Tuesday, October 02, 2007

French, Anyone?

The other day, I was watching a movie. At the beginning of the movie, there was the international copyright notice, both in English and in French, the two international languages. Then I got to thinking, why English and French1? I looked to see what the most common spoken languages are, and got this list (see below). I figure, if you are going to have two international languages, they might as well be popular languages.

 1. Chinese, Mandarin
 2. English
 3. Spanish
 4. Arabic
 5. Bengali
 6. Hindi
 7. Russian
 8. Portuguese
 9. Japanese
 10. German
11. Chinese, Wu
12. Javanese
13. Korean
14. French
15. Turkish
16. Vietnamese
17. Telugu
18. Chinese, Yue(Cantonese)
19. Marathi
20. Tamil

Look at the list real closely. Okay, I knew Mandarin was #1, and guessed that English was #2. French was #14, and there were lots of languages above French, including Javanese. Not Japanese, Javanese (as on the island of Java, part of Indonesia).

I guess I am wondering why we hear English and French during the Olympics. We should probably be hearing Mandarin and English. It would reach more people – especially since the next Olympics are in China.

For those of you going, I would bring many small (3 oz or less) tubes of toothpaste. Not sure I trust the flavoring of toothpaste in China. You go to Mexico and are warned about the water. I guess you go to China and they warn you about manufactured goods.

Still, in the dawn of the twenty-first century, I don't understand why we have French as an official language. Perhaps it is only because of the following popular French phrase2:

Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?

1Yeah, I know, hundreds of years ago, the English, French and Spanish carved up the Americas and Africa.

2And if this is the reason for using French as the language, I guess we know which head the decision-makers were thinking with.


RWA said...

Yeah, I don't think I'd be using toothpaste or playing with too many toys while visiting China.

That is a very good question about French by the way.

Ian Lidster said...

You should be grateful you live in the US. In Canada French is one of our 'official' languages, even though most people outside of Quebec and News Brunswick don't speak it.
Here in BC ten times as many people speak Mandarin Chinese than French, yet kids have to take French in school in order to graduate. I absoutely agree with you that the preeminence of French is ludicrous and silly.

Prata said...

Mandarin is harder to teach. ^_^

Nothing like hiding from the difficulty..*snickers*

I can't prove that, don't listen to me. but French is much easier to teach than Mandarin, that much is true.

Prata said...

Oh, completely forgot. In Viet Nam you learn French as a second language or English and in some cases both. Mainly because the French colonized Viet Nam for such a long time.

Up north, I believe they learn either English or a dialect of Chinese since there are a LOT of Chinese people in the Northern end of Viet Nam

Anonymous said...

The French used to be a world Super Power ( think Napoleon, not Napoleon Dynamite, Bonapart ) and ruled a large portion of the world. Thus, French was the official language in a large portion of our globe. It stuck. Vietnamese, if you listen closely enough, sounds a whole lot like there is some french mixed in. French may not be spoken as much as we think, but its entrenched as a language.


Leesa said...

rwa: well, the post was just another way of making fun of the French.

ian: I have known people who live near Canada who have to take French in school.

prata: I know that the French colonized much of the world (hence the footnote). But still, why French now? Do people in China learn French or English in mass numbers? Not sure.

edge: the Spanish ruled much of the world at one time as well. Yeah, and I did the footnote because of the French a long time ago.

Anonymous said...

I was taught in grade school that French is the language of diplomacy. I don't know if that has changed, but they told us that it was the chosen language to use when diplomats met, regardless of their country of origin (even if nobody present spoke French). Of course, they were talking about US and European ties, not including anyone from Asia.

France and Vietnam have past ties because France attempted to colonize the area. Apparently there were a bunch of yellow people already there, but they didn't count because they weren't using the land the European way and they weren't xtian.

Around 1600 AD, Spain and Portugal divided the world between themselves with a papal sanction. It was declared that all non-xtian countries were primitive and didn't have the right to govern themselves. According to the treaty, Japan was the outright property of Portugal.

I'm surprised Javanese is spoken so widely. Maybe their population was counted twice because everyone is hopped up on caffeine and cackling away like chickens on speed.

- Grant

Kat said...

How do they even come up with these lists? Is it by numbers of people who speak the languague, or numbers of people who like the language? Good advice that toothpaste suggestion.

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

I live in Florida so for us, there IS no other language to learn other than spanish.

I'm learning, I'm learning!!! ;)

richmanwisco said...

Actually, they will be speaking Chinese at the Olympics, in addition to English and French, since they are the home nation, and the home nation language is used as well.

I was surprised that German ranked above French. Seems there's much more French spoken outside of France than German spoken outside of Germany.

richmanwisco said...

Oh, and you could be living in Switzerland, where there are no less than four official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansh.

Leesa said...

grant: I have never heard Javanese, but your description is vivid.

stacey: Spanish seems to be the most useful language in Georgia as well.

rich: I have encountered many people who speak both German and English is their second and third language. People from Russia, Poland, the Netherlands, etc.

rich: and there are lots of European countries where lots of people speak three and four languages. Wow.