French Language Day is on March 20 and we’re more than excited to celebrate with some French culture, language, and history as we ask…parlez vous Francais? Even if you don’t speak the language there’s a lot of aspects of French culture to learn about. This occasion is meant to respect multilingualism and cultural diversity. When most people think of French they think of France, but it’s actually Africa that has the most French speakers. There are an estimated 120 million Africans from 29 countries that speak the language alongside their indigenous languages.
History of French Language Day
The French language comes from Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire. France was known as Gaul during that time and they were conquered by the Romans in the first and second century BC. At that time, they spoke Gaulish which is a Celtic language, but that was replaced by Latin from the Romans. In the fifth century, Germanic tribes invaded Gaul and they were Romanized as well. As a result of these outside influences, modern French owes its origins to Celtic, Germanic, but most of all to Latin.
Old French was spoken by the ninth century to the thirteenth and it was different from Latin. The Oaths of Strasbourg is the oldest known document that uses Old French and it had varying dialects including Francien, a dialect that was used near Paris. In the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, Middle French was used with expressions from Latin, Greek, and Italy. A group of French poets known as the Pléiade, inspired the French to strengthen their language and literature.
The seventeenth-century marked the modern period of French and in 1635, Cardinal Richelieu founded the French Academy. The purpose of this was to maintain the sanctity of the language and its literature. The language evolved over time with artistic movements like romanticism and realism, but in large, it has stayed true to this period.
In 2010, the UN’s Department of Public Information made French Language Day official to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity. The day is also used to promote the equal use of all six official languages throughout the UN which are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. March 20 is also recognized as the International Day of La Francophonie that celebrates the anniversary of the Agency for Cultural and Technical Cooperation (ACCT) that began March 20, 1970.
French Language Day timeline
French Language Day is made official by the UN to celebrate multilingualism.
Cardinal Richelieu founded the French Academy to maintain the sanctity of the language in literature.
The Oaths of Strasbourg is the oldest known document that uses Old French.
Gaul is conquered by the Roman Empire and the language Gaulish gives way to Latin.
French Language Day FAQs
What is World Language Day?
World Languages Day is a worldwide career expo that connects over 1,000 high school and college students to businesses and professions that value global skills.
Why do we celebrate Francophonie
International Day of La Francophonie celebrates the anniversary of the Agency for Cultural and Technical Cooperation that began March 20, 1970.
Do people in Canada speak French?
French is the mother tongue of an estimated 7.2 million Canadians, which is 20% of the population.
French Language Day Activities
French is known as one of the most romantic languages for a reason. Find out by trying it out for yourself! There are a plethora of French language learning guides online to practice with. You can make this a group activity and challenge a friend to try learning it as well and see how well you do in conversation with one another.
Have French cuisine
France is also known for its exquisite cuisine. Try your hand at cooking (and saying) some of the meals that they’re most known for. There’s soupe à l'oignon, cassoulet, chocolate soufflé, and more. If cooking isn’t your thing, you can go to an authentic French restaurant and share your experience with pictures on social media to spread the word.
Join the discussion
The United Nations organizes dialogues all over the world as part of their UN75 initiative to hear from diverse groups about their hopes, fears, and experiences. Join the discussion by providing your own opinions, or listen to other voices to get a better grasp of global perspectives.
Five Facts About French Language Day
French was one of the first two working languages used by the United Nations.
Social media ranking
French is the sixth most common language on the internet.
French is one of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers.
French isn't the most commonly spoken language, but it's a fast-growing language.
French is spoken on five different continents.
Why We Love French Language Day
It celebrates culture
There’s no denying that the French language is a beautiful one. A long list of talented poets, writers, and artists are French and their works have lasted the test of time. By honoring the French Language Day, you also show respect to the hard-working artists that have put so much beauty out into the world.
Multilingualism is important
French Language Day is a show of support for multilingualism and accepting diversity. The day reminds us to respect other communities and cultures and to act in cooperation with one another. Language can be a bridge between worlds.
Know your French history
Oftentimes, there are incorrect beliefs about a country, but you can never know the full story unless you investigate. France has an important history that has affected and has been affected by many other countries. We owe it to ourselves to understand these truths so that collectively we have a broader and more cultured mindset.
French Language Day dates