Language Learning: French

With the 2024 Summer Olympic Games approaching soon, we decided to feature French, the Olympics’ official language, in this month’s Language Learning. 

While the French language is far from rare, the important role it has played in the history of the Olympic games may be lesser known. Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympic games was French. He is credited for his role in the revival of the ancient Olympics. Coubertin also founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and planned the first modern games which took place in 1896 in Athens.

Between Coubertin’s French roots and French being the language of diplomacy at the time, it was made the first official language of the Olympics, with English the second. The third official language is dependent on where the games are taking place. For example, when the Olympic Games were held in Tokyo in 2021, the official languages were French, English, and Japanese.

During the games all announcements are made in French, English, and finally the host country’s native language. They also follow the same pattern for the opening and closing ceremonies. The International Francophone Organization (IFO) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) collaborate to ensure that French remains the first official language. Each Olympic session the IFO sends a French-speaking ambassador to ensure the language and culture of the translations and interpretations are of the highest caliber.

This year, Paris is hosting the 2024 Summer Olympic Games for the first time in 100 years. The French language will be at the forefront of the games again, and French natives are sure to celebrate their country, language, and long history with the Olympics.