French language

Native toFrance, Belgium, Switzerland, Monaco, Francophone Africa, Canada, and other locations in the Francophonie
SpeakersL1: 74 million (2020)[1]
L2: 238 million (2022)[1]
Total: 310 million[1]
Early forms
Latin script (French alphabet)
French Braille
Signed French
(français signé)
Official status
Official language in

Regulated byAcadémie Française (French Academy, France)
Office québécois de la langue française (Quebec Board of the French Language, Quebec)
Direction de la langue française (Belgium)
Language codes
ISO 639-1fr
ISO 639-2fre (B)
fra (T)
ISO 639-3fra
  Countries and regions where French is the native language of the majority[a]
  Countries and territories where French is an official language but not a majority native language
  Countries and territories where French is an administrative or cultural language but with no official status
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French (français, French: [fʁɑ̃sɛ], or langue française, French: [lɑ̃ɡ fʁɑ̃sɛːz], or by some speakers, French: [lɑ̃ŋ fʁɑ̃sɛ]) is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the Latin spoken in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to the French colonial empire, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

French is an official language in 27 countries and is spoken across all continents.[2] French is also one of the most geographically widespread languages in the world, with about 50 countries and territories having it as a de jure or de facto official, administrative, or cultural language.[3] Most of these countries are members of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), the community of 54 member states which share the official use or teaching of French. French is also one of six official languages used in the United Nations.[4] It is spoken as a first language (in descending order of the number of speakers) in France; Canada (especially in the provinces of Quebec, Ontario, and New Brunswick); Belgium (Wallonia and the Brussels-Capital Region); western Switzerland (specifically the cantons forming the Romandy region); parts of Luxembourg; parts of the United States (the states of Louisiana, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont); Monaco; the Aosta Valley region of Italy; and various communities elsewhere.[5]

In 2015, approximately 40% of the francophone population (including L2 and partial speakers) lived in Europe, 36% in sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Ocean, 15% in North Africa and the Middle East, 8% in the Americas, and 1% in Asia and Oceania.[6] French is the second-most widely spoken mother tongue in the European Union.[7] Of Europeans who speak other languages natively, approximately one-fifth are able to speak French as a second language.[8] French is the second-most taught foreign language in the EU. All institutions of the EU use French as a working language along with English and German; in certain institutions, French is the sole working language (e.g. at the Court of Justice of the European Union).[9] French is also the 16th most natively spoken language in the world, fifth most spoken language by total number of speakers and is on the top five of the most studied languages worldwide (with about 120 million learners as of 2017).[10] As a result of French and Belgian colonialism from the 16th century onward, French was introduced to new territories in the Americas, Africa and Asia. Most second-language speakers reside in Francophone Africa, particularly Gabon, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritius, Senegal and Ivory Coast.[11]

French is estimated to have about 76 million native speakers; about 235 million daily, fluent speakers;[12][1][13] and another 77–110 million secondary speakers who speak it as a second language to varying degrees of proficiency, mainly in Africa.[14] According to the OIF, approximately 321 million people worldwide are "able to speak the language",[15] without specifying the criteria for this estimation or whom it encompasses.[16] According to a demographic projection led by the Université Laval and the Réseau Démographie de l'Agence universitaire de la Francophonie, the total number of French speakers will reach approximately 500 million in 2025 and 650 million by 2050.[17] OIF estimates 700 million by 2050, 80% of whom will be in Africa.[6]

French has a long history as an international language of literature and scientific standards and is a primary or second language of many international organisations including the United Nations, the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the World Trade Organization, the International Olympic Committee, the General Conference on Weights and Measures, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. In 2011, Bloomberg Businessweek ranked French the third most useful language for business, after English and Standard Mandarin Chinese.[18]

  1. ^ a b c d French at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
  2. ^ "In which countries of the world is this language spoken..." Archived from the original on 16 November 2017. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  3. ^ "The world's languages, in 7 maps and charts". The Washington Post. 18 April 2022. Archived from the original on 16 August 2015. Retrieved 19 April 2022.
  4. ^ "Official Languages". 18 November 2014. [no Archived] from the original on 17 October 2015. Retrieved 19 April 2020. {{cite web}}: Check |archive-url= value (help)
  5. ^ "Census in Brief: English, French and official language minorities in Canada". 2 August 2017. Archived from the original on 11 March 2018. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  6. ^ a b "The status of French in the world". Archived from the original on 22 September 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  7. ^ European Commission (June 2012), "Europeans and their Languages" (PDF), Special Eurobarometer 386, Europa, p. 5, archived from the original (PDF) on 6 January 2016, retrieved 7 September 2014
  8. ^ "Why Learn French". Archived from the original on 19 June 2008.
  9. ^ Develey, Alice (25 February 2017). "Le français est la deuxième langue la plus étudiée dans l'Union européenne". Archived from the original on 24 April 2017. Retrieved 20 June 2017 – via Le Figaro.
  10. ^ "How many people speak French and where is French spoken". Archived from the original on 21 November 2017. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  11. ^ (in French) La Francophonie dans le monde 2006–2007 Archived 26 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine published by the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. Nathan Archived 14 January 2018 at the Wayback Machine, Paris, 2007.
  12. ^ "Estimation des francophones dans le monde en 2015. Sources et démarches méthodologiques." [archive] [PDF], sur Observatoire démographique et statistique de l'espace francophone [archive].
  13. ^ "Francophonie ("Qu'est-ce que la Francophonie?")". Archived from the original on 13 July 2015. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  14. ^ "The World's Most Widely Spoken Languages". Archived from the original on 27 September 2011.
  15. ^ "La langue française dans le monde" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 17 March 2022. Retrieved 30 March 2022.
  16. ^ "French language is on the up, report reveals". 6 November 2014. Archived from the original on 1 September 2015. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  17. ^ "Agora: La francophonie de demain". 24 November 2004. Archived from the original on 18 September 2023. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  18. ^ Lauerman, John (30 August 2011). "Mandarin Chinese Most Useful Business Language After English". Bloomberg. New York. Archived from the original on 29 March 2015. French, spoken by 68 million people worldwide and the official language of 27 countries, was ranked second [to Mandarin].

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