recruit, five required French, two Spanish, one Portuguese, and one Arabic, according to the fact sheet released by the UN Employment Information and Assistance Unit Bureau of International Organization Affairs U.S. Department of State, December 1, 2000.
The Economics of French and France
French is the foreign language spoken by our largest trading partner (Canada).
The province of Quebec alone is the sixth largest trading partner of the United States with approximately $72 billion in trade in 2006.
In 2006, the United States exported and imported more to countries having French as a national language than to countries having any other foreign language. Exports to Canada alone in that year were greater than the combined exports to all countries south of the United States.
From 2003 to 2006 trade between France and the United States increased by 75% with one billion dollars of transactions taking place every day.
The U.S. and France share many trade similarities, particularly their global standing as the world's top 2 exporters in 3 very important sectors: defense products, agricultural goods, and services. Franco-American trade is also remarkable for its symmetry, as 6 of the top 10 exports are the same each way.
France has the sixth largest economy in the world after the U.S., Japan, China, Germany, and England. In 2006, the French GDP was $2.231 trillion and China's was $2.668 trillion.
France is the second largest exporter of agricultural products in the world after the U.S.
In recent years, the U.S. has been the largest direct investor in France. France is nearly tied with Japan, Germany and the Netherlands as the second largest foreign investor in the U.S.
The world invests in France: in 2006, France was the third largest destination of foreign investment in the world.
French companies employ approximately 500,000 Americans, and US companies employ nearly 600,000 people in France. Among foreign countries doing business in the US, France employs the third largest number of Americans.
French is one of the languages spoken in the US: 1.9 million Americans speak French in the home. (2000 US Census)
Overall, the French export more per capita than the Japanese and more than twice as much as the Americans. France is overall, the fourth largest exporting nation of the world.
France is the world's leader in the production of luxury goods.
More tourists visit France than any other country in the world.
France gives more foreign aid per capita to developing nations than does the US.
Science and Technology
France will be the site of the world's first nuclear fusion reactor, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor
Seven of France's top ten exports to the U.S. are industrial or high technology products.
France is the fourth largest producer of automobiles in the world (Renault, Peugeot, Citroën) and the third largest exporter.
France is fourth in research among countries of the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (after Japan, Germany, and the US).
France is a major world research center in the field of high energy physics.
The French are a world leader in medical research: the AIDS virus was first isolated by French doctors.
The French are a leader in medical genetics (the Human Genome Project is located in Paris).
The French are the world's third manufacturers of electronics equipment.
European leader in aerospace (Aérospatiale, Arianespace, Airbus...).
Most commercial satellites are put into space on French Ariane rockets.
The fastest train (TGV) is French.
The smart card was used on a large-scale basis in France.
The ocean liner Queen Mary II was built in France.
France is the world's third military power (after the US and Russia), and has the world's second largest defense industry (i.e. exocet missiles, radar technology.)
The French have nearly 15,000 troups on peace-keeping duties in 15 countries including Afghanistan, the Balkans, and the Ivory Coast.
France is the world's second largest builder and exporter of civilian and military aircraft and helicopters (Airbus is the world's second largest fleet of commercial airliners, and many of the US Coast Guard helicopters are made by Aérospatiale in Toulouse.)
France has one of the most advanced systems of telecommunications in the world.