French Language Facts

Interesting French Language Facts

If you’re thinking about learning French it’s always good to know a little about the origins and history of the language you are learning. Here, Cactus Language offers up our most interesting French language facts:

1. French is a Romance language

The French language derived from Vulgar Latin. Both Gaulish, a Celtic language which was spoken in ancient Gaul before the Roman invasion, and Old Frankish also left their mark on the French language. In 1539, Francis I of France made French the official language for the administration.

French started to be standardised from the 17th century onwards, with the creation of the Académie française in 1634, and its structure has little changed since then. During the 17th century, French became the lingua franca of Europe and spread worldwide as France expanded its colonial empire, influencing many other European languages on the same occasion.

2. There are around 220 million French speakers worldwide

80 million of French speakers are native speakers. French is an official language in 29 countries, such as France, Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Congo, Mali, Senegal, and it is spoken on every continent. It is the European Union’s fourth most widely spoken mother tongue. The number of French speakers is expected to reach 700 million by 2050, mostly in Africa.

3. French has a great number of homophones

Homephones are words sharing the same pronunciation but with different spellings and meanings. This makes it easier to create tongue twisters. Some of the most famous examples include:

  • Si mon tonton tond ton tonton, ton tonton sera tondu. – If my uncle shaves your uncle, your uncle will be shaved.
  • Les chaussettes de l’archiduchesse, sont-elles sèches ? Archi-sèches. – The archduchesses socks, are they dry? Very dry.
  • Cinq chiens chassent six chats. – Five dogs hunt six cats.
  • As-tu vu le vert ver allant vers le verre en verre vert ? – Did you see the green worm going towards the green glass glass?
  • Ces six saucissons-secs-ci sont si secs qu’on ne sait si s’en sont. – These six dried sausages are so dry that we don’t know if they are.

4. About 45% of modern English words are of French origin

After the Norman conquest of England in 1066, French became the language of the aristocracy and administration, which resulted in a great number of French words and expressions being incorporated into English. Over the centuries, French remained a major language influencing modern English.

5. Along with English, French remains an influential language in the diplomatic world

Many international institutions have French as one of their official languages, including the United Nations, the European Union, the International Olympic Committee, the Red Cross, and Médecins sans Frontières. Many international courts also use French as an official language.


French Courses

An excellent way to improve your French language skills is by taking a group French language course with Cactus. We offer French languages courses online and face-to-face in over 10 locations across the UK.

Private Tuition

Cactus offers a range of options for French private tuition. You can choose one-to-one classes if you prefer online and tailored French lessons that suit your schedule and location. For more information please visit our private tuition and corporate language training division.

French Immersion Courses

An excellent way to improve your language skills is by taking a French immersive language course in the country where the language is spoken. Cactus offers courses in FranceCanadaSwitzerlandthe Caribbean and Reunion Island.

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