Which are the countries that speak French?

Which are the countries that speak French?

by Audrey Sivadier

Updated September 19, 2023

Ranked as the world’s 5th largest language, following Mandarin, English, Spanish and Arabic, French stands proudly as one of the few languages spoken on all five continents. Imagine, in 2018 alone, over 300 million individuals in 106 countries and territories have the remarkable ability to express themselves fluently in French. Join us on a captivating voyage through the expansive realm of the “Francophonie” and learn with us which countries speak French.

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French spoken in Europe

You are going to be surprised to know that France isn’t the only country in Europe where French is spoken. Belgian and Swiss also count French among their official languages and a considerable amount of the population speaks it. But speaking French doesn’t necessarily entail being a native speaker. Francophones (people who speak French) are everywhere in Europe. Many Portuguese (thanks to immigration to France) speak French and Poles and Greeks often choose to learn this language at school, which in turn makes them a great addition to the number of French speakers in Europe.

Here is the number of French speakers in Europe, according to the Observatory of the Francophonie:

  • France: 66 million
  • Germany: 12.2 million
  • United Kingdom: 10.9 million
  • Italy: 11.5 million
  • Belgium: 8.6 million
  • Switzerland: 5.5 million

French spoken in Africa

Africa is the continent with the most French speakers. Of the 300 million French speakers in the world, more than half come from the African continent. The French and Belgians have been very present on the African continent since the 19th century, at the time of their colonial empire. As a result, French has become an integral part of the local institution and was adopted as the language of politics as well as of education.

  • Congo: 42.5 million
  • Algeria: 13.8 million
  • Morocco: 12.7 million
  • Cameroon: 10 million
  • Ivory Coast: 8.2 million
  • Tunisia: 6 million

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French spoken in the Americas

The Americas (North and South) account for 6% of the global distribution of Francophones. France is present in South America with its largest overseas territory: French Guiana. France is also present in Central America, in the Caribbean with its paradisaical islands: Saint-Barthélémy (whose abbreviation is “St Barth’”), Saint Martin, Martinique or Guadeloupe.

In North America, the French language has been spoken since the 17th century in Canada, particularly in the province of Quebec. Despite not being a native language of the region, but imported by colonizers, Québécois people are fierce defenders of the French language. French speakers in France tend to accept English words (shopping, spoiler, pull over…) while in Quebec they prefer to maintain or invent new French words (magasiner, divulgacher, chandail…).

  • Canada (total): 10.9 million
  • Quebec: 7.8 million

French spoken in Asia-Oceania

The use of French is a historical consequence linked to the colonization of Indochina by the French. In Asia-Oceania, there are 1.7 million learners of French. Among all, four countries have maintained the strongest ties with and use of the European language: Cambodia, Laos, Vanuatu and Vietnam. Curiously enough, even in India, in the province of Pondichery, you will find signs translated into French.

And how to forget two of the most stunning paradise archipelagos in this corner of the world: New Caledonia and French Polynesia. 

Embrace the global language: the rising wave of French speakers

In conclusion, the future of the French language appears exceptionally promising, with a projected tripling of French speakers within the next three decades. By 2050, an estimated 715 million individuals, comprising 8% of the global population, will communicate fluently in French. With French being spoken on every continent of the world, there is a resounding question: why have you not embraced this remarkable language? The widespread use of French across various nations offers an array of opportunities for cultural exchange, business expansion, and personal enrichment. So, why not join the millions of individuals across the globe who have already embarked on this extraordinary linguistic journey?

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Audrey Sivadier

Audrey has been a French teacher for more than ten years now, and a cheese-lover all her life. She comes from the west of France, and after living 2 years in Spain and 4 years in Oxford in England, she has just settled in the heart of France, in Auvergne, a land of cheese, rugby, Michelin tyres and ancient volcanoes. She definitely prefers the first one. She speaks French, Spanish and English and doesn’t intend to stop there! Find out more about her on her website and LinkedIn.

Audrey Sivadier
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