The Most Practical Foreign Language
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
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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 56 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:
French is the dominant working language at:
One example of the importance of French can be seen in a recent listing of international jobs (12/1/09) distributed by the US State Department: 92 required or preferred French, 36 Spanish, 11 a UN language (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish), 7 Arabic, 5 Russian, 1 Japanese, 1 Hindi, 1 German, and 1 Chinese.
Of the various types of professional positions for which international organizations recruit, four required French, two Spanish, and one Arabic, according to the fact sheet released by the Bureau of International Organization Affairs of the U.S. Department of State (November 2009).
The Economics of French and France
Science and Technology
Importance of French in school and work
Historically France and the French language have had an enormous influence over American society. France was the United States' first ally. French thought played a dominant role among the founders of the United States in the 18th century, and it continues to shape America today through the influence of such intellectual currents as post-structuralism and post-modernism. In the humanities and the social sciences, many of the most important writings have come from France. Students and researchers who know French have access to these works for several years before they are translated into English. Many significant works are never translated and remain accessible only to those who know the language. In addition, most graduate schools require knowledge of at least one foreign language, and French remains the most commonly used language after English.
When employers and universities look at applicants, they do not start looking at the bottom of the list to see who has done only the minimal amount of requirements necessary or taken the easiest route available, they start at the top of the list and look for those students who have risen above the rest. High school students should consider studying at least four years of a foreign language. College students should seek to earn a minor in French or have French as a primary or secondary major. With French they have access to the most widely spoken foreign language in the world after English and they become familiar with a culture that significantly influences our own. The French economy is one of the strongest in the world and is increasingly a leader in technological innovation. In sum, French is the language of the future.
Are you looking to study French in a the context of a strong liberal arts program or the possibility of combining French with business, information technology, international studies or a variety of other areas? Please visit the web site of our program in French at Virginia Tech.
©1997-2009 Richard Shryock. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.
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Special thanks to Dr. Eric DuPlessis of Radford University who contributed information.
Last update November 30, 2009