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Why French Will Remain The 'Other' Global Language

According to the projections of The International Organization of La Francophone, the language of Molière will retain its status in the next half-century thanks to the demographic growth of Africa.

Shoppers in Kinshasa, DRC
Shoppers in Kinshasa, DRC
Yves Bourdillon

PARIS — Molière would be happy. Fifty years from now, French will be spoken by 477 to 747 million people around the world, according to estimates from the annual report of The International Organization of La Francophonie (OFI), published this month. The forecast is a major jump from the 300 million French speakers today, thanks to the growing population of the African continent, who make up two-thirds of the planet's francophones.

French would thus remain behind English as the second truly global language in the world — spoken on four continents (North America, Europe, Africa, Oceania) — if one takes into account that Chinese is primarily spoken in one country, and that Spanish is practiced on two continents, and that many different languages are spoken within the Arabic federations. Today, French is the sole official language in 14 countries and co-official language in 17 other countries. Its status as the dominant language in education, public administration, media, or trade in some 50 countries provides a significant advantage to businesses within Francophone countries, since they have an advantage over their competitors faced with a language barrier.

Still, there are open questions about the influence and evolution of the French language, since "the francophone galaxy turns out to be complex," explains Alexandre Wolff of the OIF. Only 235 million people "live in French," which means that they use it daily or have been educated in French, either in France (the only country where it is the only daily language of the vast majority of francophone countries), or in another sub-national region that is purely francophone (Romandy Switzerland, Quebec, Wallonia, etc.), or in a country where French is the native language for a portion of the population alongside other aboriginal languages: Benin, Burkina Faso, Congo, Ivory Coast, French Guiana, Mali, Niger, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Togo, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritius, Tunisia and Lebanon.

Some 65 million people grew up speaking French because it is one of the official languages of their country, or native language in a part of its compatriotes (Canada, Madagascar, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and dozens of African countries). "It is this articulation between the French language and other languages, which complete without exclusivity, which explains its dynamism on the global scale," says Wolff.

The importance of teaching French to non-francophone students should not be overlooked.

The explosion of francophones from the current 300 million to between 500-800 million in 2070 will come mostly from the tripling of the African population, notes Wolff, who also points out that French was dethroned by English in 2010 in Rwanda as the primary language of instruction.

The importance of teaching French to non-francophone students should not be overlooked. "We have no particular reason to be pessimistic," he said. Its status as a globalized language is a powerful argument for parents.

Predictions of the total number of French speakers must take into account geopolitics. Still, unless there are improbable colonial expansions of Russia, China, India, Brazil or Pakistan, French would keep — behind the untouchable English — its status as the only other "global" language.

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Murdoch's Resignation Adds To Biden Good Luck With The Media — A Repeat Of FDR?

Robert Murdoch's resignation from Fox News Corp. so soon before the next U.S. presidential elections begs the question of how directly media coverage has impacted Joe Biden as a figure, and what this new shift in power will mean for the current President.

Close up photograph of a opy of The Independent features Rupert Murdoch striking a pensive countenance as his 'News of the World' tabloid newspaper announced its last edition will run

July 7, 2011 - London, England: A copy of The Independent features Rupert Murdoch striking a pensive countenance as his 'News of the World' tabloid newspaper announced its last edition will run July 11, 2011 amid a torrid scandal involving phone hacking.

Mark Makela/ZUMA
Michael J. Socolow

Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States of America on Jan. 20, 2021.

Imagine if someone could go back in time and inform him and his communications team that a few pivotal changes in the media would occur during his first three years in office.

There’s the latest news that Rubert Murdoch, 92, stepped down as the chairperson of Fox Corp. and News Corp. on Sept. 21, 2023. Since the 1980s, Murdoch, who will be replaced by his son Lachlan, has been the most powerful right-wing media executivein the U.S.

While it’s not clear whether Fox will be any tamer under Lachlan, Murdoch’s departure is likely good news for Biden, who reportedly despises the media baron.

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