Is French on the decline?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dünya'da yaklaşık olarak 200 milyon insan Fransızca bilmektedir. 128 milyon insan Fransızca'yı anadili veya ikinci dili olarak konuşurken, 54 ülkede 72 milyon insan tarafından da bilinmekte ve konuşulmaktadır. Başta Fransa olmak üzere Kanada, Belçika, İsviçre, Afrika, Lüksemburg ve Monako'da konuşulur.


That link leads to 34 pages of awesome geopolitical and linguistic discussion over whether French is on the decline or not. Assuming that Africa finds a way to achieve at least a modicum of steady growth over the next few decades, French should be fine. I agree with the original poster here:
When we began researching The Story of French, there were 175 million French speakers in the world. The number had tripled in the previous 60 years. Sounds impressive, but all that means is that French speakers increased at the same pace as the world population increased.

But French is still growing along with the world population. The Organization internationale de la francophonie recently increased their official number of French speakers to 200 million. That puts French in 8th position in the ranking of world languages.
I'd like to make one correction here though:
As I learned at a recent language conference, the number of native English speakers is increasing only as fast as the number of native French speakers – and that’s not too fast. The real powerhouse languages today are Chinese and Arabic.
I'm not convinced that Arabic is a real powerhouse considering that it varies so much from region to region that it really should be considered to be a group of languages instead of a single one. Chinese also has a number of regional variants (which I would consider to be different languages) but Mandarin is the official language of a huge state that makes it pretty much the only choice for those that want to learn Chinese, whereas with Arabic you'll often find books for Colloquial Egyptian, Gulf Arabic or some other standard instead of MSA (Modern Standard Arabic), as it doesn't have the advantage of one huge state that overpowers the rest.

I also see Turkish as a dark horse candidate for a future powerhouse language (regionally), given that:
  • Turkey has a population of 70 million and grows at about 1 million per year,
  • Turkish is the only Turkic language in a country using it as a stable and dominant language - Kazakhstan and the rest are still largely subservient to Russian, Azerbaijan is close enough to Turkish that the two can understand each other anyway, and Turkish/Turkic speakers throughout Europe, Russia and Central Asia don't have their own independent countries and thus can't compete with Turkish in terms of influence.
  • Turkish doesn't have any strong competitors in its recent vicinity. This is something Portuguese has a problem with as Spanish is always next door.


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