What is Francophonie Day?
International Francophonie Day is a celebration of the French language, its influence on the world and Francophone culture, observed by the member states of the International Organisation of La Francophonie. It is celebrated each year on 20th March – a date which marks the foundation of the organisation in Niger on 20th March 1970.
The International Organisation of La Francophonie is an international organisation, representing countries where French is the official language, or where a significant proportion of the country speak it as their first language. Francophonie Day also coincides with UN French Language Day, which was established by UNESCO in 2010.
History of the French Language
French is considered to be a Romance language, meaning that it initially evolved from the Vulgar Latin that was prevalent during the days of the Roman Empire. More specifically, modern French descended from Langue d’oïl; the language spoken in the north of France up until the 11th century.
By the 13th century, this language was adopted as the official language of the courts and began to spread to southern France and beyond. By the 17th century, French had replaced Latin as the single most important language for diplomatic relations. This would remain the case until the 20th century, when English replaced it.
As a consequence of French colonialism during the 17th and 18th centuries, in particular, the language began to spread rapidly around the world, reaching French territories in the Americas and Africa.
French language around the world
Today, French is a recognised official language in some 29 countries around the world, with some of the most populated including France, Canada, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Belgium and Switzerland. Indeed, most of those 29 countries are members of ‘la francophonie’.
Within the European Union, French is the second most commonly spoken native tongue and a fifth of those who do not speak French as a first language speak it as a second. French is also the second most commonly spoken language in Canada, and the fourth most widely spoken language in the United States of America.
Nevertheless, Africa is the region with the largest number of French speakers, with the International Organisation of La Francophonie estimating around 115 million people speak French as either a first or second language. In total, it is estimated that there are 80 million native speakers of French worldwide, and more than 270 million total speakers.
French influence to other languages
Over the years, French has had a significant influence on other global languages. For example, events such as the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 helped to introduce a number of French words into the English language and examples of mutually intelligible words and phrases include déjà-vu, cul-de-sac and café.
This influence can also be seen in other languages. For example, in addition to sharing many words and phrases, French and German have very similar vowel sounds. Meanwhile, French and Spanish are said to have 75 percent lexical similarity, which is why French sentences like “allergique à la pénicilline” (allergic to penicillin) look very similar to Spanish equivalents (“alérgico a la penicilina”).
Reasons to learn french
French is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world and Francophonie Day celebrates its historic and continued influence. However, for those who remain unconvinced about the benefits of learning the language, we have compiled a list of some of the best reasons below:
- There are more than 270 million French speakers around the world
- Learning French can improve travel experiences to France, Canada, Belgium, Switzerland and parts of Africa
- French is an official language of the United Nations, European Union, World Trade Organization and NATO
- Having the ability to speak French is highly desirable on the jobs market
- French is a great base for learning other Romance languages, including Spanish, Italian and Portuguese
At Lingoda, students have the opportunity to learn French from native speakers, who are fully qualified teachers. Our courses offer complete flexibility, allowing you to learn as and when you want, while also providing the opportunity to earn language certificates, which are recognised all across the globe.