Knowing French increases your chances of communicating in a non-English-speaking country
The great German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, once said: “Whoever is not acquainted with foreign languages knows nothing of his own.”
Learning a new language is almost comparable to a journey of discovery. A new language opens up a whole new culture. A foreign language gives us access to another culture, and our lives take on a new dimension.
“But of all languages, why learn French when the whole world speaks English?” someone once asked me.
Well, there’s some truth in this, but only ‘some’! Most employers in Rwanda tend to prefer candidates who speak both the English and French languages. Therefore, knowing it is a skill which will increase your marketability.
On a bigger scale, French is one of the world’s major international languages: it is spoken by over 200 million people in 43 countries, on five continents. Knowing French increases your chances of communicating in a non-English-speaking country.
Another reason you should learn French especially if you are an Anglophone is to enhance your English; its believed that about, 45 percent of English vocabulary comes from French. As you learn French, you also enhance your grammar and vocabulary skills in English.
In addition, when you speak another language, you can enjoy a wide range of literature, film, and music in a different language. It is extremely difficult for a translation to be a perfect replica of the original; the best way to understand what an author, musician or speaker meant to communicate is if it is first hand from the source.
There is a lot to learn from well-known philosophers who were French, including Descartes, Pascal, Rousseau, Voltaire, Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir. These authors’ works are far more appreciated when read in the original language.
Learning French develops and helps to improve your interpersonal skills. Knowing French is definitely a social bonus. There’s definitely a high-wall to climb between being presented as someone that doesn’t know any foreign language whatsoever, against being presented as a bilingual.
Speaking another’s language also shows respect for that culture, and people in every country prefer it when tourists make an effort to speak the local language. How many times has a smile danced on your lips when tourists and visitors uttered, ‘Mwaramutse’ or ‘Murakaze neza’—as funny as it might have sounded, you gladly smiled.
If language skills are to improve in Rwanda, everyone needs to play their part: Parents must recognise the importance of their children learning at least one foreign language so that when opportunities are presented to them, they have the courage to take them up because there is no language barrier.
Government, education authorities and Schools, must give language learning a firm place in school life and enable as many pupils as possible to benefit from the opportunities it creates.
This is also a matter of social justice because languages facilitate social mobility. Therefore, the general public and the media should recognise the value of language learning for future generations and support it.