Did you know that French is in fact one of the most spoken and fast growing languages in the world ? It is the 5th spoken language in the world. But now that you have read this information, does it still seem that all french speakers live in France ? As a matter of fact, not really. About half french speakers live in Africa. “What.. ?” could be a legitimate reaction. But let us discover the true place and usage of the French language.
Over 275 million people around the world speak French. And when we talk about these people, there is one key word that you might (or not) have heard before but should, which is La francophonie. It refers to all the people and institutions that use French as the primary language to socialization, to use as administrative language and/or language of instruction. In this context, the French language today is a global language whose center of gravity is in Africa. Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, has become the first French-speaking city in the world.
French is the official language in 29 countries. Thus, it is the second-most used official language behind English. These countrie are (in alphabetical order): Belgium, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, the Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, France, Haiti, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Monaco, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Switzerland, Togo and Vanuatu.
French is also a present language, without official status, in 7 other countries, where it is spoken by more than 20% of the population. In :
- The Maghreb: Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia
- Africa: Mauritania
- The Middle East: Lebanon
- The Indian Ocean: Mauritius
- Europe: Andorra.
The French-speaking linguistic space therefore includes 36 countries in total.
In addition to what have been said above, French is the official and working language at the United Nations (UN) and in its agencies such as UNESCO, WHO, FAO, ILO, UNDP, UNICEF…; to the African Union; Organization of American States; the Association of Caribbean States; the Organization of the Islamic Conference; the Council of Europe; the OECD; NATO; the International Court of Justice and in the international sports movement, the International Olympic Committee and FIFA.