French around the world
- An international language
Europe is home to 47% of the world’s French speakers. Outside France itself, French is spoken in Belgium (60% of the population), Switzerland (48.4% of the population) and Luxembourg. Within the European Union including Switzerland, French is the fourth most widely used mother tongue (60 million speakers), after German (79 million speakers), English (65 million) and Italian (63 million).
Africa is the continent where French is most widely spoken.
In North Africa French is the majority language: it’s spoken by 64% of Tunisians, 57% of Algerians and 33% of Moroccans. Also in the Arab world Lebanon, with its 1,920,000 French speakers is a key French speaking country.
Sub-Saharan Africa alone had 79 million French speakers in 2014.
Another large group of French speakers can be found in North America. The biggest minority lives in Canada which had 11.5 million French speakers out of a population of 32.3 million, according to 2005 estimates. French speakers in North America are mainly concentrated in Quebec, where they make up over 78% of the population. In the United States nearly 14.5 million people speak French. Not forgetting France’s overseas départements (Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana) and Haiti, where nearly a quarter of the 8.3 million inhabitants speak French.
On the other side of the world in Asia, most French speakers are found in the Indochinese Peninsula, mainly Vietnam with 624,000 French speakers.
- An institutional language
French is a language of work and of politics as well as a language of culture.
It is one of the two official working languages of the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee, the only universal language of the postal services and the main language of the African Union.
The International Organization of La Francophonie (L’Organisation international de la francophonie, or OIF) brings together countries sharing certain values based on the French language. It has 57 member countries and a further 23 countries with observer status.
Each year on 20 March many cultural events are held around the world to mark International Francophonie Day.