According to an article on the website Ozy (motto: “Where the news oozes.”), the most commonly-spoken language in the world will soon be…
I bet you find that muy surprisingo. No, wait, that’s Spanish. Well, it’s nothing, but my point is, I spent eight years in fine New York City public schools not learning Spanish, and now some oozy website tells me I should have been not learning French instead? What’s up with that?
And what about all those people who have been slaving away to learn Mandarin? Oh, yes, they were told, Mandarin is the language of the future, because China will be the biggest economic power in the world, and you can really impress a date by ordering General Tso’s chicken in Chinese.
So first they learned the Chinese alphabet, which looks suspiciously like the English alphabet as written by Michael J. Fox. Then they learned that’s not really the Chinese alphabet at all, so they went to an Asian mystic to learn the real Chinese alphabet but gave that up when they learned it takes about an hour and a half just to write the letter “u,” and, anyway, it was possible the Asian mystic was just screwing with them because how can a civilization be based on such a hard-to-write letter set? Besides, they thought, why would Chinese people bother to have a letter character for every English letter (except “y”–because they don’t like us*), and, after some investigation, discovered that China doesn’t even have a native alphabet, just these picto-thingies, so they tried to learn those but it turned out to be Hebrew.
Where was I?
Right, French. So, yes, French will soon be the world’s most spoken language if, by “soon,” we mean the year 2050 and by “world,” we mean Africa.
That’s because, while French is being spoken by more and more people, more and more people are not French. I bet you’re breathing a sigh of relief about that, aren’t you?
According to this oozy article, French is the “schooling” language of some of the fastest-growing nations. We’re talking about places like Mali, Guinea, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These countries have some of the highest fertility rates because, as Pepe Le Pew can tell you, French is the language of love. So, by 2050, French will overtake today’s top five: Mandarin, English, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic.
…as someone who does advertising for a living (because blogging doesn’t pay well, or at all), I know all about things that are the “fastest-growing.” “Fastest-growing” is one of those marketing terms that sounds good, but isn’t. For instance, let’s say I decide to begin a chain of burger joints to compete with McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s and so forth. So I open a HallenBurger right here in Stamford, Connecticut, across the street from our 50’s era Dairy Queen that serves Blizzards from the Eisenhower administration. After a year, even though Hallenburger has “OVER 10 BURGERS SOLD,” I open a second location. I can now say that Hallenburger is growing much faster than all those other places because we have a 100% growth rate. By contrast, McDonalds would have to open 35,000 locations to equal Hallenburger’s growth. That’s how, a couple of years ago, Mitsubishi was the “fastest growing car company.” One year they sold, like, 50 cars, the next year they sold 100. Let’s see Toyota compete with that.
So when they say that French-speaking nations are among the fastest-growing, you have to keep in mind the numbers they’re starting with. Also, let’s remember that, although many of these African nations have French as their “official language,” a good portion of their citizenry chooses to speak their native languages rather than the tongue of the nation that colonized and oppressed them.
Another point is that many people in the world who speak the language of their countries also speak another language, frequently English, except in France, where, even if someone knows English, he’s not about to let on about it to an American tourist who is just trying to get the waiter to bring him the friggin’ check and who is saying l’addition repeatedly and with increasing volume while frantically writing in the air, which even Australian aborigines know is the symbol for “check.”
Not that that’s ever happened to me.
Anyway, I’ll either be dead by the year 2050, or barely able to speak coherent English, much less a language that seems to involve excessive lip pursing.
*If you’re not as ancient as I am, that’s a reference to the old Mickey Mouse Club theme song.