French, it seems, is the language of the future. That’s the conclusion of a study by investment bank Natixis, which suggests that more people will speak French by 2050 than any other language.
In total, 750 million people – or eight per cent of the world’s population – to be precise.
As a linguist by training, I’ve always taken a keen interest in languages, but I have to admit this is the first time I’ve heard this theory. Previously, Arabic, English, Hindi, Mandarin and Spanish have all been mooted as future super-languages – ones spoken across borders in certain continents of the world.
The central basis of the study is that French is growing in the parts of the developing world that will be more dominant on the world stage in future. Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular.
The report has been widely dismissed for assuming that the entire population of any of the 32 countries where French is an official language will speak French. That’s a bit of a leap, many experts say.
I’m inclined to agree. The reality is that speakers of different languages live side by side without adopting their compatriots’ tongues. Look at Belgium or Switzerland, for example.
For me, French is a language of great history – in the past, the most educated were schooled in French and it was considered a language of culture and diplomacy. As well as one of beauty.
Given that I speak French to a reasonable level, I wouldn’t be unhappy to see it become the world’s top language in the future.
Will it happen, though? J’en doute.