By Aude Quiroga, bilingual Admissions Director at the French American School of Princeton and mother of three trilingual children
Any language is a new window to the world. Knowing a second language encourages cross-cultural awareness and understanding, skills that are valued by businesses, in today’s global economy. This is why most American universities require knowledge of at least one foreign language. But you may be wondering, why choose French in particular? Speaking French in today’s world is a tremendous asset because of the economic power, culture and international reaches of France.
France, An Important Economic Partner of the U.S.
The U.S. and France have nurtured strong, long-lasting commercial and political ties since the signature of The Treaty of Amity and Commerce in February 1778, making France one of America’s oldest allies and an important economic partner.
Nowadays, France is the fifth economic power. In 2018, it invested over $325 billion in the U.S.and traded goods and services for $89.6 billion, according to a report from the French Treasury. The 4,800 French subsidiaries present on the American soil employ 728,500 people across 50 states, constituting the 3rd largest foreign source of employment in the U.S and the 2nd in New Jersey with 45,500 jobs.
Beyond France, The Francophone World
The French language goes beyond the French borders: It is the 6th most spoken language, with over 275 million speakers across multiple continents. It is the official language in 29 countries and the second or third most studied language worldwide, with about 120 million current learners.
Wherever life will take you, you are bound to meet French speakers, whether in America’s next-door neighbor and first commercial partner, Canada -where close to 10 million people can converse in French- or in Africa which counts 29 French-speaking countries. According to some estimates, by the year 2050, French will become the language most spoken in the world.
French, A Main Language in International Relations and the Arts
Diplomats have long spoken French. It is an official language of the following international organizations: the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the World Trade Organization, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Organization of American States, the International Olympic Committee, the European Union, the Council of Europe, as well as the European Space Agency, and CERN. It is also one of the working languages in nonprofit organizations such as the Red Cross, Amnesty International, and Médecins sans Frontières.
Because of its cultural influence, French has become a major language in various cultural and economic fields, such as the fine arts, dance, culinary arts, enology, archaeology, museum studies, fashion, and luxury goods. To exchange and research in those fields, reading French is indispensable to advance your career.
With an excellent internet penetration, French has been ranked by Bloomberg Businessweek as the third most useful language for business, after English and Standard Mandarin Chinese.
From the economic presence of French subsidiaries in the U.S. to the vast francophone world and the numerous multilateral organizations, speaking French is proving to be a fantastic asset. It opens the door to many domestic and international economic opportunities for young people eager to contribute to a better world. Given the demographic prospects of the French-speaking nations of Africa, researcher Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry wrote in 2014 that French “could be the language of the future”.