With over 30 French-speaking countries in the world, French is one of the most widely spoken languages in the globe. It is the only language other than English spoken on all five continents. There are currently over 270 million French speakers worldwide, including around 100 million so-called partial French speakers or French learner.
French-Speaking countries – Francophone
French is an official language in 29 countries, with most of these being part of the community of French-speaking countries in the world known as la francophonie. France, with a population of over 65 million, is, not surprisingly, the country with the most French speakers. It also ranked the sixth most widely spoken language in the world. Most of the world’s French-speaking nations are former colonies of France.
French-Speaking population in Africa
Once upon a time, France use to control a vast territory in Africa, and that is why several African countries mainly in North and Central Africa have French as their official language. French-speaking African countries are also called “Francophone Africa” or African French (français Africain). The varieties of a French-language spoken by an estimated 120 million people in Africa spread across 24 francophone countries.
Africa is home to more French speakers than any other continent. French spoken in Africa is quite different from Standard French spoken in Europe. However, formal African French is prevalent in education, media, and legal documents.
Many of the Francophone African nations have multiple official languages, with French often functioning as a second or third language. It is estimated that by 2050, the population of French speakers will rise above 700 million — 80% of which would be in Africa.
French-Speaking countries in Europe
Europe is home to the most significant number of French-speaking population with approximately 40%. French is the second most widely spoken mother tongue in the European Union, after German and English. There are quite a few European French-speaking countries in the world. It is the official language of France, Belgium, Switzerland, Monaco, Luxembourg, as well as in the Aosta Valley region of Italy.
Belgium plays host to the largest population of French speakers with 45%, followed by Switzerland with 20%. French is also the most popular foreign language taught in British schools.
How Many People In North and South America Speak French?
French is the only official language of Quebec (Canada). About 95% of the people of Quebec speak French as either a first or second language, and overall 20% of the country population speak French. Montreal, which is the largest city in Quebec, is also the fourth largest Francophone city in the world.
The Caribbean and America account for 7.66% French-speaking population in the world. There is also a large number of French-speaking immigrants from Africa. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2011), French is the fourth most-spoken language in the United States after English, Spanish, and Chinese. It is also the official language of French Guiana, is an overseas department of France on the northeast coast of South America.
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French-Speaking population in Asia-Oceanic
With a population of over 500,000 – French is the official language of the Pacific island of Vanuatu, and it’s also spoken across French Polynesia, and in the French collectivities of New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna.
While Asia and Oceania boast only 1.1% French-speaking population, the number will be staggering high if we add French learner. It is the official language in the various overseas territory in the Indian ocean, namely Réunion, Mayotte, and French Southern and Antarctic Lands. Due to historical reason, there is a significant number of French speakers in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Lebanon, and Syria though the number is on the decline.
Learning French as a Foreign Language
Of the 130 million people learning French in different parts of the world, close to 50 million are learning French as a foreign language. Besides, it is the medium of instruction for a little over 76 million in the 159 countries studied: 19 in North-Africa and the Middle East; 25 in sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Ocean; 34 in the Americas and the Caribbean; 37 in Asia and Oceania; 44 in Europe.
The Francophone University Agency (AUF) is the Francophonie institutional operator in the areas of higher education and research. Founded in Montreal in 1961, the AUF specializes in providing support for University Activity in French. It brings together some 800 institutions of higher education and research in 98 countries and has 65 offices in 40 countries.
The Institut français (IF) is a network represented in 161 countries. Under the aegis of the French Foreign Affairs Ministry, IF primary mission is to disseminate and teach the French language.
The Alliance Française (AF) is today the most far-reaching cultural and associative network in the world, with 850 centers in 137 countries on the five continents. Every year 500,000 people of all ages go there to learn French or take part in cultural activities in French at AF centers.
French Dialects and Creole around the world
The French Academy, an institution created in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, is official custodians of the French language. The Académie consists of forty members, known informally as les Immortels (the immortals). They have the official authority on the usages, vocabulary, and grammar of the French language.
The Académie Française Dictionary has grown from 40,000 to 60,000 words in the past 50 years. Dictionaries are enriched by all this diversity in the French language and new words. Usito is the first general digital French dictionary used in Quebec (Canada)
Outside France, there are lots of French varieties. Some of them are Québécois in Québec (Canada), Franco-Ontarians in Ontario (Western Canada), the Maghreb in Northwest Africa.
Since there are over 30 French-speaking countries across the planet earth, there are many different French dialects in the world. It is spoken in French-speaking nations in the world like Switzerland, Algeria, Haiti (Caribbean French), Belgium, Indian Ocean (Réunion, Mauritius, and Seychelles), North and Central Africa, etc.
Parisian French is most popular these days and generally considered as Standard French for those who want to start learning French. Once you master it, you can learn any other French accent.
French-speaking region 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). Thanks to a wide array of Job Opportunities after learning French in India, it is the most popular foreign language in India.