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French language

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French language

le français
Pronunciation [fʁɑ̃sɛ]
Native to France
(See Below)
Native speakers
73.8 million  (2007)[1]
338 million total (L1 plus L2 speakers) (2013)
Early forms
Latin (French alphabet)
French Braille
Signed French
(français signé)
Official status
Official language in

Numerous international organisations
Regulated by Académie française (French Academy)
Language codes
ISO 639-1 fr
ISO 639-2 fre (B)
fra (T)
ISO 639-3 fra
Glottolog stan1290[2]
Linguasphere 51-AAA-i
  Regions where French is the main language
  Regions where it is an official language
  Regions where it is a second language
  Regions where it is a minority language

French (le français  ( ) or la langue française ) is a Romance language, belonging to the Indo-European family. It descended from the spoken Latin language of the Roman Empire, as did languages such as Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian, Catalan and others. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Roman Gaul and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole.

French is the second-most widespread language worldwide after English, as only these two languages are spoken on all five continents. French is an official language in 29 countries, most of which form la francophonie (in French), the community of French-speaking countries. It is spoken as a first language in France, southern Belgium, western Switzerland, Monaco, the provinces of Quebec, New Brunswick and some parts of Ontario in Canada, parts of the U.S. states of Louisiana, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, among educated classes in North Africa, Haiti, French Polynesia and by various communities elsewhere.

According to a survey of the European Commission, French is the fourth-most widely spoken mother tongue in the European Union.[3] It is also the third-most widely understood language in the EU.[4] As a result of French and Belgian colonialism from the 17th century onward, French was introduced to new territories in the Americas, Africa and Asia. Most second-language speakers reside in Francophone Africa, in particular Gabon, Algeria, Mauritius, Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire.[5] In 2007, French was estimated to have around 73.8 million native speakers;[1] and including native speakers, there are around 338 million people that are able to speak it. According to a demographic projection led by the Université Laval and the Réseau Démographie de l'Agence universitaire de la francophonie, total French speakers will number approximately 500 million people in 2025 and 650 million people by 2050.[6] In accordance with these forecasts, a report issued in 2014 by La Francophonie estimated that 274 million people speak French, either as a first or second language.[7][8]

French is an official language of many international organisations including the WTO and the ICRC. In 2011, French was deemed by Bloomberg Businessweek to be one of the top three most useful languages for business, behind English and Chinese.[9]


  • Geographic distribution 1
    • Europe 1.1
      • Legal status in France 1.1.1
      • Belgium 1.1.2
      • Switzerland 1.1.3
      • Monaco 1.1.4
      • Luxembourg 1.1.5
      • Andorra 1.1.6
      • Italy 1.1.7
      • The United Kingdom and the Channel Islands 1.1.8
    • North and South America 1.2
      • Canada 1.2.1
      • Haiti 1.2.2
      • French overseas regions and collectivities in the Americas 1.2.3
      • United States 1.2.4
      • Brazil 1.2.5
    • Africa 1.3
      • Algeria 1.3.1
      • Egypt 1.3.2
      • French overseas departments and territories in Africa 1.3.3
    • Asia 1.4
      • Southeast Asia 1.4.1
      • Middle East 1.4.2
      • India 1.4.3
    • Oceania and Australasia 1.5
  • Dialects 2
  • History 3
  • Current status and economic, cultural and institutional importance 4
  • Phonology 5
  • Writing system 6
    • Alphabet 6.1
    • Orthography 6.2
  • Grammar 7
  • Vocabulary 8
    • Numerals 8.1
      • Units 8.1.1
      • Tens 8.1.2
      • Hundreds 8.1.3
      • Scales 8.1.4
  • Words 9
  • See also 10
  • Notes and references 11
  • Further reading 12
  • External links 13
    • Organizations 13.1
    • Courses and tutorials 13.2
    • Online dictionaries 13.3
    • Vocabulary 13.4
      • Numbers 13.4.1
      • Books 13.4.2

Geographic distribution


Spoken by 12% of the EU population, French is the fourth most widely spoken mother tongue in the European Union, after German, English and Italian; it is also the third most widely known language of the Union, after English and German (33% of the EU population report to know how to speak English, whilst 22% of Europeans understand German and 20% French).[3][10]

Legal status in France

Under the Constitution of France, French has been the official language of the Republic since 1992[11] (although the ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts made it mandatory for legal documents in 1539). France mandates the use of French in official government publications, public education except in specific cases (though these dispositions are often ignored) and legal contracts; advertisements must bear a translation of foreign words.

In addition to French, a variety of regional languages and dialects are constitutionally recognised as being part of the French patrimony. France has signed the European Charter for Regional Languages, but did not ratify it since it was ruled non-compliant by the Constitutional council in 1999.[12][13]


Bilingual signs in Brussels.

In Belgium, French is the official language of Wallonia (excluding a part of the East Cantons, which are German-speaking) and one of the two official languages—along with Dutch—of the Brussels-Capital Region, where it is spoken by the majority of the population often as their primary language.[14] French and German are not official languages nor recognized minority languages in the Flemish Region, although along borders with the Walloon and Brussels-Capital regions, there are a dozen municipalities with language facilities for French speakers. A mirror situation exists for the Walloon Region with respect to the Dutch and German languages. In total, native French speakers make up about 40% of the country's population, while the remaining 60% speak Dutch as a first language. Of the latter, 59% claim French as a second or third language, meaning that about three quarters of the Belgian population can speak French.[15][16]


French is one of the four official languages of Switzerland (along with German, Italian and Romansh) and is spoken in the western part of Switzerland called Romandie, of which Geneva is the largest city. The language divisions in Switzerland do not coincide with political subdivisions and some cantons have bilingual status for example, cities such Biel/Bienne or cantons such as Valais-Fribourg-Berne. French is the native language of about 20% of the Swiss population and is spoken by 50.4%[17] of the population.

Most of Swiss French is mutually compatible with the standard French spoken in France, but it is often used with small differences, such as those involving numbers after 69 and slight differences in other vocabulary terms.


Although Monégasque is the national language of the Principality of Monaco, French is the only official language, and French nationals make up some 47% of the population.


French is one of three official languages of

  • (French) La langue française dans le monde 2010(Full book freely accessible)


  • Smith, Paul. "French, Numbers". Numberphile.  


  • Swadesh list in English and French


  • Collins Online English↔French Dictionary
  • Centre national de ressources textuelles et lexicales: monolingual dictionaries (including the Trésor de la langue française), language corpora, etc.

Online dictionaries

  • Français interactif: interactive French program, University of Texas at Austin
  • Tex's French Grammar, University of Texas at Austin
  • Free online French grammar
  • Learn French at About
  • French lessons at Wikiotics: podcasts, vocabulary quizzes, and more
  • FSI French language course: Free written and audio course made by the U.S. Foreign Service.

Courses and tutorials

  • Fondation Alliance française: an international organization for the promotion of French language and culture (French)
  • Agence de promotion du FLE: Agency for promoting French as a foreign language


External links

  • Nadeau, Jen-Benoît, and Julie Barlow (2006). The Story of French. First U.S. ed. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-34183-0

Further reading

  1. ^ a b Nationalencyklopedin "Världens 100 största språk 2007" The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "French". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ a b European Commission (August 2011), "Europeans and their Languages", Special  
  4. ^ Frequently Asked Questions - European Commission
  5. ^ a b c (French) La Francophonie dans le monde 2006–2007 published by the Paris, 2007.
  6. ^ "Agora: La francophonie de demain". Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
  7. ^ Rise in French speakers since 2010 a boost for France: report, Reuters, November 5th, 2014
  8. ^ The French language worlwide, 2014 report by La Francophonie released on the 5th of November, 2014
  9. ^ Mandarin Chinese Most Useful Business Language After English John Lauerman, Aug 30, 2011, Bloomberg News
  10. ^
  11. ^ (French) Loi constitutionnelle 1992 – C'est à la loi constitutionnelle du 25 juin 1992, rédigée dans le cadre de l'intégration européenne, que l'on doit la première déclaration de principe sur le français, langue de la République.
  12. ^ 99-412 DC (Conseil constitutionnel 15 June 1999). Has decided as follows: ↲ Article 1 ↲ The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages contains clauses contrary to the Constitution.
  13. ^ The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and Education Mercator Retrieved 11 April 2011
  14. ^   – The linguistic situation in Belgium (and in particular various estimations of the population speaking French and Dutch in Brussels) is discussed in detail.
  15. ^ (French) De Broe ME, De Weerdt DL, Ysebaert DK, Vercauteren SR, De Greef KE, De Broe LC; Victor Ginsburgh, Shlomo Weber (June 2006). "La dynamique des langues en Belgique" (PDF). Regards économiques, Publication préparée par les économistes de l' 
  16. ^ 40%+60%*59%=75.4%
  17. ^ Le français et les langues ... – Google Books. 1 January 2007.  
  18. ^ "Ministère de l’Éducation nationale et de la Formation professionnelle / Luxembourg - Quelles langues apprend-on à l'école luxembourgeoise ?". 2012-10-25. Retrieved 2013-05-25. 
  19. ^ "University of Luxembourg - Multilingualism". 2003-08-12. Retrieved 2013-05-25. 
  20. ^ EUROPA, data for EU25, published before 2007 enlargement.
  21. ^ "". Retrieved 21 April 2010. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ Assessorat de l'éducation et la culture de la région autonome Vallée d'Aoste - Département de la surintendance des écoles, Profil de la politique linguistique éducative, Le Château éd., 2009, p. 20.
  24. ^ "EUROPA" (PDF). Retrieved 21 April 2010. 
  25. ^ "Detailed Mother Tongue (186), Knowledge of Official Languages (5), Age Groups (17A) and Sex (3) (2006 Census)". December 7, 2010. Retrieved February 22, 2011. 
  26. ^ a b "Qu'est-ce Que La Francophonie". Retrieved 2013-05-25. 
  27. ^ Ministere de L'eduaction Nationale
  28. ^ Language Use in the United States: 2011, American Community Survey Reports, Camille Ryan, Issued August 2013
  29. ^ U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 Summary File 3 – Language Spoken at Home: 2000.
  30. ^ Ammon, Ulrich; International Sociological Association (1989). Status and Function of Languages and Language Varieties. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 306–308.  
  31. ^ Barbosa, Rosana (2009). Immigration and Xenophobia: Portuguese Immigrants in Early 19th Century Rio de Janeiro. United States: University Press of America.  , p. 19
  32. ^ (Portuguese) The importance of the French language in Brazil: marks and milestones in the early periods of teaching
  33. ^ (Portuguese) Presence of the French language and literature in Brazil – for a history of Franco-Brazilian bonds of cultural affection
  34. ^ (Portuguese) What are the French thinking influences still present in Brazil?
  35. ^ (Portuguese) France in Brazil Year – the importance of cultural diplomacy
  36. ^ a b  
  37. ^  
  38. ^ "Agora: La francophonie de demain". Retrieved 2011-06-13. 
  39. ^ "Bulletin de liaison du réseau démographie". Retrieved 2011-06-14. 
  40. ^ "French language growing, especially in Africa - Francophonie - RFI". Retrieved 2013-05-25. 
  41. ^ (French) Le français à Abidjan : Pour une approche syntaxique du non-standard by Katja Ploog, CNRS Editions, Paris, 2002.
  42. ^ a b "L’aménagement linguistique dans le monde". CEFAN (Chaire pour le développement de la recherche sur la culture d’expression française en Amérique du Nord, Université Laval (in French). Jacques Leclerc. Retrieved May 19, 2013. 
  43. ^ Burkina Faso
  44. ^ (French) "En Afrique, il est impossible de parler d'une forme unique du français mais..."
  45. ^ France-Diplomatie "Furthermore, the demographic growth of Southern hemisphere countries leads us to anticipate a new increase in the overall number of French speakers."
  46. ^ (French) "Le français, langue en évolution. Dans beaucoup de pays francophones, surtout sur le continent africain, une proportion importante de la population ne parle pas couramment le français (même s'il est souvent la langue officielle du pays). Ce qui signifie qu'au fur et à mesure que les nouvelles générations vont à l'école, le nombre de francophones augmente : on estime qu'en 2015, ceux-ci seront deux fois plus nombreux qu'aujourd'hui."
  47. ^ (French) c) Le sabir franco-africain: "C'est la variété du français la plus fluctuante. Le sabir franco-africain est instable et hétérogène sous toutes ses formes. Il existe des énoncés où les mots sont français mais leur ordre reste celui de la langue africaine. En somme, autant les langues africaines sont envahies par les structures et les mots français, autant la langue française se métamorphose en Afrique, donnant naissance à plusieurs variétés."
  48. ^ (French) République centrafricaine: Il existe une autre variété de français, beaucoup plus répandue et plus permissive : le français local. C'est un français très influencé par les langues centrafricaines, surtout par le sango. Cette variété est parlée par les classes non instruites, qui n'ont pu terminer leur scolarité. Ils utilisent ce qu'ils connaissent du français avec des emprunts massifs aux langues locales. Cette variété peut causer des problèmes de compréhension avec les francophones des autres pays, car les interférences linguistiques, d'ordre lexical et sémantique, sont très importantes. (One example of a variety of African French that is difficult to understand for European French speakers).
  49. ^ (French)Algérie: situation géographique et démolinguistique
  50. ^ French Declines in Indochina, as English Booms, International Herald Tribune, 16 October 1993: "In both Cambodia and Laos, French remains the official second language of government."
  51. ^ [1]
  52. ^ [2]
  53. ^ French Institute of Pondicherry "French is however very little spoken, Tamil and English being the dominant languages."
  54. ^  
  55. ^  
  56. ^ Institut Statistique de Polynésie Française (ISPF). "Recensement 2007 – Langues : Chiffres clés" (in Français). Retrieved 3 October 2009. 
  57. ^  
  58. ^ The World's 10 Most Influential Languages Top Languages. Retrieved 11 April 2011.
  59. ^ The French language today: a linguistic introductionGoogle Books Retrieved 27 June 2011
  60. ^ Meisler, Stanley. "Seduction Still Works : French--a Language in Decline." Los Angeles Times. March 1, 1986. p. 2. Retrieved on May 18, 2013.
  61. ^ French, an international language – French Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  62. ^ Want To Know The Language Of The Future? The Data Suggests It Could Be...French, Forbes, March, 21st of 2014
  63. ^ a b c The World's 10 most influential languages, George Werber, 1997, Language Today, retrieved on
  64. ^
  65. ^ Foreign languages 'shortfall' for business, CBI says, Judith Burns, BBC News, 22 june 2014
  66. ^ (French) Foné writing system proposal.
  67. ^ (French) Ortofasil writing system proposal.
  68. ^ (French) Alfograf writing system proposal.
  69. ^ (French) writing system proposal.
  70. ^
  71. ^ Walter & Walter 1998.
  72. ^ Einhorn, E. (1974). Old French: A Concise Handbook. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. p. 110.  
  73. ^ "Septante, octante (huitante), nonante". (in Français). . See also the English WorldHeritage article on Welsh language, especially the section "Counting system" and its note on the influence of Celtic in the French counting system.
  74. ^ "Nombres (écriture, lecture, accord)". Questions de langue (in French).   Dans un souci de lisibilité, on sépare les milliers par une espace insécable dans les nombres exprimant une quantité : 1 000 m, 342 234 euros, 1 234 °C, etc. ↲ En revanche, dans les nombres ayant fonction de numérotage (pages, dates, articles de code), les chiffres ne sont jamais séparés : la page 1254 de l’édition de 1992 ; l’article 1246 du Code civil. ↲ La virgule (et non le point comme chez les anglo-saxons) sépare la partie entière de la partie décimale : π vaut environ 3,14 ; 14,5 est la moitié de 29.
  75. ^ Winter, Werner (1991). "Some thoughts about Indo-European numerals". In Gvozdanović, Jadranka. Indo-European numerals. Trends in Linguistics 57. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 13–14.  
  76. ^ An deux mil " ou " an deux mille " ?""". Questions de langue.   L’Académie n’admet (et ne privilégie) la variante mil de mille, dans les dates, que lorsque le numéral au singulier est suivi d’un ou plusieurs autres nombres.
  77. ^ Lexique des règles typographiques en usage à l'imprimerie nationale (in French) (6th ed.). Paris:   Au-delà de mille, on compte habituellement : ↲ onze, douze, treize, quatorze, quinze, seize cents ↲ plutôt que : ↲ mille cent, mille deux cents, mille trois cents... ↲ mais on emploiera indifféremment : ↲ dix-sept cents ou mille sept cents...
  78. ^ "Nombres (écriture, lecture, accord)". Questions de langue (in French).   Pour les dates (et les nombres en général) entre 1000 et 2000, il y a concurrence entre deux lectures : mille six cent trente-cinq ou seize cent trente-cinq. ↲ Aucune de ces formes ne peut être considérée comme fautive. Cependant, dans l’usage courant, on dit plutôt onze cents, douze cents, etc. : onze cents francs, seize cents euros, tandis que dans la langue écrite, et notamment dans un texte juridique, administratif ou scientifique, on préférera les formes : mille cent, mille deux cents, etc.
  79. ^ "Nombres (écriture, lecture, accord)". Questions de langue (in French).   Vingt et cent se terminent par un s quand ils sont précédés d'un nombre qui les multiplie mais ils restent invariable s'ils sont suivis d'un autre nombre ou de mille. On dira ainsi euros mais deux cent vingt euros ; quatre-vingts hommes mais quatre-vingt-deux hommes. Ils restent également invariables lorsqu’ils sont employés comme adjectifs numéraux ordinaux : page deux cent ; page quatre-vingt ; l’an mille neuf cent. En revanche, vingt et cent varient devant millier, million, milliard, qui sont des noms et non des adjectifs numéraux : deux cents millions d’années ; trois cents milliers d’habitants.
  80. ^ "Ne". Dire, Ne pas dire. Académie française. 3 November 2011. Retrieved 30 May 2014.  On néglige trop souvent de faire entendre l’adverbe ne, en faisant de pas l’unique marque de négation : Je veux pas, je sais pas. Cette habitude, répandue dans le langage parlé, est une véritable faute.
  81. ^ "Pas". Trésor de la langue française informatisé. Analyse et traitement informatique de la langue française. Retrieved 30 May 2014.  − Pop. ou très fam. [Avec suppression de ne]

Notes and references

See also

English French Quebec accent Touraine accent
French Français (people) or français (language)    
English Anglais (people) or anglais (language)    
Yes Oui (si when countering an assertion or a question expressed in the negative)    
No Non    
Hello! Bonjour ! (formal) or Salut ! (informal) or "Allô" (Quebec French or when answering on the telephone) [bõʒuːʁ]  
Good evening! Bonsoir ! [bõswɑːʁ]  
Good night! Bonne nuit ! [bɔn nɥi]  
Goodbye! Au revoir !    
Have a nice day! Bonne journée !    
Please/if you please S’il vous plaît (formal) or S’il te plaît (informal)    
Thank you Merci [mɛʁsi]  
You are welcome De rien (informal) or Ce n’est rien (informal) ("it is nothing") or Je vous en prie (formal) or Je t’en prie (informal) or Bienvenue (Quebec) [də ʁjẽ]  
I am sorry Pardon or Désolé or Je suis désolé (if male) / Je suis désolée (if female) or Excuse-moi (informal) / Excusez-moi (formal) / "Je regrette"   /     /  
Who? Qui ?    
What? Quoi ? (←informal; used as "What?" in English) or Pardon ? (←formal; used the same as "Pardon ?" in English) [kwa]  
When? Quand ?    
Where? Où ? [u]  
Why? Pourquoi ?    
What is your name? Comment vous appelez-vous ? (formal) or Comment t’appelles-tu ? (informal) [kɔmã vu z‿aple vu], [kɔmã t‿apɛl t͡sy]   ,  
My name is... Je m'appelle...  
Which Quel/Quels(pl.)/Quelle(fem.) [kɛl] [kɛl]
Because Parce que / Car    
Because of À cause de [a kou̯z dœ]  
Therefore Donc [dõːk]  
Maybe Peut-être    
How? Comment ? [kɔmã]  
How much? Combien ? [kõbjẽ]  
I do not understand. Je ne comprends pas.    
Yes, I understand. Oui, je comprends. Except when responding to a negatively posed question, in which case Si is used preferentially over Oui    
I agree Je suis d’accord. "D’accord" can be used without je suis. [ʒə sɥi dakɑɔ̯ʁ] [ʒø sɥi dakɔʁ]
Help! Au secours ! (à l’aide !)    
At what time...? À quelle heure...? [a kɛl aœ̯ʁ] [a kɛl œʁ]
Today Aujourd'hui [oʒuʁd͡zɥi] [oʒuʁdɥi]
Can you help me, please? Pouvez-vous m’aider s’il vous plaît ? / Pourriez-vous m’aider s’il vous plaît ? (formal) or Peux-tu m’aider s’il te plaît ? / Pourrais-tu m’aider s’il te plaît (informal) [puve vu mɛːde sɪl vu plɛ] [puve vu mede sil vu plɛ]
Where are the toilets? Où sont les toilettes ? [u sõ le twalɛt]  
Do you speak English? Parlez-vous (l')anglais ? / Est-ce que vous parlez (l')anglais ? About this sound   
I do not speak French. Je ne parle pas français. [ʒœ nœ paʁl pɔ fʁãsɛ] [ʒø nø paʁl pa fʁɒ̃sɛ]
I do not know. Je sais pas. (syntax mistake[80] and over-familiar[81])
Je ne sais pas.
Je ne sais. (formal)
[ʒœ n(œ) se pɔ]
[ʒœ n(œ) se]
[ʒø sɛ pa]
[ʒø n(ø) sɛ pa]
[ʒø n(ø) sɛ]
I know. Je sais. [ʒœ se] [ʒø sɛ]
I am thirsty. J’ai soif. (literally, "I have thirst") [ʒe swaf] [ʒe swaf]
I am hungry. J’ai faim. (literally, "I have hunger") [ʒe fẽ] [ʒɛ fæ̃]
How are you? / How are things going? / How is everything? Comment allez-vous ? (formal) or Ça va ? / Comment ça va ? (informal) [kɔmã t‿ale vu] [kɔmɒ̃ t‿ale vu]
I am (very) well / Things are going (very) well // Everything is (very) well Je vais (très) bien (formal) or Ça va (très) bien. / Tout va (très) bien (informal) [ʒœ vɛ (tʁɛ) bjẽ] [ʒø vɛ (tʁɛ) bjæ̃]
I am (very) bad / Things are (very) bad / Everything is (very) bad Je vais (très) mal (formal) or Ça va (très) mal / Tout va (très) mal (informal) [ʒœ vɛ (tʁɛ) mal] [ʒø vɛ (tʁɛ) mal]
I am all right/so-so / Everything is all right/so-so Assez bien or Ça va comme ci, comme ça or simply Ça va.. (Sometimes said: « Couci, couça. », informal: "bof") i.e. « Comme ci, comme ça. ») [ase bjẽ] [ase bjæ̃]
I am fine. Ça va bien. [sa vɔ bjẽ] [sa va bjæ̃]
(How) may I help you? / Do you need help? / We need help! (Comment) puis-je vous aider ? Avez-vous besoin d'aide ? Nous avons besoin d'aide ! [(kɔmã) pɥiʒ vu z‿ɛːde] [(kɔmɑ̃) pɥiʒ vu z‿ede]


  1. ^ It has been suggested that Nine and New homophonographs are related and that it would be an unusual preservation of the octal number system speculated to be formerly used in proto-Indo-European language, though the evidence supporting this is slim.[75]
  2. ^ Septante is used in Belgium and in Switzerland. Its use is dated in Eastern France and archaic elsewhere in France.
  3. ^ Huitante is used in Vaud, Valais, Fribourg, archaic in France.
  4. ^ Octante is used, but dated, in Romandie and in Southern France. Its use is archaic in other parts of France.
  5. ^ Nonante is used in Belgium, Switzerland and, dated, in Eastern France, archaic in other parts of France.
  6. ^ Formerly singular of the now invariable mille, mil is now only used in formal documents to write dates between mil un (1001) and mil neuf cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf (1999).[76]
  7. ^ a b c d e f While both styles are correct and concurrently used, numbers above mille and under deux mille are usually counted by hundreds from onze cents up to seize cent quatre-vingt-dix-neuf and are then indifferently counted both styles[77] in informal language while the count by adding hundreds to one thousand, like in mille cent, mille six cents, is favoured in written language, especially in juridical, administrative and scientific works.[78]
  8. ^ Nota Bene that English use the short scale while French use the long scale.


  • One: un/une /œ̃/ (m) ~ /yn/ (f)
  • Ten: dix /dis/
  • One hundred: cent /sɑ̃(t)/
  • One thousand: mille /mil/
  • Ten thousands: dix mille
  • Hundred thousand: cent mille
  • One million: un million /mi.ljɔ̃/
  • Ten millions: dix millions
  • Hundred millions: cent millions
  • One billion: un milliard
  • Ten billion: dix milliards
  • Hundred billion: cent milliards
  • One trillion: un billion /bi.ljɔ̃/
  • Ten trillion: dix billions
  • Hundred trillion: cent billions
  • One quadrillion: un billiard
  • Ten quadrillion: dix billiards
  • Hundred quadrillion: cent billiards
  • One quintillion: un trillion
  • Ten quintillion: dix trillions
  • Hundred quintillion: cent trillions

Cardinal numbers in French, by exponentiation points, from 100 to 1020, are as follow:


Nota Bene: The words vingt and cent take the plural -s only when they are the last word of the number: quatre-vingts (eighty) and quatre-vingt-un (eighty-one), cinq cents (five hundreds) and cinq cent trente (five hundreds and thirty). When a number using vingt or cent is used as an ordinal numeral adjective, the words vingt or cent stay unchanged[79]

After deux mille (2000), only the second option is used (deux mille cent, deux mille deux cents, deux mille trois cents...)

  • One hundred: cent /sɑ̃(t)/
  • Two hundreds: deux cents
  • Three hundreds: trois cents, (Archaism: quinze-vingts)
  • Four hundreds: quatre cents
  • Five hundreds: cinq cents
  • Six hundreds: six cents
  • Seven hundreds: sept cents
  • Eight hundreds: huit cents
  • Nine hundreds: neuf cents
  • One thousand: mille[6]
  • One thousand one hundred: onze cents or mille cent[7]
  • One thousand two hundreds: douze cents or mille deux cents[7]
  • One thousand three hundreds: treize cents or mille trois cents[7]
  • One thousand four hundreds: quatorze cents or mille quatre cents[7]
  • One thousand five hundreds: quinze cents or mille cinq cents[7]
  • One thousand six hundreds: seize cents or mille six cents[7]
  • One thousand seven hundreds: dix-sept cents or mille sept cents
  • One thousand eight hundreds: dix-huit cents or mille huit cents
  • One thousand nine hundreds: dix-neuf cents or mille neuf cents
  • Two thousands: deux mille

Cardinal numbers in French, by hundreds from 100 to 2000, are as follow:


After Twenty, numbers use base ten logic (cent dix, cent vingt, cent trente...)

  • Ten: dix /dis/
  • Twenty: vingt /vɛ̃/
  • Thirty: trente /tʁɑ̃t/
  • Forty: quarante /ka.ʁɑ̃t/
  • Fifty: cinquante /sɛ̃.kɑ̃t/
  • Sixty: soixante /swa.sɑ̃t/
  • Seventy: soixante-dix /swa.sɑ̃t.dis/ or septante[2] /sɛp.tɑ̃t/
  • Eighty: quatre-vingts /ka.tʁɘ.vɛ̃/, huitante[3] or octante[4] /ɔk.tɑ̃t/
  • Ninety: quatre-vingt-dix /kat.ʁvɛ̃.dis/ or nonante[5] /nɔ.nɑ̃t/
  • One hundred: cent /sɑ̃(t)/

Cardinal numbers in French, by tens from 10 to 100, are as follow:


After Twenty, numbers use base ten logic (vingt et un, vingt-deux, vingt-trois...)

  • One: un/une /œ̃/ (m) ~ /yn/ (f)
  • Two: deux /dø/
  • Three: trois /tʁwɑ/
  • Four: quatre /katʁ/
  • Five: cinq /sɛ̃k/
  • Six: six /sis/
  • Seven: sept /sɛt/
  • Eight: huit /ɥit/
  • Nine: neuf[1] /nœf/
  • Ten: dix /dis/
  • Eleven: onze /ɔ̃z/
  • Twelve: douze /duz/
  • Thirteen: treize /tʁɛz/
  • Fourteen: quatorze /katɔʁz/
  • Fifteen: quinze /kɛ̃z/
  • Sixteen: seize /sɛz/
  • Seventeen: dix-sept /dissɛt/
  • Eighteen: dix-huit /diz‿ɥit/
  • Nineteen: dix-neuf /diznœf/
  • Twenty: vingt /vɛ̃/

Cardinal numbers in French, from 1 to 20, are as follows:


It should also be noted that French, like most European languages, uses a space to separate thousands[74] where English uses a comma or (more recently) a space. The comma is used in French numbers as a decimal point: 2,5 = deux virgule cinq.

In Belgium and Switzerland 70 and 90 are septante and nonante. In Switzerland, depending on the local dialect, 80 can be quatre-vingts (Geneva, Neuchâtel, Jura) or huitante (Vaud, Valais, Fribourg). Octante had been used in Switzerland in the past, but is now considered archaic.[73] In Belgium and in its former African colonies, however, quatre-vingts is universally used.

Belgian French, Swiss French and the French used in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi are different in this respect.

In Old French (during the Middle Ages), all numbers from 30 to 99 could be said in either base 10 or base 20, e.g. vint et doze (twenty and twelve) for 32, dous vinz et diz (two twenties and ten) for 50, uitante for 80, or nonante for 90.[72]

This system is comparable to the archaic English use of score, as in "fourscore and seven" (87), or "threescore and ten" (70).

The French word for 80 is quatre-vingts, literally "four twenties", and the word for 75 is soixante-quinze, literally "sixty-fifteen". This reform arose after the French Revolution to unify the different counting systems (mostly vigesimal near the coast, because of Celtic (via Breton) and Viking influences).

The French counting system is partially vigesimal: twenty (vingt) is used as a base number in the names of numbers from 60 to 99.


It is estimated that 12% (4,200) of common French words found in a typical dictionary such as the Petit Larousse or Micro-Robert Plus (35,000 words) are of foreign origin (where Greek and Latin learned words are not seen as foreign). About 25% (1,054) of these foreign words come from English and are fairly recent borrowings. The others are some 707 words from Italian, 550 from ancient Germanic languages, 481 from other Gallo-Romance languages, 215 from Arabic, 164 from German, 160 from Celtic languages, 159 from Spanish, 153 from Dutch, 112 from Persian and Sanskrit, 101 from Native American languages, 89 from other Asian languages, 56 from other Afro-Asiatic languages, 55 from Slavic languages and Baltic languages, 10 from Basque and 144 (about 3%) from other languages.[71]

  • mercatique / marketing
  • finance fantôme / shadow banking
  • bloc-notes / blog
  • ailière / wingsuit
  • tiers-lieu / coworking

More recently the linguistic policy of the French language academies of France and Quebec has been to provide French equivalents[70] to (mainly English) imported words, either by using existing vocabulary, extending its meaning or deriving a new word according to French morphological rules. The result is often two (or more) co-existing terms for describing the same phenomenon, with varying rates of success for the French equivalent.

It can be difficult to identify the Latin source of native French words, because in the evolution from Vulgar Latin, unstressed syllables were severely reduced and the remaining vowels and consonants underwent significant modifications.

  • thing/cause: chose / cause from Latin causa
  • cold: froid / frigide from Latin frigidum

There are also noun-noun and adjective-adjective pairs:

  • rayonnement / radiation
  • éteindre / extinguish
  • noyau / nucleus
  • surhomme / superman
  • ensoleillement / insolation

However a historical tendency to gallicise Latin roots can be identified, whereas English conversely leans towards a more direct incorporation of the Latin:

  • brother: frère / fraternel from Latin frater / fraternalis
  • finger: doigt / digital from Latin digitus / digitalis
  • faith: foi / fidèle from Latin fides / fidelis
  • eye: œil / oculaire from Latin oculus / ocularis

The majority of French words derive from Vulgar Latin or were constructed from Latin or Greek roots. In many cases a single etymological root appears in French in a "popular" or native form, inherited from Vulgar Latin, and a learned form, borrowed later from Classical Latin. The following pairs consist of a native noun and a learned adjective:


French declarative word order is subject–verb–object although a pronoun object precedes the verb. Some types of sentences allow for or require different word orders, in particular inversion of the subject and verb like "Parlez-vous français?" when asking a question rather than just "Vous parlez français?" Both questions mean the same thing; however, a rising inflection is always used on both of them whenever asking a question, especially on the second one. Specifically, the first translates into "Do you speak French?" while the second one is literally just "You speak French?" To avoid inversion while asking a question, 'Est-ce que' (literally 'is it that') may be placed in the beginning of the sentence. "Parlez-vous français?" may become "Est-ce que vous parlez français?"

French grammar shares several notable features with most other Romance languages, including


Some proposals exist to simplify the existing writing system, but they still fail to gather interest.[66][67][68][69]

  • Nasal: n and m. When n or m follows a vowel or diphthong, the n or m becomes silent and causes the preceding vowel to become nasalized (i.e., pronounced with the soft palate extended downward so as to allow part of the air to leave through the nostrils). Exceptions are when the n or m is doubled, or immediately followed by a vowel. The prefixes en- and em- are always nasalized. The rules are more complex than this but may vary between dialects.
  • Digraphs: French uses not only diacritics to specify its large range of vowel sounds and diphthongs, but also specific combinations of vowels, sometimes with following consonants, to show which sound is intended.
  • Gemination: Within words, double consonants are generally not pronounced as geminates in modern French (but geminates can be heard in the cinema or TV news from as recently as the 1970s, and in very refined elocution they may still occur). For example, illusion is pronounced [ilyzjɔ̃] and not [ilːyzjɔ̃]. But gemination does occur between words. For example, une info ("a news item" or "a piece of information") is pronounced [ynɛ̃fo], whereas une nympho ("a nymphomaniac") is pronounced [ynːɛ̃fo].
  • Accents are used sometimes for pronunciation, sometimes to distinguish similar words, and sometimes for etymology alone.
    • Accents that affect pronunciation
      • The acute accent (l'accent aigu) é (e.g., école—school) means that the vowel is pronounced /e/ instead of the default /ə/.
      • The grave accent (l'accent grave) è (e.g., élève—pupil) means that the vowel is pronounced /ɛ/ instead of the default /ə/.
      • The circumflex (l'accent circonflexe) ê (e.g. forêt—forest) shows that an e is pronounced /ɛ/ and that an ô is pronounced /o/. In standard French, it also signifies a pronunciation of /ɑ/ for the letter â, but this differentiation is disappearing. In the late 19th century, the circumflex was used in place of s after a vowel, where that letter s was not pronounced. Thus, forest became forêt and hospital became hôpital.
      • The diaeresis (le tréma) (e.g., naïf—naive, Noël—Christmas) as in English, specifies that this vowel is pronounced separately from the preceding one, not combined, and is not a schwa.
      • The cedilla (la cédille) ç (e.g., garçon—boy) means that the letter ç is pronounced /s/ in front of the back vowels a, o and u (c is otherwise /k/ before a back vowel). C is always pronounced /s/ in front of the front vowels e, i, and y, thus ç is never found in front of front vowels.
    • Accents with no pronunciation effect
      • The circumflex does not affect the pronunciation of the letters i or u and, in most dialects, a as well. It usually indicates that an s came after it long ago, as in île (isle, compare with English island). The explanation is that some words share the same orthography, so the circumflex is put here to mark the difference between the two words. For example, dites (you say) / dîtes (you said), or even du (of the) / (past for the verb devoir = must, have to, owe; in this case, the circumflex disappears in the plural and the feminine).
      • All other accents are used only to distinguish similar words, as in the case of distinguishing the adverbs and ("there", "where") from the article la ("the" feminine singular) and the conjunction ou ("or"), respectively.

French writing, as with any language, is affected by the spoken language. In Old French, the plural for animal was animals. The /als/ sequence was unstable and was turned into a diphthong /aus/. This change was then reflected in the orthography: animaus. The us ending, very common in Latin, was then abbreviated by copyists (monks) by the letter x, resulting in a written form animax. As the French language further evolved, the pronunciation of au turned into /o/ so that the u was reestablished in orthography for consistency, resulting in modern French animaux (pronounced first /animos/ before the final /s/ was dropped in contemporary French). The same is true for cheval pluralized as chevaux and many others. In addition, castel pl. castels became château pl. châteaux

On the other hand, a given spelling usually leads to a predictable sound. In particular, a given vowel combination or diacritic predictably leads to one phoneme.

As a result, it can be difficult to predict the spelling of a word based on the sound. Final consonants are generally silent, except when the following word begins with a vowel (see Liaison (French)). For example, the following words end in a vowel sound: pied, aller, les, finit, beaux. The same words followed by a vowel, however, may sound the consonants, as they do in these examples: beaux-arts, les amis, pied-à-terre.

  • Old French doit > French doigt "finger" (Latin digitus)
  • Old French pie > French pied "foot" [Latin pes (stem: ped-)]

French spelling, like English spelling, tends to preserve obsolete pronunciation rules. This is mainly due to extreme phonetic changes since the Old French period, without a corresponding change in spelling (see Vocabulary below). Moreover, some conscious changes were made to restore Latin orthography:


There are two ligatures, "œ" and "æ".

French is written with the 26 letters of the basic Latin script, with four diacritics appearing on vowels (circumflex accent, acute accent, grave accent, diaeresis) and the cedilla appearing in "ç".


Writing system

  • final consonants: Final single consonants, in particular s, x, z, t, d, n, p and g are normally silent. (A consonant is considered "final" when no vowel follows it even if one or more consonants follow it.) The final letters f, k, q, and l, however, are normally pronounced. The final c is sometimes pronounced like in bac, sac, roc but can also be silent like in blanc or estomac. The final r is usually silent when it follows an e in a word of two or more syllables, but it is pronounced in some words (hiver, super, cancer etc.).
    • When the following word begins with a vowel, however, a silent consonant may once again be pronounced, to provide a liaison or "link" between the two words. Some liaisons are mandatory, for example the s in les amants or vous avez; some are optional, depending on dialect and register, for example, the first s in deux cents euros or euros irlandais; and some are forbidden, for example, the s in beaucoup d'hommes aiment. The t of et is never pronounced and the silent final consonant of a noun is only pronounced in the plural and in set phrases like pied-à-terre.
    • Doubling a final n and adding a silent e at the end of a word (e.g., chienchienne) makes it clearly pronounced. Doubling a final l and adding a silent e (e.g., gentilgentille) adds a [j] sound if the l is preceded by the letter i.
  • elision or vowel dropping: Some monosyllabic function words ending in a or e, such as je and que, drop their final vowel when placed before a word that begins with a vowel sound (thus avoiding a hiatus). The missing vowel is replaced by an apostrophe. (e.g., je ai is instead pronounced and spelled → j'ai). This gives, for example, the same pronunciation for l'homme qu'il a vu ("the man whom he saw") and l'homme qui l'a vu ("the man who saw him"). However, for Belgian French the sentences are pronounced differently; in the first sentence the syllable break is as "qu'il-a", while the second breaks as "qui-l'a". It can also be noted that, in Quebec French, the second example (l'homme qui l'a vu) is more emphasized on l'a vu.

French pronunciation follows strict rules based on spelling, but French spelling is often based more on history than phonology. The rules for pronunciation vary between dialects, but the standard rules are:

  • There are a maximum of 17 vowels in French, not all of which are used in every dialect: /a/, /ɑ/, /e/, /ɛ/, /ɛː/, /ə/, /i/, /o/, /ɔ/, /y/, /u/, /œ/, /ø/, plus the nasalized vowels /ɑ̃/, /ɛ̃/, /ɔ̃/ and /œ̃/. In France, the vowels /ɑ/, /ɛː/ and /œ̃/ are tending to be replaced by /a/, /ɛ/ and /ɛ̃/ in many people's speech, but the distinction of /ɛ̃/ and /œ̃/ is present in Meridional French. In Quebec and Belgian French, the vowels /ɑ/, /ə/, /ɛː/ and /œ̃/ are present.
  • Voiced stops (i.e., /b, d, ɡ/) are typically produced fully voiced throughout.
  • Voiceless stops (i.e., /p, t, k/) are unaspirated.
  • Nasals: The velar nasal /ŋ/ can occur in final position in borrowed (usually English) words: parking, camping, swing. The palatal nasal /ɲ/ can occur in word initial position (e.g., gnon), but it is most frequently found in intervocalic, onset position or word-finally (e.g., montagne).
  • Fricatives: French has three pairs of homorganic fricatives distinguished by voicing, i.e., labiodental /f/~/v/, dental /s/~/z/, and palato-alveolar /ʃ/~/ʒ/. Notice that /s/~/z/ are dental, like the plosives /t/~/d/ and the nasal /n/.
  • French has one rhotic whose pronunciation varies considerably among speakers and phonetic contexts. In general, it is described as a voiced uvular fricative, as in [ʁu] roue, "wheel". Vowels are often lengthened before this segment. It can be reduced to an approximant, particularly in final position (e.g., fort), or reduced to zero in some word-final positions. For other speakers, a uvular trill is also common, and an apical trill [r] occurs in some dialects.
  • Lateral and central approximants: The lateral approximant /l/ is unvelarised in both onset (lire) and coda position (il). In the onset, the central approximants [w], [ɥ], and [j] each correspond to a high vowel, /u/, /y/, and /i/ respectively. There are a few minimal pairs where the approximant and corresponding vowel contrast, but there are also many cases where they are in free variation. Contrasts between /j/ and /i/ occur in final position as in /pɛj/ paye, "pay", vs. /pɛi/ pays, "country".

Although there are many French regional accents, foreign learners normally use only one variety of the language.


Knowledge of French is widely considered to be a crucial skill for business owners in the United Kingdom; a 2014 study found that half of British managers considered French to be a valuable asset for their business, thus ranking French as the most-sought after foreign language there, ahead of German (49%) and Spanish (44%).[65]

In 1997, George Werber published in Language Today a comprehensive academic study entitled "The World's 10 most influentiial languages".[63] In his article, Werber ranked French as being the second - after English - most influential language of the world, ahead of Spanish.[63] His criteria were not solely the numbers of native speakers, but also included the number of secondary speakers (which tends to be specially high for French among fellow world languages); the economic power of the countries using the language; the number of major areas in which the language is used; the number of countries using the language, and their respective population; and the linguistic prestige associated with the mastery of the language (Werber highlighted in particular that French benefits from a considerable linguistic prestige).[63] In 2008, Werber reassessed his article, and concluded that his findings were still correct since "the situation among the top ten remains unchanged."[64]

French remains one of the most important diplomatic languages,[42] with the language being one of the working languages of Red Cross, Amnesty International, Médecins sans Frontières, or Médecins du Monde.[61] Given the demographic prospects of the French-speaking nations of Africa, Forbes released in 2014 an article which claimed that French "could be the language of the future".[62]

Current status and economic, cultural and institutional importance

French replaced [58][59] Stanley Meisler of the Los Angeles Times said that the fact that the Treaty of Versailles was also written in English as well as French was the "first diplomatic blow" against the language.[60]

French is a Romance language (meaning that it is descended primarily from Vulgar Latin) that evolved out of the Gallo-Romance dialects spoken in northern France.


Dialects of the French language in the world


French is an official language of the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu where 45% of the population can speak French.[54] In the French special collectivity of New Caledonia, 97% of the population can speak, read and write French, whereas only 1% have no knowledge of French.[55] In French Polynesia, 95% of the population can speak, read and write French, whereas only 2% have no knowledge of French.[56] In the French collectivity of Wallis and Futuna, 78% of the population can speak, read and write French, whereas 17% have no knowledge of French.[57]

A 500-CFP franc (€4.20; US$5.65) banknote, used in French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna.

Oceania and Australasia

French has de jure official status in the Indian union territory of Puducherry (formerly Pondicherry) along with the native languages of Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam. However at the district level, French is only official in the districts of Pondicherry and Mahé, while the other two districts of the territory designate local languages as official. Furthermore, according to the French Institute of Pondicherry, French is "very little spoken" in Puducherry, with only about 1% of the territory's population being able to speak the language.[53] (See also: French India)


[52] A former French colony,

Town sign in Standard Arabic and French at the entrance of Rechmaya in Lebanon.

Middle East

French was the official language of the colony of French Indochina, comprising modern-day Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. It continues to be an administrative language in Laos and Cambodia, although its influence has waned in recent years.[50] In colonial Vietnam, the elites primarily spoke French, while many servants who worked in French households spoke a French pidgin known as "Tây Bồi" (now extinct). After French rule ended, South Vietnam continued to use French in administration, education, and trade.[51] Since the Fall of Saigon and the opening of a unified Vietnam's economy, French has gradually been effectively displaced as the main foreign language of choice by English. French nevertheless maintains its colonial legacy by being spoken as a second language by the elderly and elite populations and is presently being revived in higher education and continues to be a diplomatic language in Vietnam.

Southeast Asia


French is also the official language of Mayotte and Réunion, two overseas departments of France located in the southwest Indian Ocean.

French overseas departments and territories in Africa

The official language in Egypt is literary Arabic, and it is mandatory in all schools. While English is the most commonly used second language in Egypt, French is known by some Egyptians. Many Egyptians learn English and French in addition to Arabic. Private schools have either English or French as the main language of instruction. Egypt participates in the Francophonie. There are two French-speaking universities in the country, the Université Française d'Égypte and the Université Senghor.

Bilingual Arabic-French street sign in Alexandria, Egypt.


Numerous reforms have been implemented in recent decades to improve the status of both Arabic and, in recent years to a much minor degree, Tamazight in relation to French, especially in education. For this reason, although Algeria is certainly one of the most Francophone of countries in the world outside of France, and has perhaps the second largest number of French speakers,[49] it does not participate in the Francophonie association.

Most urban Algerians have some working knowledge of French, and a high (though unknown) percentage speak it fluently (as much as around 70-80%). However, because of the country's colonial past, the predominance of French has long been politically problematic.

Algiers Metro subway ticket, in Standard Arabic and in French.


In addition, French is an administrative language and widely used, though not on an official basis, in Mauritius, where approximately 78% of the population speak French. French is also spoken in the Maghreb states:

French is an official language in the following African countries, most of them former French or Belgian colonies:

Sub-Saharan Africa is the region where the French language is most likely to expand, because of the expansion of education and rapid population growth.[45] It is also where the language has evolved the most in recent years.[46][47] Some vernacular forms of French in Africa can be difficult to understand for French speakers from other countries,[48] but written forms of the language are very closely related to those of the rest of the French-speaking world.

In the territories of the Indian Ocean, the French language is often spoken alongside French-derived creole languages, the major exception being Madagascar. There, a Malayo-Polynesian language (Malagasy) is spoken alongside French.

French is mostly a second language in Africa, but it has become a first language in some urban areas, such as the region of Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire[41] and in Libreville, Gabon.[42] French is also becoming a first language in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.[43] The classification of French as a second language in Francophone Africa is debatable because it is often the only language spoken and written in schools, administration, radio, television and the Internet; for many Africans, it is the only language in which they know how to read and write fluently. The following thirteen countries use French exclusively to teach school: Bénin, Burkina Faso, Centrafrique, Congo, Congo (République démocratique du), Côte d'Ivoire, Gabon, Guinée, Mali, Niger, Sénégal, Chad and Togo. The prevalence of the language is noticeable in popular music, in which French is often mixed with various indigenous languages. There is not a single African French, but multiple forms that diverged through contact with various indigenous African languages.[44] In fact, the term African French is a misnomer, as forms are different from country to country, and the root of the French spoken in a particular country depends on its former colonial empire. French spoken in Benin, for example, is closer to that spoken in France than to French spoken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is chiefly derived from Belgian French.

A majority of the world's French-speaking population lives in Africa. According to the 2007 report by the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, an estimated 115 million African people spread across 31 Francophone countries can speak French as either a first or a second language.[5] This number does not include the people living in non-Francophone African countries who have learned French as a foreign language.[5] Due to the rise of French in Africa, the total French-speaking population worldwide is expected to reach 700 million people in 2050.[40]

French-language signs outside a drugstore (pharmacy) in Port-Bouët, Abidjan, in 2009.
  Countries usually considered part of Francophone Africa. These countries had a population of 370 million in 2014.[36] Their population is projected to reach between 785 million[37] and 837 million[36] in 2050.
French is the fastest growing language on the continent (in terms of either official or foreign language).[38][39]
  Countries sometimes considered as Francophone Africa
  Countries that are not Francophone but are Members or Observers of the OIF


Today the Karipuna indigenous community (nearly 30,000 people) of Amapá in Northern Brazil speaks a French creole, the Lanc-Patuá creole, possibly related to the French Guiana Creole.

The learning of French has historically been important and strong among the Lusophone high societies, and for a great span of time it was also the foreign language of choice among the middle class of both Portugal and Brazil, only surpassed in the globalised postmodernity by English, in both, and more recently by Spanish, in the latter.[32][33][34][35]

The French language was briefly spoken in Brazil during the colonial attempts of France Antarctique and France équinoxiale at the 16th and 17th centuries respectively (the expulsing of early French colonists by the Portuguese culminated on the founding of the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Luís respectively). The language was also used by several communities of immigrants and expatriates in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, chiefly Swiss, but also some French and Belgians. The anti-Portuguese factor of Brazilian nationalism in the 19th century led to an increased use of the French language in detriment of Portuguese, as France was seen at the time as a model of civilization and progress.[31]


Louisiana is home to many distinct dialects, collectively known as Louisiana French. Cajun French has the largest number of speakers, mostly living in Acadiana. According to the 2000 United States Census, there are over 194,000 people in Louisiana who speak French at home, the most of any state if Creole French is excluded.[29] New England French, essentially a variant of Canadian French, is spoken in parts of New England. Missouri French was historically spoken in Missouri and Illinois (formerly known as Upper Louisiana), but is nearly extinct today.[30]

. New Hampshire and Vermont, Maine, Louisiana, when all forms of French are considered together and all dialects of Chinese are similarly combined. French remains the second most-spoken language in the states of Chinese, and Spanish, English most-spoken language in the United States after [28]According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2011), French is the fourth
French language spread in the United States. Counties marked in yellow are those where 6–12% of the population speaks French at home; brown, 12–18%; red, over 18%. French-based creole languages are not included.

United States

  • Guadeloupe: 405,739
  • Martinique: 386,486
  • French Guiana: 250,109
  • Saint Martin: 36,703
  • Saint Barthélemy: 9,343
  • Saint Pierre and Miquelon: 6,062

French is the official language in France's overseas regions of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, and Martinique, and overseas collectivities of Saint Barthélemy, St. Martin and Saint Pierre and Miquelon. These overseas regions and collectivities had a population of 1,094,442 inhabitants in Jan. 2013:

French overseas regions and collectivities in the Americas

French is one of Haiti's two official languages. It is the principal language of writing, school instruction, and administrative use. It is spoken by all educated Haitians and is used in the business sector. It is also used in ceremonial events such as weddings, graduations and church masses. About 70%–80% of the country's population have Haitian Creole as their first language; the rest speak French as a first language. The second official language is the recently standardized Haitian Creole, which virtually the entire population of Haiti speaks. Haitian Creole is one of the French-based creole languages, drawing the large majority of its vocabulary from French, with influences from West African languages, as well as several European languages. Haitian Creole is closely related to Louisiana Creole and the creole from the Lesser Antilles.[27]


The difference between French spoken in Quebec and French spoken in France is similar in degree to that between American and British English. In Quebec, where the majority of French-speaking Canadians live, the Office québécois de la langue française (English: Quebec Board of the French language) regulates Quebec French and ensures the Charter of the French Language (Bill 101 & 104) is respected.

About 9,487,500 Canadians speak French as their first language, or around 30% of the country,[26] with 2,065,300 constituting secondary speakers.[26] Due to the increased bilingual school programs and French immersion classes in English Canada, the portion of Canadians proficient in French has risen significantly in the past two decades, and is still rising.

French is the second most common language in Canada, after English, and both are official languages at the federal level. French is the sole official language in the province of Quebec, being the mother tongue for some 7 million people, or almost 80.1% (2006 Census) of the province. About 95.0% of the people of Quebec speak French as either their first or second language, and for some as their third language. Quebec is also home to the city of Montreal, which is the world's second largest French speaking city, by number of first language speakers. New Brunswick and Manitoba are the only officially bilingual provinces, though full bilingualism is enacted only in New Brunswick, where about one third of the population is Francophone. French is also an official language of all of the territories (Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon). Out of the three, Yukon has the most French speakers, comprising just under 4% of the population.[25] Furthermore, while French is not an official language in Ontario, the French Language Services Act ensures that provincial services are to be available in the language. The Act applies to areas of the province where there are significant Francophone communities, namely Eastern Ontario and Northern Ontario. Elsewhere, sizable French-speaking minorities are found in southern Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and the Port au Port Peninsula in Newfoundland and Labrador, where the unique Newfoundland French dialect was historically spoken. Smaller pockets of French speakers exist in all other provinces.

The "arrêt" signs (French for "stop") are used in Canada while the international stop, which is also a valid French word, is used in France as well as other French-speaking countries and regions.


North and South America

French is an official language in both Jersey and Guernsey. Both use French to some degree, mostly in an administrative or ceremonial capacity. Jersey Legal French is the standardized variety used in Jersey. However, Norman (in its local forms, Guernésiais and Jèrriais) is the historical vernacular of the islands.

Modern and Middle English reflect a mixture of Oïl and Old English lexicons after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, when a Norman-speaking aristocracy took control of a population whose mother tongue was Germanic in origin. Due to the intertwined histories of England and continental possessions of the English Crown, many formal and legal words from Modern English have French roots. Therefore words such as buy and sell are of Germanic origin, purchase and vend are from Old French.

French is a large minority language and immigrant language in the United Kingdom. Over 310,000 French people live in the UK, and the language is also spoken by a large number of the African immigrants in the UK. French is also the most popular foreign language studied in UK schools. According to a 2006 European Commission report, 23% of UK residents are able to carry on a conversation in French.[24]

The United Kingdom and the Channel Islands

French is also an official language in the small region of Aosta Valley, Italy.[21] Though most non-Italophone people in the region speak Franco-Provençal as their mother tongue,[22] they use standard French to write, because the international recognition of Franco-Provençal as a separate language (as opposed to a dialect or patois of French) was quite recent. In 2001, 75.41% of the Valdotainian population is French-speaking, 96.01% declared to know Italian, 55.77% the Valdotainian Franco-Provençal patois, and 50.53% all of them.[23]


Knowledge of French in the European Union and candidate countries[20]

Catalan is the only official language of Andorra; however, French is commonly used because of the proximity to France and the fact that the French President is, with the bishop of Urgell, Spain, a co-prince of the territory. French nationals make up 7% of the population.



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