Despite what Paxo says, French isn’t a useless language

Sorry Jeremy, vous avez tort

Jeremy Paxman is at it again. The former Newsnight host and guy who shocked the entire country when he rocked a beard, has written this article in the Financial Times, attacking the French language.

Paxman wrote that to be a “citizen of the world”, English is the only language worth knowing.  He ridiculed the “middle-class English” who believed French should be learned purely because they think it’s “good for you”.

Simply put, he thinks French is a “useless language” which has no use to be studied as a medium of communication.

The ability to communicate with 200 million people around the world seemed like a good enough use to me when deciding to study French at university, but maybe being a languages student makes me biased.

Naturally, other people weren’t happy with Paxman’s comments. Andy Martin, a lecturer in French at Cambridge University said: “Wittgenstein said the limits of your language are the limits of your world. Paxman’s is becoming increasingly limited, I’m afraid.”

What Paxman forgets in his Monty Python-esque rant against French is that after English, French is the language spoken in the highest number of countries in the world. Therefore if an English speaker wants to be able to communicate in most places in the world, the most obvious second language to learn would be French.

French is recognised as the official language in more countries than Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese. As one of the official languages of some of the most important international organisations that exist in the world today (like the United Nations and NATO) it’s clear the French language still has a prominent position on the international stage.

I’m a languages student. Studying the French language, culture, history and literature is what I do all day, erryday, and it’s clear that studying French is much more than just a “hobby”.

Paxman’s claim that there’s no point in learning the language as “a medium of communication” doesn’t make sense – French is widely accepted as the preferred language for diplomatic affairs, it’s the country the British public are most likely to visit when leaving the UK, and it’s spoken on every continent in the world.

So as for choosing to spend four years of my life studying a “useless” language? Non, je ne regrette rien.