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From: Denis GRIESMAR
Sent: Wednesday, April 24, 2002 12:04
To: Undisclosed-Recipient:;
Subject: Why Study French

The Most Practical Foreign Language

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
51 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

  • the United Nations


  • NATO

  • Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

  • the International Labor Bureau

  • the International Olympic Committee

  • the 31-member Council of Europe

  • the European Community

  • the Universal Postal Union

  • the International Red Cross

  • Union of International Associations (UIA)

French is the dominant working language at

  • the European Court of Justice

  • the European Tribunal of First Instance

  • the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg.

  • the Press Room at the European Commission in Brussels,

One example of the importance of French can be seen in a recent
listing of international jobs (11/13/01) distributed by the US State Department:
91 required or preferred French, 28 a UN language (Arabic, Chinese, English,
French, Russian, and Spanish), 32 Spanish, 5 Arabic, 2 Russian, 2 German, 1

Of the various types of professional positions for which international
organizations recruit, five required French, two Spanish, one Portuguese, and
one Arabic, according to the fact sheet released by the UN Employment
Information and Assistance Unit Bureau of International Organization Affairs
U.S. Department of State, September 16, 1999.

The Economics of French and France

  • French is the foreign language spoken by our largest trading
    partner (Canada).

  • In 2000, the United States exported more to countries having
    French as a national language than to countries having any other foreign
    language. Exports to Canada alone in that year were greater than the combined
    exports to all countries south of the United States.
  • In 1994 the United States did business and trade with the
    following countries in order of importance: 1. French-speaking countries; 2.
    Japan; 3. Spanish-speaking countries.

  • Between 1995 and 2000 exports from the US to France
    increased by 43%; imports from France went up 73%.

  • The U.S. and France share many trade similarities,
    particularly their global standing as the world’s top 2 exporters in 3 very
    important sectors: defense products, agricultural goods, and services.
    Franco-American trade is also remarkable for its symmetry, as 6 of the top 10
    exports are the same each way.

  • France has the fourth largest economy in the world after the
    U.S., Japan and Germany.

  • France is the second largest exporter of agricultural
    products in the world after the U.S.

  • In recent years, the U.S. has been the largest direct
    investor in France and France has been one of the three largest investors in
    the U.S.

  • French companies employ over 400,000 Americans.

  • French is one of the languages spoken in the US: 1.9 million
    Americans speak French in the home. (1990 US Census)

  • France is the fourth largest destination of foreign
    investments in the world.

  • Overall, the French export more per capita than the Japanese
    and more than twice as much as the Americans. France is overall, the fourth
    largest exporting nation of the world.

  • France is the world’s leader in the production of luxury

  • More tourists visit France than any other country in the

  • France has rated higher than the United States on the United
    Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI) in two of the last three years
    (1997-99). Canada has been ranked higher in each of these years. The HDI
    measures the overall achievements in a country in life expectancy, educational
    attainment and adjusted income.

  • France gives more foreign aid to developing nations than the

Science and Technology

  • Seven of France’s top ten exports to the U.S. are industrial
    or high technology products.

  • France is the fourth largest producer of automobiles in the
    world (Renault, Peugeot, Citroën) and the third largest exporter. (All Mack
    trucks are manufactured by Renault.)

  • France is fourth in research among countries of the
    Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (after Japan, Germany,
    and the US).

  • France is a major world research center in the field of high
    energy physics.

  • The French are a world leader in medical research: the AIDS
    virus was first isolated by French doctors.

  • The French are a leader in medical genetics (the Human
    Genome Project is located in Paris).

  • The French are the world’s third manufacturers of
    electronics equipment.

  • European leader in aerospace (Aérospatiale, Arianespace,

  • Most commercial satellites are put into space on French
    Ariane rockets.

  • The fastest train (TGV) is French.

  • The fastest commercial airplane (Concorde) is French (built
    in collaboration with British Airways).

  • France is the world’s third military power (after the US and
    Russia), and has the world’s second largest defense industry (i.e. exocet
    missiles, radar technology.)

  • France is the world’s second largest builder and exporter of
    civilian and military aircraft and helicopters (Airbus is the world’s second
    largest fleet of commercial airliners, and many of the US Coast Guard
    helicopters are made by Aérospatiale in Toulouse.)

  • France has one of the most advanced systems of
    telecommunications in the world. Fiber optics were invented in

  • France is the world’s largest manufacturer of television
    sets (HDTV was invented in France).

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

Why Study French at VPISU

Richard Shryock
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State
(Virginia Tech)
Dept. of Foreign Languages and
Blacksburg, VA 24061-0225

©1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Richard Shryock. Permission to reproduce
granted upon request.
When quoting from this page, please be so kind as to
indicate the author and the web address.

Some information for this document was taken from «United States
Government Country Commercial Guide FY 2000: France,» Info-France USA, The
Importance of the French Language/L’importance de la langue française
Alvord G. Branan, Co-Director Center for International Business Education and
Research San Diego State University and Bernard Moreau, Attaché Linguistique
Consulat Général de France, San Francisco, California. Special thanks to Dr.
Eric DuPlessis of Radford University who also contributed information.

French studies, French language, France, French Program, French literature, French culture, importance of French, practical, foreign language, learning French, studying French

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