French | St. Lawrence University Modern Languages


Why Study French?

While learning any foreign language has immense intellectual and cultural rewards, learning French has special benefits. The ties between France and the United States have deep historical roots. France was our young country’s first ally, and French social and political thought had enormous influence on our country’s founding. Native speakers of English invariably find that learning French is one of the best ways to increase vocabulary, for French and English share deep linguistic roots, and French is the largest donor of foreign words and foreign expressions in English.

Over the last few centuries, English and French have been the most dominant cultural languages on the planet. French thinkers, artists, and writers have made countless contributions to science, mathematics, philosophy, political thought, literature, architecture, and the arts. Many of the most important modern aesthetic movements had their origins in France: Realism, Naturalism, Symbolism, Surrealism, Impressionism, Fauvism, Structuralism, not to mention the Enlightenment. The cinema was born in France, and the French cinema industry remains one of the world’s most vibrant. Furthermore, France is the international center of high fashion and haute cuisine.

Today, French is spoken as a native language in more than two dozen countries on five continents. After English, it is the most popular second language taught worldwide; estimates are that there are almost 80 million native speakers of French, with nearly 200 million secondary speakers. French is one of the official working languages in numerous international organizations, including the International Olympic Committee, the European Union, the International Red Cross, FIFA, and the United Nations.

Learning French can also open doors for those interested in business careers. France has the sixth largest economy on the planet, and its leading trade partner is the United States. It exports luxury goods, agricultural products, technology, and defense products. French companies employ 500,000 Americans, while US countries employ 600,000 people in France. France is the second leading investor in the United States: more than 3,000 French companies have US subsidiaries, including Mack Trucks, Zenith, RCA-Thomson, Bic, and Dannon. France is also far and away the favorite tourist spot in the world. The country’s mountains, beaches, cities, cathedrals, museums, châteaux, and restaurants attract far more foreign tourists than does any other country.

In short, French is not only the language of the past, but also the language of the present – and the language of the future. 

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