Even French native speakers regard the language's grammar and syntax as being notorious for having a tricky range of rules and variations. Changing genders, tricky uses of the circumflex, and conjugation are all known as posing a challenge to speakers and learners, but this might not always be the case in the future.
We can only guess to what French will be like in the distant future, but by looking backward, we can make a more educated guess. Over the past few hundred years or so, regional variations of French have disappeared, and today it's a tough task to find speakers of French regional languages such as Provençal, Poiterin, Saintongeais or Champenois.
It's likely that in the future these regional variations will fade away, and throughout the French-speaking world, a homogenous French language may instead take hold, particularly in African countries and in Canada.
This sort of change is pretty hard to predict, though, especially when you consider how centrally-planned the French language is.
Take, for instance, the February 2016 changes to how the language was taught in its home nation. The French government, wanting to tidy up the grammar and spelling of the language and get rid of spelling anomalies that had cropped up over the preceding decades, decided that certain words would have two spellings – the traditional, and the simplified.
Around 2,000 words were earmarked for change by the Académie Française, the body that advises on all things concerning the French language. The word oignon lost its "i", the circumflex was removed from many words, and other letter combinations were cleaned up. The public reaction to the changes was highly critical though, accusing the government of simplifying a language closely linked with France's national identity.
Both this central planning, and the fact that the character of the French people is so tied up to the language, may mean that French doesn't change so much after all.
Languages change constantly through time, reflecting the changing nature of the people that speak them. As such it's hard to imagine groups such as the Académie Française being able to exercise complete control over French forever.
Imagine how English was spoken in the near-past, add to that the near-constant creation of colloquialisms and slang, and include the influence of the roughly 4,500 languages that have over 1,000 speakers, and you begin to get an idea of just how hard a job ensuring linguistic purity is!
That hasn't stopped the Académie Française from trying, however, and the group has a particular reputation for trying to fight the encroachment of Anglicism on the language.
Verbs such as "shopping", "bruncher" and "forwarder" and phrases such as "sortir un best-of" (bring out a best-of) and "booster ses performances" have crept into common usage among many speakers, and this has led to the group to advise French educational institutions on what should and shouldn't be allowed.
Given that these are merely recommendations though, it seems that English words may grow more and more accepted by French speakers in the future.
The growth of French as a global language will also likely change its coming nature, both in terms of global prominence, lexis and syntax.
According to the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, French is spoken by over 270 million people worldwide – the fifth most-spoken language on the planet. French is the fourth most-spoken language on the internet, third in business, second in international media, second in international relations and second in terms of languages people learned globally, so it's difficult to see the language fading from importance.
In reality though, the language's number of speakers is growing quickly. The number of French speakers grew by a massive 30% worldwide between 2010 and 2014, helped along enormously by a focus on the language being taught in African nations – in 2014, 54.7% of native French speakers were from countries including Morocco, Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Ivory Coast.
As the African continent develops over the coming century and populations grow, the number of speakers will only rise further, and it's easy to think that these groups will put their own linguistic stamp on the language, perhaps loaning words from traditional African languages, or the English-speaking countries that also dot the landmass. The influence of Mandarin could also exert itself, given the trade and development links that China in forging with many African nations.
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