Why You Should Learn French

Did anyone happen to catch John McWhorter’s article in The New Republic about why people shouldn’t bother to learn French? Here it is, if you care to have a look. He makes a shallow case for why French is “antique,” even elitist, and isn’t worth pursuing as a second language. From his point of view, the only reason to learn a second language is to better employment opportunities. According to him, only Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish are worthy of pursuit, as these are the current political power players.

Nika over at Nika Likes Maps makes an excellent counter-argument to McWhorter’s, here.

There there’s this article by Rob Wile in Business Insider: 7 Reasons You Should Teach Your Children French.

I had a friend who studied Russian during the Cold War, determined to become a translator in the geopolitical scene of the day. Then Russia imploded, no longer a geopolitical power. Didn’t exactly lead to the power career she had hoped for. Now I’m not saying don’t bother with Chinese or Arabic or Spanish – I believe pursuit of bilingualism in any language is a worthy pursuit. But McWhorter’s assumption that pursuit of bilingualism should be solely for career advancement is narrow-minded.

In a country where bilingualism is too often a low priority, discouraging learning any major world language strikes me as short-sighted and ignorant. To, on top of that, ridicule those that pursue learning French as doing so simply as a fashion statement or elitism is, well, insulting.

French is hardly on its way to the graveyard. It’s widely used throughout the world. I’ve travelled to places (non-French or English speaking countries) where English wasn’t spoken but my French sure did come in handy. Do you hear the languages being spoken by the announcers at the Olympics? Russian, English, French. French and English are the working languages at the UN Secretariat. Want your knowledge of English to improve? Learn French. My understanding of English grammar as well as my English vocabulary have broadened dramatically since I began learning French.

Learn French. It’s beautiful, fun, and will open doors to a broad range of cultures throughout the world. Or learn whatever other language you have fallen in love with. Study that language simply because you love it. Because it speaks to your soul. Because, as Nika so eloquently points out, “learning a language is an access card to seeing life through another perspective.” Learning a language that you love will make you a better person.

19 thoughts on “Why You Should Learn French

  1. Wow, the New Republic article is really offensive and sort-sighted (I now wish I hadn’t clicked). The author seems to completely ignore the fact that Francophone Africa exists or that French is the language of instruction in many North African Arabic speaking countries. I’ve been to international conferences where you needed French to communicate with presenters from Tunisia and Algeria.

    French is not dead, but neither is ignorance as the New Republic demonstrates!

  2. Pingback: Why On Earth Would You Ever Want to Learn French? «The Great Big World- As Told By Dana The Great Big World- As Told By Dana

  3. There is three reasons why I’m interested in French as my future third languages after Indonesian and English.

    First, I love French movies.
    Second, I love French cultures.
    Third, I wanted to lived in French someday..

    That’s enough said!

  4. Pingback: How to Piss Off a French Person | A French American Life

  5. Pour la beaute de geste! I’ve always loved that this expression generally means, just for the sake of it, but wow, doesn’t the French have so much more poetry in it! I love learning languages (mostly French) and finding such richness in such simple phrases.

    I originally learned French so that I could read French literature without relying on translations-which is probably one of the least practical reasons ever to learn a language. But the language has contributed a lot of wonderful things to my life that a 16 year old could never have anticipated or planned for via a cost-benefit analysis based on different languages’ practicality.

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