We cannot do justice to the beauty of French by droning on with facts and figures. Nevertheless, or néanmoins as the French say, we need to have a brief idea about the origins, history, and the importance of French as one of the most, if not THE most, beautiful languages in the world.
French is a Romance language
Don’t mistake this with ‘the language of romance,’- which it also is! It has its roots in the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire. Once again, the language is not vulgar: the word embraces the ‘popular’ Roman dialects of the Middle Ages.
French is not just limited to being spoken in France. It is the official language of 29 countries- the members of la francophonie, the community of French-speaking countries. These were formerly French colonies spreading from the Canadian provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick, parts of Belgium and Switzerland, Monaco, and as far flung as some parts of sub-Saharan and North Africa.
40% of the Francophone population is in Europe; 15% in Africa and the Middle East!
The dictionary definition of this term is: a language that is adopted as a common language between speakers whose native languages are different.
French was the language of diplomacy and international relations from the 17th till the middle of the 20th century. That is why lingua franca (literally French language) came to denote a universal language. The United States became the dominant power at the end of WWII, and English gained ascendancy.
French is now the most influential language after English.
England’s French Connection
The earliest king of England, William the Conqueror, was French!
A large part of the early English monarchy’s holdings was based in France and French was the language of the English court. English nobility and upper classes were thus heavily influenced by the French and their language.
Gradually, the French nobles became English but took a fair amount of French into the English Language. Commonly used words like courier and dentist are actually French.
The British monarch’s motto is in French: Dieu et mon droit which means ‘God and my right.’
This short history lesson is important for us to understand why French is considered the language of sophistication and culture even today.
Each person has his/her reason why he/she feels French is the most beautiful language in the world:
#1. Consonants which end a French word are not pronounced. This is why French vowels flow with ease, and one word melts into the other. It’s like music.
#2. French is ardently ‘euphonic’ or sounds harmonious. For example, a word that ends with a vowel sound is never followed by a word that begins with a vowel. There are precise linguistic rules that promote euphony; it is not just coincidence.
#3. French is the language of romance. A recent Google Translate survey shows that “Je t’aime” (I love you) is the most requested translation and “tu me manques” (I miss you) comes highly ranked.
#4. French is the language of love. This might have originated in the love songs sung by roaming troubadours in medieval France and transferred to England with French nobility and their court poets and singers. This is probably why the English-speaking world came to consider, and STILL considers, French to be the language when the feeling is LOVE!
#5. More emotional than rational. French creates emotions and desires, and a few phrases are enough to encourage fantasies. French is a language that appeals to the imagination.
#6. The sensuality of French is because of the accent. This maybe something that non- native speakers say because they find the intonation appealing. There are those who insist that even French swear words sound smooth and attractive.
#7. French is unique and is filled with picturesque phrases which lose their music and evocative meanings in translation. “L’appel du vide.”translates literally to “the call of the void” but in French, it describes the urge to jump that people might get when they look down from a great height. Four small words convey a wealth of feeling.
#8. French is élégant, sophistiqué. Easily understood when you read. With its history, French is considered the language of the classes and the classy. When we talk of the best chefs and cooking, we use the term ‘cordon bleu’ (blue ribbon), and high fashion is ‘haute couture.’
#9. French is full of nuances and details which make it special. “Manger les pissenlits par la racine” means to eat dandelions starting by the root.
This is a phrase for being dead and buried, an example of how colourful French is.
#10. Through the ages, French has held on to the correct way of speaking and writing. Many languages have been taken liberties. English, for example, has been twisted and maimed out of its original structure by native and other influences. “For your above, see my below” was actually an official reply to a letter in a Government Department (identity withheld for reasons of delicacy).
The importance of French translation today
Globalisation has driven businesses far across the wide world. Language is the primary means of communication: translations and interpretations have, thus, gained importance.
French is spoken in 29 countries as the official language today. Experts say that this could see a dramatic increase in the commonality and popularity of French as an international language, the lingua franca of old, in fact.
Emerging economies in French-speaking countries are coming into prominence. As their populations increase, so will the numbers of French speakers.
Research by Cardiff University shows that, as far as business and trade are concerned, English is barely enough to make the initial market entry internationally. Many markets prefer the use of French; for example, French is commonly used in trade negotiations with African countries.
Fluency in French, understanding the heart and soul of the language is important in today’s world of business, literature, education and art.
Do not lose the exclusivity, the sophistication, the elegance, and the beauty of the most musical of languages by generalised machine or sub-standard translations. Use the experienced services of expert translators who will do full justice to French.
Vive le Français. Long live French.