French (français) is a Romance language, descended from the Latin spoken during the Roman Empire. It took over from Latin as the official language of France in 1539. Most native French speakers are found in France, followed by French Canada (Quebec), Belgium, Switzerland, Monaco and Luxembourg. It is also an official language in Italy, Haiti, Lebanon, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, the Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Rwanda, Senegal and the Seychelles, among numerous others. The Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie is an international organisation of French-speaking states that organises activities to benefit French-speaking populations and promote the French language, while respecting cultural and linguistic diversity.
French was very much a lingua franca from the 1600s to the 1900s, particularly in Europe, due to France’s dominance on the continent, only relatively recently being overshadowed by English (following the emergence of the USA as a world super power). It is still, however, the third most spoken language in Europe. The number of Francophones worldwide has also risen exponentially over the last three decades. It is an official language of both the United Nations and the European Union, as well as many other international organisations (e.g. the International Olympic Committee, NATO) and approximately 30 countries.
Most French words derive from Latin, or are constructed from Latin or Greek roots, though a limited number of words have been adopted from other languages, most notably from English (e.g. ‘le week-end’), Italian (e.g. ‘piano’) and German (e.g. ‘leitmotiv’). The English language is beautifully littered with French words and phrases, such as ‘à la carte’, ‘crème fraîche’ and ‘joie de vivre’.
The French Academy, officially established in 1635, acts as an official authority on the French language, though only in an advisory role. It regulates French spelling, grammar and usage and publishes what is widely accepted as the official dictionary of the French language. In more recent years it has made attempts to prevent the anglicisation of French (i.e. by discouraging the use of words such as ‘l’email’ in favour of ‘le courriel’). The Alliance française, founded in 1883, is an organisation that aims to promote French (language and culture) worldwide, primarily by teaching French as a foreign language. France is top of the list of the most visited countries in the world.
Business Language Services Ltd. (BLS) specialises in French translation (both English to French and French to English). We have a broad network of highly experienced, qualified professional French translators, who only translate into their mother tongue. What’s more, all our French translations are proofread by a second, independent linguist. We can cater for all varieties of French and can also localise existing content. BLS has an extensive database of French interpreters, selected according to their expertise, specialist knowledge, friendly attitude and professional reliability. BLS also works with some of the best French language tutors, enabling us to offer you tailor-made courses to match your precise needs and suit your ongoing work commitments.