Parlez vous Français? Do you Speak French? Which one? How Many French Dialects in the World? The exotic language comes in many flavors. There is a number of French dialects, varieties, types, creoles, accents spoken around the globe.
There is more than 270 million French speaking population in the world. This number includes native speaker, as a second or third language and students of all ages who do not live in francophone countries but have learned or learning in 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 5 continents.
French Dialects in the World
A dialect is defined in linguistic terms as a language variety which is spoken in a specific territory or region. The existence of dialects 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 (Parisian French, for example, is perceived as more standard than Marseillais), linguistically speaking all dialects are equally valid. What we need to remember is that everyone speaks a dialect, and therefore dialects are NOT incorrect or less valid 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 of the French language, there are several distinct French variants, accents, creoles and dialects in the world.
French Dialects, Varieties, Accents, and Languages in France
French is the only official language of the France. However, France has a number of languages that are native to its lands. These languages are often referred to as patois (a regional form of a language i.e. dialects, especially of French) but the term often has negative connotations.
Alsatian is a form of Swiss German, Auvergnat is a form of Catalan, Breton is Celtic, Basque is altogether a different and unique language, Occitan is similar to Catalan, French Flemish is also technically a dialect of German/Flemish, Corsican is close to Tuscan-based Italian, Lorraine Franconian is another dialect of West Central German. All these languages are also referred to as mixed languages or altogether different languages.
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 belong to the Gallo-Romance. The Occitan dialects are a part of the Romance family of languages and they are spoken in Southern France (shown in shades of red on the map). Franco-Provençal is a Gallo-Romance language that is spoken in east-central France as well as parts of Switzerland and Italy.
The southern accent is considered softer and the northern harder. However, almost all French dialects that are used in France are considered mutually intelligible but it still remains not understood in other parts of the world.
Parisian French that is spoken in Paris and its surroundings are considered Standard French. It is fast and very expressive. This video displays 28 different accents in French from France.
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. This is the main reason why it is the official language of the Quebec province. Overall 20% of the country population speak 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 are mutually intelligible (meaning speakers of both dialects can understand each other), there are some important vocabulary differences that you don’t want to get wrong. Quebec French is known as ‘Canadian French‘ outside Canada.
Canadian French refers to a number of dialects spoken in Canada. Some of the French dialects in Canada are Québécois in Québec (Canada), Franco-Ontarians in Ontario (Western Canada), Acadian (Français Acadian) spoken by the Francophone population of the Canadian province of New Brunswick.
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 it is also influenced by Dutch language. 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 speak a bit slower than their counterparts in France, giving a more relaxed tonality.
French Dialects & Creoles in Louisiana (USA) and 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 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 speaker, 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.
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 in the world.
African French can be broadly divided into four categories: 1) West and Central Africa 2) Northwest Africa (spoken by Maghrebis and Berbers) 3) Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and 4) 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 as Maghreb French since the Algerian French is heavily influenced by Arabic words and pronunciations.
There are 212 languages/dialects spoken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, French along with four local languages are the official language of the country. The variety of French spoken here is very different from what is spoken in Europe and even Northern Africa. There is negligible Arabic influence in the type of French spoken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
French Dialects in India
There is also an Indian French spoken by Indians in past 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 languages, French also has a number of 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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