Parlez vous Français? Do You Speak French? Which one? How Many French Dialects in the World?
The international language comes in many flavors. There are numerous French dialects, varieties, types, creoles, accents spoken around the globe.
There is about 3000 million French-speaking population in the world.
It includes native speakers as a second or third language, and Students are not living in French-speaking regions, but have learned or studied in a different part of the world.
With over 30 French-speaking countries in the world, It is the only language other than English spoken as a native or first language on all five continents.
French Dialects in the World
A dialect is defined in linguistic terms as a language variety that is expressed in a specific territory or region. The existence of idioms is a natural consequence of the dynamism of languages.
The differences between dialects are usually limited to intonation, pronunciation, isolated words and expressions, and some grammar rules.
Even though dialects are socially valued differently, the Parisian French, for example, is perceived as more standard than Marseillais), linguistically speaking all dialects are equally valid.
We need to remember that everyone speaks a dialect, and therefore dialects are NOT incorrect or less authentic versions of a language.
If you study French in Montréal and interact -as you should- with locals, you will learn the particularities of that area.
Since French is one of the most widely spoken languages, thus, due to the extensive reach, there are several distinct French variants, vernacular and local lingo, accents, creoles, and dialects in the world.
1. French Varieties & Accents in France
French is the only official language of France. However, France has many tongues that are native to its lands.
These languages are often referred to as patois (a regional form of communication, i.e., dialects, mainly of French), but the term usually has negative connotations.
Alsatian is a form of Swiss German, Auvergnat is related to Catalan, Breton is Celtic, and Basque is altogether a unique language.
Occitan is similar to Catalan, whereas Corsican is close to Tuscan-based Italian. Besides, French Flemish is also technically a dialect of German/Flemish, and Lorraine Franconian is another dialect of West Central German.
All these languages are also referred to as mixed languages or altogether different tongues.
The northern dialects (shown mainly in yellow and green on the map), which include Standard French, are known collectively as Langues d’oïl, a group of dialects belongs to the Gallo-Romance.
The Occitan dialects are a part of the Romance family of languages, and they are widespread in Southern France (shown in shades of red on the map).
Franco-Provençal is a Gallo-Romance language that is useful in east-central France and parts of Switzerland and Italy.
The southern accent is considered softer and the northern harder.
However, almost all French dialects used in France are considered mutually intelligible, but they remain not understood in other parts of the globe.
Parisian French of Paris and its surroundings are considered Standard French. It is fast and very expressive.
This video displays 28 different accents in French from France.
2. Canadian / Quebec French
French is an official language of Canada, along with English. It is the only official language of Quebec (Canada). About 95% of the people of Quebec speak French as either a first or second language.
It is the main reason why it is the official language of the Quebec province. Overall, 20% of the country’s population speaks the language.
Montreal, which is the largest city in Quebec, is also the fourth largest Francophone city in the world.
Though Canadian and Standard French is mutually intelligible. It means speakers of both dialects can understand each other.
There are some essential vocabulary differences that you don’t want to get wrong. Quebec French is known as ‘Canadian French’ outside Canada.
Canadian French refers to many dialects spoken in Canada. Québécois in Québec (Canada) is the most famous acrolect.
It is then followed by Franco-Ontarians in Ontario (Western Canada), Acadian (Français Acadian), spoken by the Francophone population of the Canadian province of New Brunswick.
3. Belgian and Swiss-French
Around 45% of the Belgian population speaks French.
There is some difference in some points of vocabulary, pronunciation, and semantics, mainly because the Dutch language also influences it.
However, Belgian French is more or less similar to standard Parisian one due to the sheer proximity of the two countries in Europe.
Almost 25% of the population in Switzerland speaks French. Swiss-French is also identical to Standard one.
There is one noticeable difference – Swiss-French speakers tend to talk a bit slower than their counterparts in France, giving a more relaxed tonality.
4. French Slang & Creoles in the USA & Haiti
French and Haitian creole are two official languages of Haiti.
Haitian or Caribbean French is another variety spoken in Haiti. It is similar to a standard or Parisian.
On the other hand, Haitian creole is a mixture of African languages as well as other European languages such as Spanish and Portuguese. It is also the most-spoken French creole language in the world.
Louisiana Creole – or simply creole is a French-based creole language spoken by far fewer than 10,000 people, mostly in the state of Louisiana in the USA.
Due to a small number of speakers, This creole is considered an endangered language.
It is a mixture of African languages and French and has a very different sound from Standard French.
5. African French
African French refers to the dialects, creoles, and varieties of this language spoken by an estimated 120 million people in Africa spread across 24 Francophone countries.
Africa is, therefore, the continent with the most French speakers.
African French is divided into four broad categories.
- West and Central Africa,
- Northwest Africa (spoken by Maghrebis and Berbers),
- Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, and
- Creoles in the Indian Ocean (Réunion, Mauritius, and Seychelles).
Algeria is the second-largest Francophone country in the world in terms of Speakers.
It is also referred to as Maghreb French since Arabic words and pronunciations heavily influence the Algerian French.
There are 212 languages/dialects spoken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, French, along with four local tongues, is the official language of the country.
The variety of French spoken here is very different from what is expressed in Europe and even Northern Africa. There is negligible Arabic influence in the type of French spoken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
6. French Dialects in India
There is also an Indian French spoken by Indians in former colonies of Mahe, Pondicherry, Karaikal, Chandernagore, and Yanam in Southern India.
In this dialect, there is considerable influence from Dravidian languages like Tamil (Pondicherry Tamil dialect), Telugu (Yanam Telugu dialect), and Malayalam (Mahe Malayalam dialect).
Like any other language, French also has numerous dialects, varieties, and creoles.
Standard or Parisian French is most popular these days for those who want to start learning French. The French Academy, an institution created in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, is official custodians of the French language.
Once you master it, you can learn any other French dialects or dialects, of course, if required. In most cases, standard French is enough! So not to worry. Bonne Chance! (Good Luck!).
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