Source: Musée du Louvre

French belongs to the Romance group of languages, which are a group of closely related vernaculars descended from Latin, forming part of the Italic branch of Indo-European languages. The designation “Romance” is derived from the Latin phrase romanica loqui, “to speak in Roman fashion,” which attests to the popular, rather than literary, origins of the languages [1].

French is spoken by an estimated 128 million people worldwide. It is the official – or co-official – language of France and 24 other countries, including Canada, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Monaco, Senegal and Guinea [2]. In Canada, approximately 9.2 million people speak French, with nearly 4 million speaking French only [3]. There are also French speaking communities in countries around the world, including Lebanon, Cambodia, Laos, Mauritania, the USA, and Vietnam [4]. French is the second most commonly-taught language in the world (after English), and between 100-110 million students of all ages who do not live in a francophone country have learned or are learning French in order to communicate with Francophones [5]. French is used as an administrative language in organizations including the United Nations (UN), North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), World Health Organisation (WHO), International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the European Union [6].

Useful Expressions:

Hello
Bonjour
Goodbye
Au revoir
How are you?
Comment ça va?
Excuse me
Pardonnez- moi
Do you speak English?
Parlez-vous anglais?
Yes/no
Oui/Non
Thank you
Merci
My name is…
Je m’appelle…
I’m from Canada.
Je viens du Canada.
I’m lost. Where is the nearest telephone/train station/hospital?
Je suis perdu. Où est le téléphone/la gare/l’hôpital le plus proche?
How much does it cost?
Combien coûte-t-il?/Ça coûte combien?

Language Resources:

Try out this French dialogue: L’Union Européenne: Un modèle pour l’Amérique du Nord?

Learn French online with BBC (for beginners and intermediates)
LookWAYup – Online English-French dictionary, thesaurus and translation
Tex’s French Grammar – A comprehensive site dedicated to teaching French grammar. Includes verb tutor and verb conjugation tool
Bonjour! – Extensive collection of French expressions, greetings and travel phrases, including sound clips to help ensure proper pronunciation
Explore – French immersion summer language courses for students (funded by the Department of Heritage Canada and provincial governments) / FR

Culture en français:

  • Frenchculture.orgA portal to French culture including information on French cinema, books, music, performing arts and a French culture newswire.
  • Francophonie DiffusionFrench language web site promoting francophone artists and producers. The site features interviews, an online magazine, a guide to who’s touring where in the French-speaking world, and links to more than 200 online radio stations broadcasting in French.

[1] Source: Discover France http://www.discoverfrance.net/France/Language/DF_language.shtml
[2] Source: About.com http://french.about.com/library/bl-whatisfrench.htm
[3] Source: 2001 Canada census report Statistic Canada http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/96-326-x/96-326-x2001001-eng.pdf
[4] Source: About.com http://french.about.com/library/bl-whatisfrench.htm
[5] Source: Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com/
[6] Source: http://french.about.com/library/bl-whatisfrench.htm