French is a Romance language spoken all over the world by over 600 million people. It is an official language in 30 countries, and a major language in more than 50 countries, from North America to Indochina. The language has evolved dozens of dialects, from Acadian to Belgian to Quebecois to Vietnamese. It has long been recognized as a language of culture and diplomacy. French, along with Old West Germanic, is a parent language of English. Its influence continues to be felt in literature, art, cuisine and other fields.
Although its influence has waned (everyone knows our grandkids will do business in Mandarin and Hindi) French remains a dynamic, important, beautiful language and is worthy of study. When you study French, you deepen your understanding of the English language and Western Civilization.
Le Monde Francophone.
French is an ancient language, and can trace its roots back to the Roman invasion of Gaul by Julius Caesar in the First Century BC. At that time, Gaul (what is now France) was occupied by a mixture of peoples: Celts (Gauls), Belgae, Iberians, Aquitani, and Greek and Phoenician colonists in the south. In central Gaul, Latin quickly overwhelmed the local Celtic dialects and became, if you'll forgive, the lingua franca of central Europe. After the third century, as the Western Empire began to crumble, Gaul was progressively overrun by Frankish tribes. The Franks were Germanic peoples, and their language had a profound effect on the syntax and pronunciation of Gallic Latin, although there are few words of Germanic origin left in modern French.
Old (Medieveal) French, as spoken primarily in Northern France, included the dialects of Picard, Walloon, Francien, and Norman. These are known as the oil languages. These nascent French languages came under continuing influence from Germans, Norse, Celts, Iberians, Italians, and Arabs. In 1066 Norman French crossed the English Channel with William the Conqueror, and combined with the West Germanic languages spoken there to form a predecessor of modern English, the Anglo-Norman language.
In 1539 Francis I made French the official language of France, giving rise to Middle French, which in turn became Classical French, and eventually Modern French.
French continues to be heavily influenced by other languages, from Arabic to Japanese, but especially by English. Francophones, however, are jealous of their language, and there has been a great deal of pushback in recent years to try and preserve "True French" or "Pure French."
Given all that has gone before, one wonders exactly what that means.