2017-12-04 18:50
Can French challenge English hegemony?
/ Korea Times 

By Park Si-soo

There is no doubt that English is “the world language” with nearly 360 million people speaking it as their first language and many more as a second language.

French President Emmanuel Macron recently vowed to make French the most spoken language in the world.

French would “be the first langue of Africa” and “perhaps of the world,” Macron told students in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou last week.
“The radiance, the attractiveness of French does not belong just to France,” he said.

French is reportedly the fifth most-spoken language, with 274 million speakers worldwide.

The French leader did not elaborate on how his mother tongue would challenge English’s long-established hegemony.

British newspaper The Independent said Macron’s bold pledge was based on projections of rapid growth in the population of Africa, where French is commonly spoken due to French colonialism in the 19th century.

The French investment bank Natixis forecast a few years ago that the number of people speaking French could overtake English, Mandarin, and Spanish and become the most-spoken language by 2050.

Brexit is seen as another “golden” opportunity. The newspaper said Britain’s departure from the European Union (EU) would give French a chance to be designated as the bloc’s benchmark legal language, something France tried to do a decade ago but failed.

Internally, France is trying to make its territory more French-friendly. The French government periodically updates a blacklist of distasteful “Anglo-Saxonisms” such as “le weekend.”

The law has even been deployed to defend French. In 2006 a French subsidiary of General Electric was fined 500,000 euros for publishing a software manual in English.