French Language Day

French Language Day Quick Facts - ZA

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2024 Date20 March 2024
2025 Date20 March 2025

French Language Day

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French Language Day History

French Language Day honours linguistic diversity and multilingualism, acknowledging the cultural, historical, and economic significance of the French language and its key role within the United Nations. Notably, it promotes the use of French alongside other languages, encouraging the participation of both French-speaking and non-French speaking individuals in initiatives that illuminate its multifaceted relevance and impact.

The United Nations formally proclaimed French Language Day in 2010 as part of a broader effort to celebrate linguistic diversity and promote equal use of all six of its official working languages. For South Africa, a country renowned for its multiculturalism and linguistic plurality, French Language Day represents the recognition of the approximately 210,000 South Africans who speak French, and the indirect relationship the country has with francophone nations through shared membership in organizations such as the African Union. The day also emphasises the importance of French as a strategic secondary language choice in South African education and business sectors, given its prevalence in international diplomacy, academia and commerce.

In South Africa, French Language Day is observed in various ways from academic institutions to cultural centres. Activities range from French language and culture workshops, educational seminars, cooking classes featuring French cuisine, to film screenings and book festivals spotlighting francophone literature. These observances stand as evidence of the growing visibility and appeal of French language and culture in South Africa. Although French Language Day is marked internationally on March 20th each year, the events in South Africa may vary to accommodate specific local schedules and academic calendars.

Facts about French Language Day

  • According to the U.N, French is the 5th most spoken language in the world. It has over 300 million speakers.
  • Decentered, multiplied, creolized as rejoiced Édouard Glissant, the French language is today spoken by nearly 300 million speakers. On this International Day of Francophonie, it is this diversity of destinies, gathered in the language that we share, that we are invited to celebrate - Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, French Language Day 2018
  • French is offered as a subject in many South African schools. The Alliance Française, a global network promoting French language and culture, also has several branches in South Africa offering French language courses.
  • The Alliance Française, a non-profit organization that promotes French language and culture, operates 13 French language centers across South Africa where they organize events on French Language Day. Despite having 11 official languages, many South Africans learn French as a second or third language due to cultural interest or professional opportunities. French Language Day serves to promote this learning

Top things to do in South Africa for French Language Day

  • Learn how you can support the International Organization of La Francophonie. La Francophonie is an organization that promotes French and aims to implement political, educational, economic, and cultural cooperation within its 88 states and governments.
  • Visit the Alliance Française: The Alliance Française network is a leading cultural organization in South Africa. They often host a variety of events and activities for French Language Day, including language workshops, film screenings, and exhibitions. Their branches are found in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria.
  • Read a book to learn more about the French language:
    A History of the French Language Through Texts - by Wendy Ayres-Bennett.
    Plurilinguismes et école - by Danielle Moore and Viv Edwards.
    Language Planning and Politics in Africa - by Eyamba G. Bokamba.

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