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Promoting French Culture and Language

Where Is French Spoken?

French or la langue française  is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the provinces of Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick (Acadia region) in Canada, the Acadiana region of the U.S. state of Louisiana, the northern parts of the U.S. states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont in the New England region, and by various communities elsewhere.

Knowledge_of_French_EU_map

Knowledge of French in the European Union and candidate countries[

Other speakers of French, who often speak it as a second language, are distributed throughout many parts of the world, the largest numbers of whom reside in Francophone Africa. In Africa, French is most commonly spoken in Gabon (where 80% report fluency), Mauritius (78%), Algeria (75%), Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire (70%). French is estimated as having 110 million native speakers and 190 million more second language speakers.

French is an Italic language descended from the spoken Latin language of the Roman Empire, as are languages such as Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian, Lombard, Catalan, Sicilian and Sardinian. Its closest relatives are the other langues d’oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in Belgium, which French has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Roman Gaul and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France’s past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian.

French is an official language in 29 countries, most of which form la francophonie (in French), the community of French-speaking countries. It is an official language of all United Nations agencies and a large number of international organizations. According to France’s Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, 77 million in Europe speak French natively. Outside of France, the highest numbers of French speakers are found in Canada (25% of the population, of whom most live in Quebec), Belgium (45% of the population), Switzerland (20% of the population) and Luxembourg.
Francophone_Africa.svgIn 2013, the Ministry identified French as the second most spoken language in Europe, after German and before English. Twenty percent of non-Francophone Europeans know how to speak French,totaling roughly 145.6 million people in Europe alone. As a result of extensive colonial ambitions of France and Belgium (at that time governed by a French-speaking elite), between the 17th and 20th centuries, French was introduced to colonies in the Americas, Africa, Polynesia, the Levant, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean.

According to a demographic projection led by the Université Laval and the Réseau Démographie de l’Agence universitaire de la francophonie, French speakers will number approximately 500 million people in 2025 and 650 million people, or approximately 7% of the world’s population by 2050. Estimates in 2013 suggest that French speakers will reach 1 billion by 2060.

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  1. The European map shown on this post indicates the areas of Europe where French is well known either through speaking it or being taught it as part of the education system.