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Why Study French?

French is spoken in 57 countries, and on all five continents. It is the first language of some 136 million people and the second language of 61 million. French is one of the official languages of the United Nations, the European Union, UNESCO, NATO, the Red Cross, the Olympic Games … and the unofficial language of love. It’s no wonder another 90 million people are learning French now.

French is an official language of Canada and therefore crucial to anyone entering the field of Canadian politics. Given the percentage of Canadians for whom French is the First language, it is also critical for the Canadian business world. At the International level, French is the 2nd most important language for business transactions world-wide.

French intellectual and cultural contributions to the world scene rank among the most widely cited and recognized.  They include Molière’s 17th century comedies, contributions by Voltaire and Rousseau to the literary and philosophical works of the 18th century of Enlightenment leading up to the French Revolution, Victor Hugo’s works such as  Les Misérables  and The Hunchback of the Notre-Dame and the literary and philosophical contributions of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir to existentialism and feminism. Impacted by this forefront role played by French writers in the intellectual dimension of the Arts, Quebec writers such as Michel Tremblay, Anne Hébert, Gabrielle Roy, Marie-Claire Blais and Nicole Brossard have long risen to world prominence at the crossroads of French European society’s vital contributions to literature, theory and literary criticism and the North American cultural scene. Elsewhere on the African continent and the Caribbean, writers such as Assia Djebar serve to remind us of the impact of the French language in literary excellence beyond Europe and North America. Contemporary thought in literary criticism and cultural studies has largely been dominated by French theorists such as Saussure, Kristeva, Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard and Baudrillard, to name just a few.

France is the biggest global exporter in domains where taste, style, and pleasure of the senses dominate: it is at the heart of the world’s wine, fashion and perfume industries, as well as the culinary arts. Its unrivalled sense of joie de vivre and its buzzing street life have given rise to the world-wide popularity of the oft imitated café. Its cultural monuments, museums, chateaux and seaside resorts have long made France the world’s #1 tourist destination worldwide. Within the Canadian landscape, Quebec City and Montreal figure among the most popular tourist destinations and have achieved world recognition as hubs of creativity in arts, cinema and music through their annual events such as the Montreal Jazz and Film Festivals and Quebec’s International Summer Music Festival.