New York Needs French

        New York is a linguistically dynamic state.  21.6% of its citizens are foreign born. At least one out of every four New York residents speaks a language other than English. Another 2.2 million New York residents claim not to speak English "very well".  Realistically speaking, however,the importance of French instruction in New York's schools is not primarily one of understanding the neighbor who moved in next door, nor is it one of understanding the language of a fast-growing labor force. According to the 2000 census, there are about 200,000 Haitian and Haitian American inhabitants in Brooklyn, where there is an "Alliance Des Emigrés Haïtians". The total Haitian population of New York City is estimated to be over 400,000. There are about 60,000 French expatriates living in New York, and nearly 100,000 Quebec immigrants.  There are later generation New York citizens with heritage connections to various parts of the francophone world. Counting Haitians, who are primarily creole speakers, New York's French-speaking and francophone heritage population is a little over a million.  That is a significant number, even  in a state with a population of over 19 million.  According to, New York has the largest population of native French speakers (including patois, creole and cajun) in the US.

There are French magazines and newspapers at many newsstands and French book stores in New York City, where there is also a French weekly newspaper published:


French speakers and French students can enjoy a wealth of French-language Television and radio programming.  We can get a limited idea of this from the French Consulate General in New York


and French Culture and Education in the USA

shows that New York accessibility to French cultural events, such as the annual "Rendez-vous with French Cinema" is particularly high.

Since New York City is a crossroads and an important port of entry, it should come as no surprise to see a number diplomatic and cultural offices from francophone countries, such as:

    Consulat Général de France à New York

    Comité des associations françaises de New York

    Entrenewyork [Network of support for French citizens in New York]

    New York Chapter of the French-American Chamber of Commerce

    La mission économique de New York (France)

    French Heritage Society

    Northern New York American-Canadian Genealogical Society (Plattsburg)

    Consulate General of Canada in New York City

    Consulate General of Canada in Buffalo

    Québec Government House [in New York City]

The importance of the French-speaking population is indirectly signaled by the high number of Alliance Française chapters in the state:

Alliance Française

      M. John H.F. HASKELL
      22 East 60th Street
      NEW YORK, NY 10022-1077
      Tel. (212) 355-6100
      Fax. (212) 935-4119
      Directeur: David BLACK
      Directrice des cours: Katherine BRANNING

      Mme Olivia ARDITI
      P.O. Box 721
      BUFFALO, NY 14207
      Tel. (716) 688-4171
      Fax: (716) 829-3776

      Mr.Eric W. ORMSBY
      Columbia University
      515 West 116th Street, MC 4909
      NEW YORK, NY 10027
      Tel. (212) 854-4482
      Fax.(212) 854-4803

      Dr. Robert PILUSO
      31 Mamaroneck Avenue
      WHITE PLAINS, NY 10601
      Tel. (914) 681-8735
      Fax (914) 681-9246
      Directrice: Mme Gisèle CARRUTH

      Dr. Virginia FICHERA
      French Department
      OSWEGO, NY 13126
      Tel. (315) 341-2468

      Mme Claudia THOMAS
      1911 Clark Road
      ROCHESTER, NY 14625
      Tel. (716) 381-6031

      M. Gino PULIDO
      3 Naomi Lane
      NEW HAMPSTEAD, NY 10977
      Tel. (845) 362-0395

Existing web sites for these are easy to obtain from

        Alliance Française USA (Globe-Gate)

Finally, 10% of the membership in the American Association of Teachers of French reside in New York, which comprises two of the organization's nine regions (I & III).  You can find contact information the page:

        AATF Chapter Officers by Region

The AATF is developing its advocacy capabilities all over the country:

        AATF National Headquarters

Among the powerful international advocacy voices for French is

       Jeunes Francophiles

with over 800 members in New York.

France in New York History

        No one can deny the importance of France in New York's history.  I offer below a brief chronological sketch of French-related events in New York history up to the donation of the Statue of Liberty.  Much has been omitted, and much has been taken from

        EAGLES BYTE (historical research on New York state)

1524: Giovanni da Verrazano, a Florentine in the service of France, visited the excellent harbor of New York Bay but did little exploring.

La Nuova Francia [New France], 1556 (Giacomo di Gastaldi map)

1604 in France, King Henry of Navarre grants a "favorite" all North American lands north of the 40th parallel (New France).

In 1609, Samuel de Champlain, a Frenchman, traveled on Lake Champlain from Canada, claiming New York as French Territory. July 29, Champlain, accompanied by two other Frenchmen, including his teen-aged servant Etienne Brulé, and 60 Algonquins and Hurons, defeats a band of Iroquois Indians near the future Ticonderoga.

After 1610- French Jesuit missionaries, until late 18th century

Carte de la nouvelle France [western portion] , 1632

French Huguenots in the Hudson Valley (1640s)

1643:  French Jesuit priest Father Isaac Jogues visits New York city.

1653: Jesuit missionary Father Le Moyne comes to Onondaga with a party of Huron and Onondaga chiefs, as an envoy to ratify the peace treaty with the French.

1654: September 7 - 23 Sephardic Jews, refugees from Brazil, arrive in New Amsterdam aboard the French armed vessel St. Charles. The ship's captain claims he's owed 1600 guilders for the trip.

1656: A party of 50 French arrive at Onondaga Lake, where they help six Jesuits establish a mission.

The History of New York State Book I, Chapter III Part III

1658: The Iroquois, backed first by the Dutch, then the English, begin nine years of devastating warfare against the French.

1660: A French mission is established at Boughton Hill (Gannagaro).

1665: A French colony is established in the area of the future Onondaga County near Jamesville.

1669 René-Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle, a French adventurer, left Montreal to explore  Lake Erie and the Niagara region, before he headed for the center of the US.

1678: The Frenchman De la Motte passes through Totiakton, obtaining corn for his journey down the Genesee.

1689 - beginning of French/English conflicts which became the French & Indian Wars

1683: The French leave the Seneca country. Jesuit missionary Father Julien Garnier returns to New France.

1685: France's Louis XIV revokes the Edict of Nantes, which had granted tolerance towards Huguenots, increasing their migration to America (including the ancestors of John Jay, New York's Continental Congress representative)

The earliest notice of the site of the city of Buffalo is found in the travels of Baron La Hontan, who visited this locality in 1687. La Hontan recommended to the French Government the erection of a fort at this place.

In the 18th century, the French government granted seigneuries along Lake Champlain and Lake George that were within the bounds of present-day New York.

1701: New York State adopts a policy of neutrality toward the Canadian French.

1704: French immigrant Elias Neau opens the first school for blacks in New York City.

1716: The French found Fort des Sables, a trading post, near the mouth of the Genesee River to trade with the Seneca.

1719: Joincare, French emissary to the Seneca, builds a log house near the Niagara River on the future site of Lewiston.

Fort Niagara built in the year 1725 (Youngstown, NY)

October 1731: The French build Fort St-Fredéric, at Crown Point at the southern end of Lake Champlain, to fortify the Saint Lawrence.

1748: The French found a Suplican Mission in the Ogdensburg to woo the Iroquois.

1753: The French build a wagon road across the southern tier, along the future path of Route 17.

Partie occidental de la Nouvelle France ou Canada, 1755

1755 French and Indian War (ended by the Treaty of Paris, in 1763)

Fort Ticonderoga was built by the French from 1755-1758 as Fort Carillon

1759: The French, under François Pouchot, surrender Fort Niagara to British and colonial forces, and abandon Ticonderoga to the British.

1775: French author-traveler John Hector St. John Crevecouer visits Onoquaga.

1776: French-born illustrator and draftsman Claude Joseph Sauthier draws a map of the Province of New York for Governor Tryon.

October 1777: The French had been supplying arms and intelligence to the American revolutionaries. The American success at the Battle of Saratoga (New York) convinced them to join in formally with a declaration of War against England (In February 1778 France negotiated a treaty of alliance with the American states).

1792: A group of French settlers move into the future site of Chenango County's village of Greene.

1794: France's exiled Prince de Talleyrand-Perigord visits the Genesee Valley

1800: French land agent James Donatien LeRay de Chaumont purchases 220,000 acres of land in northern New York from proprietor Alexander Macomb.

1821 in New York City: French-trained lithographers William Armand Burnet and Isaac Doolittle form a company at 23 Lumber Street (later Trinity Place), the first such firm in the  U. S.

1831: French political writer Alexis de Tocqueville, touring America, arrives in Batavia, then in Niagara Falls.

1854: The ship Powhatan, en route from Le Havre, France to New York, is wrecked on Long Island's Long Beach. 311 die.

1859: French aerialist François Gravelet (Blondin), performing before a crowd of 25,000, crosses Niagara Falls on a tight rope. He then crosses again on stilts, blindfolded, pushing a wheelbarrow and carrying a man on his back.

Mid-nineteenth century New York, with 18, 000 residents of French immigrants, had the largest French speaking community in the United States.  At that time the French immigrant populations of both Louisiana and Missouri were only 15,000. These immigrants even fielded units for the Union Army during the Civil War.

1861: French vintner Charles D. Champlin founds the Pleasant Valley Wine Company near Hammondsport, the first winery in the area.

1864: The French paddle wheeler Washington arrives in New York City to begin service between New York and the English Channel ports.

1867: Paris, France, hosts a second International Exposition. The new lenses by Augustin Jean Fresnel are awarded a prize. A light tower containing the lenses is purchased by the U. S. for $30,000., as a beacon for the Atlantic Highlands of the Navesink, overlooking New York City harbor.

1877: French operetta composer Jacques Offenbach visits New York City.

July 4, 1884: The Statue of Liberty was officially presented to the U.S. Minister to France, Levi Parsons by Ferdinand Lesseps, representing the Franco-American Union.

1886: The first U. S. exhibition of the French Impressionists opens in New York City.

New York's Role in International Business:

        As you might imagine, New York is a vital state for international business:

Greater New York Chamber of Commerce - International Business

        Of course, there are many other nationality groups involved in a positive way in building New York.  Therefore, the above chronology simply places French speakers among other important historical influences, and should not, on its own be a compelling argument for studying the language.  We must look to the present for these arguments. 

        A look at the ever important tourist industry provides more evidence of why New Yorkers should consider learning French.  The United States, having received 1.1 million French tourists in 2000, is the top long-haul destination for French travelers abroad and the sixth most important overall.  French tourists spend over $2.5 billion dollars a year here.  New York City (with a total of 36 million tourist visits per year) is the main port of entry for French tourists.  New York, Florida, and California continue to be top choices for first- and second-time travelers from France.   As important as the French tourist numbers seem, the potential benefit from Canadian visitors all but eclipses it, especially when we discover that New York state has 30% of the top Canada-U.S. land border crossings.  Consider these figures from  Canada->New York incoming border crossings in 2002:

incoming Passengers in Personal Vehicles:
Incoming Passengers on Buses:
Incoming Train Passengers:
Incoming Truck Crossings:

Somebody in New York must use some French or an understanding of francophone cultures in this process.  Where can they get this? Just ask New York's schools.

        New York does not live by tourist trade alone, and yes, there are other economic benefits which come to New York from the francophone world.  Let us begin with exports.  Looking at figures for New York state's top twenty-five trading partners in 2000, there were nearly $18 billion worth of exports going to 4 francophone countries.

Canada -
Belgium -
France -
Switzerland -

        In the capital markets, fifteen French companies on the NYSE and nine on the Nasdaq.  Of course there are many Canadian companies (about 100 trading on American stock exchanges).  The Montreal exchange of Nasdaq (headquartered in New York City) lists 146 of them.  See

    Les Sociétés Françaises à Wall Street

New York & France

        For foreign direct investment, greater New York (New York, Connecticut & New Jersey) has nearly a fourth of the French presence.  ( See ).  This is not surprising, considering the area's market density, the skilled labor pool and  relatively favorable labor conditions present.  The New-York Chapter of the French-American Chamber of Commerce lists over 500 companies for the New York City area alone.  While I cannot paint a complete picture, here are some anecdotal snapshots to consider:

We know that the French company Alsthom, along with the Canadian Bombardier has been designing New York subway cars Alsthom, but did you know that VakTrak, a company that cleans the New York subway tracks, is French?

Valeo, a French automotive parts company, has located in Rochester, New York, and is a partner with Rochester city schools.

Many major French banks have offices in New York: Caisse Nationale Crédit de Credit Agricole, Caisse Nationale unit Crédit Agricole Indosuez, Crédit Lyonnais, Nantexis, Banque Paribas, Société Générale, Banque Nationale de Paris, and Crédit Commercial de France.  There are also major French financial companies for insurance and investment like AXA Financial, Inc.

French-owned Sodexho Alliance SA  (US headquarters in New York City) employs over 8,600 people in New York State.

French-owned Christie's in New York is one of the most famous and prestigious auction companies in the World, with billions of dollars per year in annual sales.

VanDeMark Chemical and VanChem in Lockport New York (only merchant manufacturer of phosgene gas in the USA) is owned by French Groupe SNPE.

In 2003, Amherst, New York's Carborundum Corp (world wide leader in the manufacture and distribution of boron nitride products) was purchased by a French firm Saint-Gobain, and is now Saint-Gobain Advanced Ceramics Corp.

Of course, the money also goes the other way, and it is not surprising to see that New York City hosts one of four "Invest in France" agencies.

New York & Canada

        To grasp the basics of New York's economic relationship with this bilingual (English/French) G7 country and NAFTA partner, Canada, you must begin with the knowledge that Canada-US is the world's most prolific trading partnership, at $1.2 billion/day. The US-Canadian boarder is the busiest in the world, crossed by 200,000,000 per year. The United States sells almost three times as many goods to Canada, a market of 30 million people, as to Japan, a market of over 125 million. The US is the largest foreign investor in Canada and the most popular destination for Canadian investment.  Total two-way trade between the U.S. and Quebec has soared to approximately $56 billion a year.

How does New York fit in?  To begin with, it is important enough to have two consulate general offices in the state (Buffalo and New York).  As for New York and Quebec, they are eachothers biggest trading partners.  The Canada-New York incoming border crossings cited above is just one proof of the vitality of this relationship.

In 2002, New York had the 2nd largest bilateral trade value of any state with Canada: $25.3 billion worth of goods and services.  Somebody had to know some French for that. In 2003, the value of New York's bilateral transboarder surface freight with all of Canada was around $26.3 billion.  For the same year,  the value of New York's bilateral transboarder surface freight with the French-speaking province of Quebec was $6,428,657,416  billion. Province-to-state, Quebec and New York are each other's biggest trading partners.  This is reflected in Quebec Premier Jean Charest's recent statement, that  "New York is Quebec's most important trading partner worldwide,"  New York's strength in high-tech industry is fortunate in this relationship, because Quebec accounts for 50 percent of Canada's total output in information technology, 50 percent in aerospace, 45 percent in the pharmaceutical industry and 40 percent in biotechnology companies.

Here is a list of some Quebec-owned companies operating in New York state:


There is an excellent and up-to-date online summary of Canada-New York trade:

    New York-Canadian trade summery (Canadian Embassy, Washington, DC)

Then, there are regional studies and trade center sites:


    Canadian Direct Investment in Western New York: A Tracking Study of Subsidiaries and Parent Companies

    CAN-AM CONNECTION (Plattsburg North-Country Chamber of Commerce)


    Mega-directory of U.S./Canada International Experts-U.S. Trade Center Directory

    Pénétrer les marchés du Nord de New York et de l'Ouest de la Pennsylvanie (Agriculture et Agroalimentaire Canada)

    2nd Quebec-New York summit set

    Quebec-New York Technology & Education Rendezvous

    Joint Quebec-New York Workshop on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (NanoQuébec)

        Some of New York's northern "Empire zones," provide easy access for Canadian firms that wish to have a nearby U.S. facility or for U.S. firms that are shipping to Canada. A good example is:


Again, for Canadian business in New York, I cannot present a comprehensive  picture, and offer snapshot anecdotes in its place:

The Law Office of Joseph C. Grasmick in Buffalo, New York specializes in Canada to U.S. Business Immigration.

A consortium led by the Canadian firm Bombardier is building the ACELA HIGH-SPEED RAIL NETWORK (Boston-New York-Washington DC), a corridor which serves nearly 45% of Amtrak's current customers.  Bomberdier's rail car manufacturing plant in Plattsburgh employs 700.

Norstar Development USA is a Canadian construction firm in Buffalo NY which has been awarded a HUD Secretary's Best in American Living Award.

Nuvo Network, a Canadian firm with U.S.-based operations center in Rochester, specializes in remote management and protection of information technology infrastructures.

QC Corporation is a Canadian manufacturer of bulk and consumer VHS, providing 100 jobs in Rochester.

Quebecor World (providing international commercial print media services of major product categories) has a presence in several New York cities, like Depew, where it invested $15 million to expand an existing facility, adding 400 new jobs, and New York City, where it prints the Sunday TV supplement, New York Vue, for the New York Daily News.

Jean Coutu Group (Montreal) is paying $2.38 billion US to buy 1539 Eckerd Drug Stores (located mostly in the North Eastern US and Mid-Atlantic States) from th J. C. Penney Co.  The acquired stores had $7.9 billion in annual sales last year.

Z-Star Inc (Canadian manufacturer of expansion joints and bearings for bridges), facility in Watertown (Jefferson County).

Oswego-Toronto Fast Ferry is to be built by Canadian American Transportation Systems (CATS).

Casavant Frères Ltée (Québec) designs and repairs organs in Albany and ither cities in New York.

North Greenbush-based MapInfo Corp is partnering with a Canadian company (Korem Inc.) to market MapInfo's product in Quebec.

French and Non-Government Organizations

        Even if your life's calling is outside of both business and government  work, there is good reason to prepare with French language and culture courses in New York's schools.  The following international non-government organizations with important offices in New York all have French as one of their official languages.  

    The United Nations (and constituent agencies)
    Amnesty International
    The World Medical Association
    The Coexistence Initiative
    Human Rights Watch

This is not, by any means, an comprehensive list.

Common Sense for the Commonwealth

        From what common sense dictates through the figures and arguments presented here, in order to be responsive to the real needs of New York society, its school districts should sense an obligation to bequeath a future of success by offering classes in French language and francophone cultures to those who will be in charge later in this century. Still not convinced?  Do you need some very concrete evidence?  Try typing the the keyword "French"  for a job search in

    Monster Job Search:

If you are interested in finding out why French is important outside of New York, see

On the Importance of Knowing French
TennesseeBob Peckham
Director, the Globe-Gate Project
Department of Modern Foreign Languages
University of Tennessee-Martin