UTILITY OF FRENCH

It may be good for a Futurama scenario, but in the real world, you can't make the claim "Nobody speaks French anymore."  How can we measure its usability?
 
According to a 2014 OIF report, French has 274 million speakers in 57 countries with a collective (non-French & French) population of 1 billion. So you can have more friends and business associates. There are 30 countries with French as an official language; 7 more, if you count countries where it is not, but where one in five residents speak French. There are countries like Algeria, where French is an important communication tool for about 16 million people (but is not an official language). It ranks second among European language spoken in Africa. It is the second most popular second language in the world, and the second most taught language in the world.

French is still among the top ten languages for internet usage. It is ranked number five for internet users, four language for Wikipedia content, third for Amazon, second for number of web sites, and the second most frequently demanded after English on Google Translate.  Its is therefor not surprising to see in the print world that it held a steady rank of fourth in literary translation for a monitored period from 1979-2002.  In the Democratic Leadership Council tracking of translated books, translation into French ranked third, with 185,000 translated between 1932 and 2006. This is particularly significant when you consider that overall, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a growth of 46% in jobs for translators and interpreters between 2012 and 2022. French is required or preferred in over half of international jobs listed by the U.S. State Department. How about tourism? Foreign tourists spend about $170 billion a year in the US. How many are French speakers?  If you search on any general jobs database without specifying a specific area, French will yield the second largest number of positions. Of course these figures are bound to rise, because the predicted French-speaking population word-wide for 2050 is 700 million. Are we really paying attention to this when we say that the utility of French is in decline?
 
The Canadian-US trading partnership has the highest volume of any trading bloc in the world. Among the various calls for French in this is The Canadian federal Consumer Packaging and Labeling Act, which requires that all labels be bilingual in English and French. The US is the 4th largest direct investor in France, and France is one of the three largest investors in the US economy, which is the number one target for French foreign direct investment. There are well over 2700 French companies that have subsidiaries in the U.S, employing over 500,000 people. In general, foreign-owned firms pay higher salaries than do domestic firms, especially for more skilled and educated workers. In business, part of the value of your acquired knowledge of French can be seen in the foreign direct investment of countries where French is an major official language. Let doubters beware; we've got the stats:

Organization for International Investment 2013 Report (Foreign Direct Investment in US)
http://www.ofii.org/sites/default/files/FDIUS_2013_Report.pdf

In total, foreign companies supported "support 5.6 million well-paying American jobs with average pay of around $77,000 in 2011." (OII report)

Investment in US 2000-2012 countries out of top 9:

4. Canada $225 billion
5. France $209 billion
6. Switzerland $204 billion
7. Luxembourg $202 billion
9. Belgium $89 billion

Investment in US  2012 alone countries out of top 10:

2. France $21.78 billion
5. Canada $16.58 billion
6. Belgium $11.88 billion
8. Luxembourg $6.2 billion

France is also the 5th largest investor in stock in the United States. The most recent Bloomberg ratings put French as a business language third after English and Mandarin (See note at bootom of page). Looking at 2013 export dollars derived only from countries where French is an official language, the figure is nearly $400 billion dollars, supporting or creating 2,400,000 US jobs. Three out of the US's top ten trading partners for 2013 were countries where French is an important official language. In this survey, I left out a number of high-yield trade-partner countries with a high percentage of French speakers, and where I know that French is used heavily in trade. You may be interested in seeing. Actually 20% of all international trade is accomplished with the help of French..

French is among the easiest languages for English speakers to learn (a category 1, according to the Foreign Service Institute difficulty scale). You can actually learn it in school with a short  intensive immersion experience, to a point of proficiency that is satisfactory for most jobs requiring international skills. Nearly a third of English words have some kind of etymological relationship to French. The percentage gets higher with the English word's frequency of use. French is also an infinitely expandable skill for proficient independent learners. Knowing French makes it easier to learn Spanish. As with any language, French skills embrace many of the aspects of life lived by French speakers; even more, because of how many countries and cultures communicate in French.  Below, I have listed links which will give you important details and data on the use and usability of French:

You Wouldn't Know They Majored in French

Le poids économique de la langue française dans le monde (Carrère et  Masood), 2012, 143 pp.   

The status of French in the world
 
French Technology Status - Technologie GGG (11/16/12, by Shelly Waylon)    

U.S.-French Commercial Ties (2008) 

French-Speaking Business Connections in America   

Want To Know The Language Of The Future? The Data Suggests It Could Be...French    

U.S.-French Commercial Ties (2008)   

partial list of  international organizations which have French as an official language


ENGLISH, MANDARIN, FRENCH???

Many of us teaching French were relatively happy to see

Bloomberg Rankings : The Languages of Business [2011]
http://liberalarts.iupui.edu/wlac/uploads/docs/Bloomberg_Rankings_Business_languages.pdf

I was also, even though Mandarin ranks above French. However, I, in my economic simplicity, had a hard time seeing the full connection between the criteria and the score which determined the ranking. Among my observations,

There were 29 countries where French was official at the time of the article.
There were 65.02 million French in 2010. The number of French speakers has to have been higher than 67.8 million.
I see nothing for foreign direct investment.
There was no estimate of Mandarin required for jobs.

The US business community has become excited about learning Mandarin. In 2007 China's GDP growth rate was announced to be 14.2%, while the US GDP growth rate was 1.8%. Many predicted that China's economy would soon be larger than our own, and the 21st century was dubbed with the neologism "Chinese Century". Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg speaks Mandarin. Certainly Mandarin learning is a rewarding experience, but for me, there are disconnectts in the Bloomberg ranking.

In my general economic observation, I have not restricted myself to G20 or top 20 [GDP] countries. I note the following about 2013 cumulative foreign direct investment of countries, according to

http://www.ofii.org/sites/default/files/FDIUS2014.pdf

From countries where Mandarin is an official language = $40,113 millions
From countries where French is an official language =  $940,187 millions

I tried to assess the importance of French in individual states of the US. My criteria were three key economic factors for working Americans. I chose 2015 exports, because every $ billion in revenues supports or creates 6000 jobs. I chose foreign direct investment, because the International Trade Administration lists the top four national investors in each state. These provide millions of relatively high-salary jobs. I considered jobs requiring language skills.

For exporting, considering countries only where foreign languages were important official languages, I found French to be number one in the export revenues of 40 states, Mandarin in 7, and Spanish in 3.

For foreign direct investment, there were no countries where Mandarin was an important official language in the top four in any state. This is true of only 5 states for French. French is represented in the remaining 45 states; two of four in 24 states and 3 or 4 in three states.

For jobs available on May 22, 2016 requiring some skill in a language other than English, and using Indeed.com, French was number two in 40 states, number three in 9 and number 4 in one. In only 2 states was Mandarin ahead of French in the number of jobs. Generally, Spanish preceded French. In 3 states it was German, in 3, Japanese, in 2, Portuguese, in 1, Italian.

While I am not in a position to contradict the conclusion of the Bloomberg ranking, while I have no integrated point system for my criteria, I would contend that for working Americans, knowing French is an important career asset. I should point out also that French seems to rank near the top in other assessments of the value of foreign languages in business.

TennesseeBob Peckham

TennesseeBob Peckham , PhD
Director, Globe-Gate Research
Made in Tennessee to bring you the world
bobp@utm.ed

53287