Learn More About the French Speaking Countries
There are approximately 444 million people in the world who come from a country where French is the official language. In addition, 98 million people come from a country where French is commonly used. It is the official language of 29 countries. It is estimated that around 12% of the European Union’s population speaks French as a mother tongue, making it the fourth most widely-spoken European language.
Furthermore, 20% of EU citizens report knowing how to speak French, making it the third most understood language in the continent. With that being said, the language’s reach extends far beyond Europe and, in fact, the largest share of the world’s French-speaking population resides in Africa. Moreover, French is recognised as an official language of several global institutions, including the United Nations, NATO and the World Trade Organization.
What are the Main French Speaking Countries?
People who are fluent in French are commonly referred to as “Francophones”. With a population of 67 million, France has the largest number of French speakers in the world. It is also the country of origin of the language, and the country most commonly associated with French. The DRC is the second most French-speaking country with an estimated 37 million people, followed by Canada and Cameroon with 10 and 9 million respectively.
List of French-speaking countries
French is recognized as an official language in 29 countries around the world, listed below in descending order of the number of people speaking the language. Most of the French-speaking countries are part of La Francophonie, and many of them are former French colonies. It is important to note that some of these countries, like Canada, have more than one official language. As a result, French is not especially the first language of all these countries.
Countries where French is the official language:
- Congo (DRC)
- Ivory Coast
- Burkina Faso
- Congo (RC)
- Central African Republic
- Equatorial Guinea
In addition, France continues to have political influence over certain overseas territories, known as “Départements et territoires d’outre-mer”, or DOM-TOM. These include territories such as Guyana, Guadeloupe and French Polynesia.
How French is spreading around the world
The French language emerged as an international language during the Middle Ages, thanks to the influence of the Kingdom of France. From the 17th century, it replaced Latin as the lingua franca of educated Europe, and became the main language of diplomacy and the European Court in the 18th century. Most French-speaking countries were originally French colonies. Indeed, French colonialism spread the French language to many regions in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Quebec region of Canada was a French colony from 1534 to 1760, but a series of wars caused France to lose most of its colonies in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
A second French colonial empire took shape during the 19th century, beginning with the Arab conquest. By the end of the 19th century, France controlled Senegal, the Ivory Coast, the Republics of Congo and Mali, which continue to speak French today. Most of the French colonies gained their independence following World War I, but France continued to be influential in Africa until the late 1960s, and most former French colonies still use French as their primary language.