French Program at UW-Parkside
French is one of the few languages spoken on five continents. From Paris, Dakar, Port-au-Prince, Beirut to Madagascar, about 200 million people speak French either as their native or second language or as the official language of their country. This very large community, grouped in about 70 countries and/or governments forms la Francophonie, also called le monde francophone. Canada is a very well known example of a country which is officially bilingual. Several Latin American and Asian countries also have historical and cultural ties with France. French is the official language of several international organizations such as NATO, the UN, the European Union, as well as the Olympic Games. French is actually the second language taught in the world after English.
Learning a foreign language entails being able to understand others, being understood by others, as well as discovering the culture of native speakers. When learning French, you discover French culture (customs & traditions, food & wine, fashion & movies, art & castles...), as well as a multitude of other Francophone cultures. Combined linguistic and cultural knowledge opens lines of communication with millions of people for whom French is their foremost means of communication.
Why is learning French even more critical in 2010? From a practical perspective, it seems that living now in a world of globalization, everyone can get around speaking English or/and Spanish.
The following narratives demonstrate how the French language is still very much alive and illustrate why it is pertinent to learn French:
- During the terrible event of the earthquake in Haiti many TV viewers realized how widely French was spoken on the island and how crucial it was for the workers to be able to communicate in French with the population in desperate need of help.
- Here at Parkside, a group of students from the political science department is planning a trip in 2011 to a small village in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They will first install a solar system to transform well water into clean and drinking water and then they will teach the population how to use the system. While gathering information, they realized that they better be able to speak French if they want to communicate with the people of the village who do not speak English.
- Recently, a history professor on campus shared an anecdote about one of his former students who chose to research the Universal Exposition as a project for his history class. With surprise, he realized that the majority of his documents were written in French. Unfortunately, this student had not pursued French and was left reading his articles with a French-English dictionary.
Even in Wisconsin, speaking French is needed and relevant.
Francophile or not, yet, you are invited to join the French program here at UW-Parkside to become part the very large community of French speakers around the world.