Français fondamental

Fundamental French (français fondamental) is a list of words and grammatical concepts created in beginning of the 1950s for teaching foreigners and people part of l'Union française so that France could improve the spread of the French language. A series of investigations in the 1950s and '60s showed that a small number of words are used the same way orally and in writing in all circumstances; thus a limited number of grammatical rules were necessary for a functional language.


Français fondamental was developed by the Centre d'Etude du Français Élémentaire, which was renamed to the Centre de Recherche et d'Etude pour la Diffusion du Français (CREDIF) in 1959. It was headed by Georges Gougenheim, a linguist.[1] The Ministry of Education of France sanctioned and promoted it as a method of learning French. The use of Français fondamental was common in French textbooks, and especially prevalent in audiovisual learning methods used in the 1960s.[2]

Gougenheim, Réné Michea, Paul Rivenc, and Aurélien Sauvageot served as researchers for the project. There are 1,475 words in the "first degree" and 1,609 words in the "second degree."[2]


The core words for usage consist of around 270 grammatical words, 380 nouns, 200 verbs, 100 adjectives, and 50 words for various other uses, making up a total of one thousand words. There is a second group of words which are common to all French speakers, who can use spontaneously use around 1,500 words when needed in particular circumstances.

L'Academie francaise prefers to distinguish "fundamental french" and "elementary french" as it says in its page "Langue francaise - Questions courantes" (The French Language - Common Questions) in the rubric Nombre de mots de la langue francaise (number of words in the French language): "Based on frequency surveys, 'Fundamental French' and 'Elementary French' include just over 1000 to 3000 entrees respectively.

Role and Influence

Fundamental French certainly had an influence, particularly in teaching the language to foreigners. But it was rejected in 1970 with the renewal of language teaching, without being replaced by a new tool. A seminar organised at l'École normale supérieure lettres et sciences humaines de Lyon in December 2005 tried to take stock of the developments that had occurred since its creation.

In a similar spirit but without the apparent affiliation, Radio France Internationale (RFI) released a 10-minute Journal in easy French with a restrained and simple vocabulary (300 words) that gave the context of the events once a day. This step is analogous to that of the Voice of America, who released a program in 1959 in Special English, a form of basic English with a vocabulary restrained to 1500 words.

See also


  1. ^ Stern, H. H. Fundamental Concepts of Language Teaching: Historical and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Applied Linguistic Research. Oxford University Press. 24 March 1983. p. 55. Retrieved from Google Books on October 17, 2012. ISBN 0194370658, 9780194370653.
  2. ^ a b Decoo, Wilfried. Systemization in Language Learning Models. Taylor & Francis US, January 1, 2009. p. 63. Retrieved from Google Books on 17 October 2012. ISBN 0415361931, 9780415361934

Further reading

  • Gineste, Roger and R. Lagrave. Le français fondamental par l'action: Langage et vocabulaire. Section d'initiation à la langue française (ou Cours préparatoire 1re année) 1er degré. Méthode active et fonctionnelle destinée aux élèves dont la langue maternelle n'est pas le français. Éditions Didier [fr], 1961. (see entry in WorldCat)

External links

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