Is French really on the decline? Many believe so. To explain this demise, they point to the fact that French is “controlled” by an academy. They blame its complex rules, its speakers’ refusal to adopt words from other languages, the insecurity that pushes them to pass laws banning other languages, and to spend millions of dollars making sure literature, music and film are produced in French.
So how do they explain the fact that French is actually growing? Its speakers have tripled in the last 60 years – to 200 million, in 63 countries. One hundred million people across the planet are studying French, which is second only to English for the number of countries where it is an official tongue.
This paradoxical picture is the background for the popular history, THE STORY OF FRENCH. In this colorful narrative, Canadian authors Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow unravel the mysteries of a language that has maintained its global influence in spite of the rise of English. They show how French acquired its own peculiar culture, one of intense rigid grammar rules, politicization and pride, but also of great creativity. And they speculate on what the future holds for French.
THE STORY OF FRENCH was translated into Japanese. In French, it was first translated in Quebec in 2007 under the title La Grande aventure de la langue française. In 2011, an updated second edition of the book was translated into French in France under the title Le Français, quelle histoire!
THE STORY OF FRENCH won the 2007 Mavis Gallant Award for Nonfiction and the 2011 Prix de la Renaissance Française (French Renaissance Award) from l’Académie des Sciences d’Outre-Mer in Paris (The Academy of Overseas Sciences).
Based in Quebec, Canada, Nadeau and Barlow lived in France from 1999-2001. To write THE STORY OF FRENCH, they drew on their experience in France, and their home-base of Montreal, Canada. Then they travelled across the French-speaking world in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas. On their travels, they saw that French was not only thriving but growing.
As entertaining as it is informative, THE STORY OF FRENCH challenges our old ideas about French and shows why French is still the world’s other global language.