Originally posted March 25, 2014.
French—for centuries the language of culture, diplomacy, the arts, the educated. But French today is a language not spoken mostly by the people of France. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, one of the world’s fastest-growing areas, the language is also growing fast. According to one projection, by 2050, French, rather than Mandarin or English, could be the most-spoken language in the world.
French may be a beautiful language, but few would argue it’s the most useful, and almost nobody would argue it’s the language of the future. John McWhorter spoke for many when he wrote an immediately viral piece titled, “Let’s Stop Pretending That French Is an Important Language,” attacking New York City’s bilingual education programs.
Here’s the thing: the data suggests that French language just might be the language of the future.
French isn’t mostly spoken by French people, and hasn’t been for a long time now. The language is growing fast, and growing in the fastest-growing areas of the world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. The latest projection is that French will be spoken by 750 million people by 2050.
A study by investment bank Natixis even suggests that by that time, French could be the most-spoken language in the world, ahead of English and even Mandarin.