A reader rolls her eyes:
Why learn French? Well, it’s the official language of 29 countries and is the 12th most spoken language in the world. It’s a working language and an official language of the United Nations, the European Union, UNESCO, NATO, the International Olympic Committee, the International Red Cross and international courts, and it is the seventh most common language used on the Internet.
McWhorter’s snobby dismissal of French as the language of art-house subtitles ignores the more than 115 million French speakers in Africa, as well as the francophone Caribbean countries, not to mention Switzerland, Canada, and so forth. I get that he was making a basic point about utility, but French is an actual language used by real people the world over, many of them living and working in this country.
Another suggests that French is just as useful as Arabic:
Remember when France tried conquering the Arabic world? A lot of those countries still speak French, at least to some degree. Learning French is usually much easier for English speakers than learning any of the many spoken dialects of Arabic, arguably making it a more practical means of communicating with parts of the Arabic world.
Another wonders how long Chinese and Arabic will remain the hot languages of the moment:
In the 1980s and early 1990s, Russian and Japanese were the languages that the really smart kids learned to conquer the world. Then the Japanese (who had learned already English much sooner anyway, because it is more widely used and easier) stopped spending money and their economy sat in the doldrums, and the Iron Curtain fell. Who knows what may happen to China by the time someone learns Chinese fluently? (Maybe we’ll all be talking about learning Persian after President Palin’s invasion of Iran.) You can’t tell, and it’s foolish to guess. But one could do a lot worse than French.