Don’t bank on it: the future of French

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.

This entry was published on Sun, 1 Jun 2014 at 08:21. It’s filed under Language and culture, News and politics and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

3 thoughts on “Don’t bank on it: the future of French

  1. Interesting, but as you say, possibly wishful thinking.


  2. The Swiss, Belgians, and also Canadians may not adopt the languages of the other groups, but they certainly feel comfortable hearing and speaking it. That’s better than here, in the States, where Americans recognize – don’t even know – only the languages of their newcomers, mostly Spanish. I always admire the Swizz, Belgians and Canadians for picking up what they do – both in school and in life. Some of it is forced on them, I guess, and some comes naturally. The French who vacation a few miles away, in Italy, for example, are also lucky, in my view, to get live language experience. We go from Massachusetts to Michigan or even California and hear only English. I’m ready for another language but English as the international one. French seems perfect to me, but, of course, I admit I’m a French teacher. 🙂


    • So many Americans don’t even have passports, so it’s understandable that they’re not familiar with other languages. Can’t help but feel they’re missing out as a result, though.


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