Sunday, July 08, 2007
Bonjour! Comment ça va?
(Good day or hello. How's it going?)
Aujourd'hui (today), we will begin our look at French language and French culture. Some of you may already be fluent in French and familiar with the country. So, if some of these lessons seem a bit basic to you, please bear with me. I'll do my best to include something for everyone!
Did you know that according to Transparent.com about seventy-five million people speak French as their native language? This does not count the many people around the world who learn French as a second tongue. Because it is so widely spoken and because of its history as the "language of diplomacy", French is one of the six official languages of the United Nations.
In addition to France, Haiti, Luxembourg, and more than fifteen countries in Africa declare French as their national language. French is also one of the official languages in each of the following countries: Canada, Belgium, and Switzerland. There are countries -- such as Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia -- in which French serves as an unofficial second language. Because the French colonized places like Viet Nam and Cambodia, French shows up in Asia as well.
French also shows up in a number of patois or Creole languages, such as are spoken around the Caribbean, the U.S. state of Louisiana, and other places. These languages are not pure French and their speakers would not be counted among the seventy-five million people who speak French as their first language. However, these are a blend of French and at least one other language, and speakers of patois might understand just enough French to make themselves understood at a very basic level in pure French.
If you speak English, you already know a lot of French words. French has crept into our language through a variety of ways. But, the most famous way is through the French Norman conquest of England in 1066. For 300 years after that, people spoke a blend of English and French known as Anglo-Norman. While this is closer to Old French than to modern French, it did introduce a lot of French words into our language.