#

France

Background

Although ultimately a victor in World Wars I and II, France suffered extensive losses in its empire, wealth, manpower, and rank as a dominant nation-state. Nevertheless, France today is one of the most modern countries in the world and is a leader among European nations. Since 1958, it has constructed a hybrid presidential-parliamentary governing system resistant to the instabilities experienced in earlier more purely parliamentary administrations. In recent years, its reconciliation and cooperation with Germany have proved central to the economic integration of Europe, including the introduction of a common exchange currency, the euro, in January 1999. At present, France is at the forefront of efforts to develop the EU’s military capabilities to supplement progress toward an EU foreign policy.

Location

Metropolitan France: Western Europe, bordering the Bay of Biscay and English Channel, between Belgium and Spain, southeast of the UK; bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Italy and Spain.

French Guiana: Northern South America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Brazil and Suriname.

Guadeloupe: Caribbean, islands between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Puerto Rico.

Martinique: Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and North Atlantic Ocean, north of Trinidad and Tobago.

Climate

Metropolitan France: generally cool winters and mild summers, but mild winters and hot summers along the Mediterranean; occasional strong, cold, dry, north-to-north-westerly wind known as mistral.

French Guiana: tropical; hot, humid; little seasonal temperature variation.

Guadeloupe and Martinique: subtropical tempered by trade winds; moderately high humidity; rainy season (June to October); vulnerable to devastating cyclones (hurricanes) every eight years on average.

Reunion: tropical, but temperature moderates with elevation; cool and dry (May to November), hot and rainy (November to April).

Natural resources

Metropolitan France: coal, iron ore, bauxite, zinc, uranium, antimony, arsenic, potash, feldspar, fluorspar, gypsum, timber and fish.

French Guiana: gold deposits, petroleum, kaolin, niobium, tantalum and clay.

Languages

French 100%, rapidly declining regional dialects and languages (Provencal, Breton, Alsatian, Corsican, Catalan, Basque, Flemish).

Overseas departments: French, Creole patois.

The French language uses the same alphabet as the English language however each letter is pronounced differently.

French is written using the Latin alphabet, plus five diacritics (the circumflex accent, acute accent, grave accent, diaeresis, and cedilla) and two ligatures (æ, œ).

The diacritics have phonetic, semantic, and etymological significance. Diactritics are sometimes omitted from capitalized letters.

The French language (Romance language) spoken as a first language by about 72 million people in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada (mainly Quebec), and many other countries and regions formerly governed by France. French is an official language of more than 25 countries. Its earliest written materials date from the 9th century. Numerous regional dialects were eventually pushed aside by Francien, the dialect of Paris, adopted as the standard language in the mid-16th century. This largely replaced the dialects of northern and central France, known as the langue d’oïl (from oïl, the northern word for “yes”), and greatly reduced the use of the Occitan language of southern France, known as langue d’oc (from oc, Occitan for “yes”). Regional dialects survive mostly in uneducated rural speech. French grammar has been greatly simplified from Latin. Nouns do not have cases, and masculine and feminine gender are marked not in the noun but in its article or adjective. The verb is conjugated for three persons and for singular and plural; though spelled differently, several of these forms are pronounced identically.

Facts about France and the French language:

  • Every summer more than 100 professional cyclists race in the Tour de France. The race is approximately 2,000 miles long. The race lasts up to three weeks. It is held in July. The route changes from year to year.
  • The language of French had not gained uniformity until after the Middles Ages. It was divided into several dialects. Almost every writer had their own grammar. French poetry and literature is said to have reached it’s peak in the eighteenth and twentieth century.
  • France is apparently the sixth largest economy in the world and is a developed country as well. The capital city is Paris. France is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world.
  • More than 350 kinds of cheese are made in France.
  • French is the second most commonly taught foreign language, after English.
  • French is the official language of France, Luxembourg and Haiti and more than 15 African countries.