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Fun Facts about French

  • French is spoken on all continents, in more than 50 countries and by about 200 million people. There are 115 million native speakers.
  • It is also the second-most studied foreign language in the world.
  • In French, only foreign words contain the letter “W”.
  • Kinshasa (DR Congo) is the second largest French speaking city after Paris.
  • French is a distortion of the Latin language of the Roman Empire.
  • From the 17th century to the middle of the 20th century French was the most important language of diplomacy and international relations.
  • The Académie française is France’s official authority on usage, vocabulary and grammar. It is known for its strict regulations on anglicisms entering the language.
  • The French comic book series Astérix is translated from French into over 100 languages.
  • At the time of the French Revolution 75% of French citizens did not speak French as their mother tongue.
  • In Canada, 300,000 children are enrolled in French immersion programs, and 3 million adults whose mother tongue is not French speak French as a second language.
  • In the United States, French is the number four native language and the second most taught second language after Spanish.
  • One of the longest sentences in literature comes from Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables”: 823 words without a period.
  • Following the victory of the Normans over the English in the Battle of Hastings in 1066, French was the official language of England for about 300 years until 1362.
  • For this reason, about 30 to 50% of the basic English words are of French origin.

Fun Facts about German

Fun Facts about German
  • German is the native language of about 100 million people worldwide.
  • The German language consists of 300.000 words – there are about 1000 new words every year
  • The Grimm brothers started working on the first German dictionary in 1838.
  • A lot of German words made their way into the English language. Some examples are “delikatessen”, “angst”, “doppelgänger”, „ersatz“, „gemütlichkeit“, „kaput“ (German spelling „kaputt“), „kindergarten“, „kitsch“, „poltergeist“, „schadenfreude“, „wunderkind“ and „zeitgeist“.
  • German is the most widely spoken first (native) language in the European Union.
  • Stanford University has the German motto “Die Luft der Freiheit weht“.
  • The German-language “Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien” was printed from 1605 and is considered the world’s first newspaper.
  • There are lots of German dialects: “Kölsch” in the Cologne area, “Berlinerisch” in Berlin, “Bayerisch” in Bavaria, “Sächsisch” in Saxony and many more. The “Low German” dialects are found in northern Germany; the “Upper German” dialects in southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland. They actually refer to the elevation of their regions, not their location.
  • The controversial German Spelling Reform of 1996 („Rechtschreibreform“) was meant to simplify the spelling rules of German-speaking countries. However after public debates and several campaigns the extent of the reform was diluted.
  • The most common baby names in Germany were Karl and Gertrud in 1912 and Mia and Ben in 2012.
  • Germans can’t just pick any name for their kids. All names have to be approved by the civil registry office.
  • Müller (“Miller”) is the most common family surname in Germany. Almost 10% of all Germans are named Müller.
  • While in most languages nouns are either masculine or feminine, there’s a 3rd gender in the German language: Neuter.
  • In 1880 Mark Twain published his essay “The Awful German Language” complaining about the complexity of German grammar.

Photo: Herzi Pinki, Wand der Sprachen 16, Schwendermarkt, CC BY-SA 4.0