Paris Unraveled: The Student's Guide to Living and Studying in France
by Allison Grant
Copyright 2012 Allison Grant
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Every year, some 17,000 American students travel to France to spend a semester or an academic year abroad, hundreds more participate in the Teaching Assistant Program in France, and still others go to France to work or to study independently of an American university program. In a world where language skills and understanding of foreign cultures is becoming increasingly important, that number is growing every year.
Even though French is hardly considered one of the State Department's "critical languages" and is studied less and less in American public schools, it remains, in many places, the language of diplomacy. In 2005, officials estimated that over 500 million people spoke French as their first language or second language. Other than the sixty or so million speakers from France, the vast majority of those speakers come from fast-growing developing countries in Africa and Southeast Asia. French is one of the six official languages of the United Nations, the European Union, is an official language in 30 countries and an administrative language in 7 others, and is the only language other than English to be spoken on all six continents.