A substantial number of the British population have come into contact with French at some point in their lives. French is commonly taught in British secondary schools, is the second most commonly taught language in the world after English, is the official language in 41 countries and one of the three main languages in which internal EU communication is conducted. Unsurprisingly demand for French to English and English to French translation is very high.
French, a romance language, is spoken by approximately 300 million people world wide from France and Canada to Luxembourg, Haiti, Martinique and Madagascar.
French, like other romance languages such as Spanish, Italian, Catalan and Romanian descends from Latin. Prior to the Roman invasion France was largely occupied by Celtic people, however very few words of Celtic origin remain in modern day French. After the Roman invasion in approximately 58-52 BC Vulgar Latin quickly became the widespread language, used for commercial and educational purposes. Germanic Invasion in the third century significantly altered the language, the proto-German people, the Franks, could be considered to be the largest influence on the French language. The name of the language, “français” is Germanic in origin and means Freeman.
It wasn’t until 1539 that King Francis I made French the official language of France and the language to be used in all administrative texts; prior to this Latin had been the language of all official documents. Some eleven years later the first French grammar book was written and it was at this time that Italian had a significant influence on the French language. Interestingly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, the Italian words that are used in modern French are generally related to food or luxury items.
Cardinal Richelieu founded the French Academy in 1634, with the aim of purifying the language. The Académie Française still exists today and its forty members work on integrating foreign words into the French language, for example riding-coat was recently adapted to redingote.
As France was the leading power of Europe for many years, French was widely spoken by the upper classes and diplomats across Europe. For many years, in British courts, and courts across the continent, the ability to speak, read and write French was seen as a prerequisite for cultured individuals.
Although the international impact of French has decreased in the 20th century, due in the main to the widespread use of English, French is still a very significant and beautiful language. The French people are justifiably very proud of their language and wish to preserve it. Laws have been passed to ensure that all advertisements and bill boards include a French translation of any foreign words. These laws and the strong presence of the Académie Française promise a strong and positive future for the French language.
Roevin provides high quality translations into and from French. For a free quotation please contact us.