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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Will French be the most spoken tongue by 2050?

A recent study by a French bank has caused a stir after it concluded that French, not English or Mandarin Chinese, will be the world’s most spoken language by the year 2050. But will it really?

Will French be the most spoken tongue by 2050?
Will French be more spoken than English by the year 2050? Photo: Shutterstock

The French language has taken a back seat in recent years due to the continued dominance of English but a recent study by French bank Natixis suggests the tide could soon turn.  

Natixis's study concludes that by 2050 French could be the world’s most spoken language with a potential 750 million people speaking the language of Moliere.

That’s a big jump compared to the 220 million French speakers in the world in 2010.

The study puts the huge rise of French speakers down to the surge in population of sub Saharan Africa, one of the fastest growing regions of the world, and where French is the offical national language of many countries.

Needless to say the study has caused a bit of a stir in France and beyond, but many are skeptical that Natixis’s conclusions will come true.

In an interview with Challenges magazine Alexandre Wolff from the Observatory of the French Language, suggested that English will retain its hegemony.

“In reality English will remain the most used language in the world by 2050. But on the other hand it is possible [for French] to achieve such a result if we just take into account the inhabitants of countries where French is the official language.

“This concerns 32 states where French is the official language and here the projections are indeed impressive, but they do not take into account the coexistence of languages, which is the reality in many countries,” Wolff said.

“Many countries have several official languages, like Belgium, while in African countries, French may the official national language, but not the most spoken,” he added.

Writing on his blog for Forbes magazine Pascal Emmanuel Gabry doubted the study’s conclusion but stressed that the French language was indeed on the rise.

“The point still stands: French is still a fast-growing, global language,” Gabry wrote.

“The other mooted language of the future, Mandarin, despite being excruciatingly hard to learn for most Westerners, will probably not be that given China’s certain demographic slide.

“Meanwhile, French will be present on all continents, and particularly predominant in a continent that, by 2050, should be a fast-growing economic powerhouse–Africa.”

Gabry concluded that “If you were to pick a language of the future, you could do a lot worse.”

So don’t give up those French lessons just yet.

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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian word of the day: ‘Spaghettata’

If you like your spaghetti, you'll love the 'spaghettata'.

Italian word of the day: 'Spaghettata'

You may have twirled and chomped your way through enough spaghetti to be ranked up there with the best of them – but if you’ve never lived in Italy, you’ve probably never experienced the spaghettata (‘spag-ett-TAH-tah’).

Garfield Spaghetti GIF - Garfield Spaghetti Pasta GIFs

Is it a party? Is it a meal? The best way we can describe it is as a fun, relaxed spaghetti feast eaten at home with friends.

Informal and often impromptu, a spaghettata typically lasts for several hours involves copious amounts of wine..

Ci ha invitati a casa sua per una spaghettata.
She’s invited us to her place for a spaghettata.

Whereas a traditional Italian meal would have pasta as a first course (primo), followed by a meat or fish secondo, the spaghettata is a meal unto itself.

Pasta is all that’s on the menu, and if you’re coming back for seconds or thirds, pasta is what you’ll get.

party spaghetti GIF by Isola dei Famosi

Because of its humble, cobbled-together nature, a typical spaghettata can be made with the kind of basic ingredients you might find in any Italian kitchen, such as garlic, olive oil and chilli flakes.

If you have Italian friends who are keen to show off their culinary skills, it can be a little more involved and they might want to show off a local or family recipe. In these cases, it can become more like a dinner party – but with multiple helpings of pasta, instead of multiple courses.

You can also expect to see regional or city-based variations on the spaghetti dishes involved. In Bari, for example, you might be invited to someone’s house so they can show off their recipe for spaghetti allassassina: lightly scorched, toasted spaghetti with tomato sauce.

One of the best things about the spaghettata, though, is the lack of rules; the meal’s improvisational origins mean really anything goes, provided you can source it at the last minute or dig it out of your pantry to feed a hungry crowd.

A meal also doesn’t need to be put on at any particular time of day to be a spaghettata: it might be a lunchtime affair, or it might happen on those long, lazy summer evenings and nights – in which case it becomes a spaghettata di mezzanotte (‘midnight spaghettata‘).

Facciamo una bella spaghettata di mezzanotte!
Let’s have a nice late night spaghettata!

While you’d normally have your spaghettata in the company of others, it can occasionally be used to describe a dish you whip up for yourself at the last minute – particularly if you come home after a night out and suddenly realise you’re a bit peckish.

Oddly enough, spaghettata di gelato (‘ice cream spaghettata’) is what Italians call the German dish spaghettieis.

That isn’t a meal consisting entirely of gelato (if only…), but a dessert deliberately designed to look like a plate of pasta, with vanilla ice cream ‘spaghetti’ and red or green ‘sauces’ made of things like berries or pistachio.

Celebration Will GIF

You might think that given how alert Italians often are to the desecration of their culinary traditions, this would have sparked some discontent – but the dish appears to be quite popular in Italy, with numerous Italian websites offering recipes for the dessert (often simply known as spaghetti di gelato).

Maybe it’s that no one can resist a little novelty ice cream – or maybe the laid back associations of the spaghettata simply encourage everyone to be a bit more scialla.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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