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Why Study French?

A country of great intellectuals and artists

France has always had great respect for intellectuals and artists and greatly contributed to the world of art and ideas.

Historically France has had an enormous influence in the formation of the United States and was the United States’ first ally.

France, with its rich philosophical circles, played a dominant role among the founders of the United States in the 18th century, and the fathers of the American Constitution were on many occasions sent to become ambassadors in Paris. French intellectual history has later on gained a large place in American universities.

Recently intellectual currents of structuralism and modernism have been shaped by French intellectuals such as Jacques Derida, Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault. In the world of art, American museums are filled with large collections of French art and music houses often resound with works by French composers.

French is also the language used by intellectuals from Africa and the Middle East. Reading their works in French is an access to a better understanding of the cultures of those countries. France is only a small portion of the francophone world in its complexities.

Around the world

French is the second most frequently taught language in the world after English. The International Organization of Francophonie has 56 member states and governments. Of these, 28 countries have French s an official language. French is the only language other than English spoken on five continents.

French and English are the only two global languages.

French, along with English, is the official working language of

  • The United Nations
  • NATO
  • Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
  • The International Labor Bureau
  • The International Olympic Committee
  • The 31-member Council of Europe
  • The European Community
  • The Universal Postal Union
  • The International Red Cross

French is the dominant working language at…

  • The European Court of Justice
  • The European Tribunal of First Instance
  • The Press Room at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium

One example of the importance of French can be seen in a recent listing of international jobs distributed by the US State Department: 92 required or preferred French, 36 Spanish, 11 a UN language (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish), 7 Arabic, 5 Russian, 1 Japanese, 1 Hindi, 1 German, and 1 Chinese.

Of the various types of professional positions for which international organizations recruit, four required French, two Spanish, and one Arabic, according to the fact sheet released by the Bureau of International Organization Affairs of the US Department of State (November 2009).


  • French is the foreign language spoken by our largest trading partner (Canada).
  • The province of Quebec alone is the sixth largest trading partner of the United States with approximately $72 billion in trade in 2006.
  • In 2006, the United States exported and imported more to countries having French as a national language than to countries having any other foreign language. Exports to Canada alone in that year were greater than the combined exports to all countries south of the United States.
  • From 2003 and 2008 trade between France and the United States incresade by 59% with one billion dollars of transactions taking place every day.
  • The US and France share many trade similarities, particularly their global standing as the world’s top 2 exporters in three very important sectors: defense products, agricultural goods, and services. Franco-American trade is also remarkable for its symmetry, as 6 of the top exports are the same each way.
  • France has the fifth largest economy in the world after the US, Japan, China, Germany (2008). In 2006, the French GDP was $2.231 trillion and China was $2.668 trillion.
  • France is the second largest exporter of agricultural products in the world after the US.
  • In recent years, the US has been the largest direct investor in France. France is nearly tied with Japan, Germany, and the Netherlands as the second largest foreign investor in the US.
  • The world invests in France: in 2006, France was the third largest destination of foreign investment in the world.
  • 2,300 French companies in the US employ approximately 520,000 Americans. US companies employ nearly 650,000 people in France. Among foreign countries doing business in France, France employs the third largest number of Americans.
  • The French export more per capita than the Japanese and more than twice as much as the Americans.
  • France is the world’s leader in the production of luxury goods.
  • More tourists visit France than any country in the world.
  • France gives more foreign aid per capita to developing nations than the US.

Science and Technology

  • France will be the site of the world’s first nuclear fusion reactor.
  • Seven of France top ten exports to the US are industrial or high technology products.
  • France is the fourth largest producer of automobiles and the third largest exporter.
  • France is fourth in research among countries of the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (after Japan, Germany, and the US).
  • The French are world leaders in medical research: the AIDS virus was first isolated by French doctors.
  • European leaders in aerospace (Airbus, Aerospatiale, Arianespace).
  • Most commercial satellites are put in space on French Ariane rockets.
  • The fastest train (TGV) is French.
  • The ocean liner Queen Mary II was built in France.
  • France is the world’s third military power (after the US and Russia), and has the world’s second largest defense industry (exocet missiles, radar technology, Airbus helicopters). Many of the US Coast Guard helicopters are made by Aerospatiale.
  • The French have nearly 15,000 troops on peace-keeping duties in 15 countries including Afghanistan, the Balkans, the Horn of Africa, and the Ivory Coast.
  • France has one of the most advanced systems of telecommunications in the world.


Locally, in Lynchburg, French is used in a working environment by many engineers and technicians at the French-owned company AREVA, a major employer in Lynchburg and a leader in the nuclear field industry.

Lynchburg receives frequent visitors from the sister city of Rueil-Malmaison in France. The Sister city partnership has given many opportunities for exchanges in many domains.

There is in Lynchburg a very dynamic Alliance Française, a social group dedicated to the promotion of French cultural events.

Employers and graduate schools

When employers and universities look at applicants, they do not start looking at the bottom list to see who has done the minimal amount of requirements necessary or taken the easiest route available. They start at the top of the list and look for those students who have risen above the rest.

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