French language

Native toFrance
RegionFrancophonie (French-speaking world)
(geographical distribution below)
Native speakers
76.8 million worldwide
An estimated 274 million French speakers (L1 plus L2; 2014)[1][2]
Early forms
Latin (French alphabet)
French Braille
Signed French
(français signé)
Official status
Official language in

Regulated byAcadémie française (French Academy) (France)
Office québécois de la langue française (Quebec Board of the French Language) (Quebec)
Language codes
fra (T)
ISO 639-3fra
New-Map-Francophone World.svg
  Regions where French is the main language
  Regions where it is an official language but not a majority native language
  Regions where it is a second language
  Regions where it is a minority language
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

French (le français [lə fʁɑ̃sɛ] or la langue française [la lɑ̃ɡ fʁɑ̃sɛːz]) is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica 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. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

French is an official language in 29 countries across multiple continents,[5] most of which are members of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), the community of 84 countries which share the official use or teaching of French. It is spoken as a first language (in descending order of the number of speakers) in France, the Canadian provinces of Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick as well as other Francophone regions, Belgium (Wallonia and the Brussels-Capital Region), western Switzerland (cantons of Bern, Fribourg, Geneva, Jura, Neuchâtel, Vaud, Valais), Monaco, partly in Luxembourg, the states of Louisiana, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont in the United States, and in northwestern Italy (region of Aosta Valley), and by various communities elsewhere.[6]

In 2015, approximately 40% of the francophone population (including L2 and partial speakers) lived in Europe, 35% in sub-Saharan Africa, 15% in North Africa and the Middle East, 8% in the Americas, and 1% in Asia and Oceania.[7] French is the fourth most widely spoken mother tongue in the European Union.[8] Of Europeans who speak other languages natively, approximately one-fifth are able to speak French as a second language.[9] French is the second most taught foreign language in the EU.[10] French is also the 18th most natively spoken language in the world, 6th most spoken language by total number of speakers and the second or third most studied language worldwide (with about 120 million current learners).[11] As a result of French and Belgian colonialism from the 16th 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, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritius, Senegal and Ivory Coast.[12]

French is estimated to have about 76 million native speakers and about 235 million daily, fluent speakers[13][1][14] and another 77 to 110 million secondary speakers who speak it as a second language to varying degrees of proficiency, mainly in Africa.[15] According to the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), approximately 300 million people worldwide are "able to speak the language",[16] without specifying the criteria for this estimation or whom it encompasses.[2] According to a demographic projection led by the Université Laval and the Réseau Démographie de l'Agence universitaire de la francophonie, the total number of French speakers will reach approximately 500 million in 2025 and 650 million by 2050.[17] OIF estimates 700 million by 2050, 80% of whom will be in Africa.[7]

French has a long history as an international language of literature and scientific standards and is a primary or second language of many international organisations including the United Nations, the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the World Trade Organization, the International Olympic Committee, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. In 2011, Bloomberg Businessweek ranked French the third most useful language for business, after English and Standard Mandarin Chinese.[18]

Geographic distribution


Knowledge of French in the European Union and candidate countries[19]

Spoken by 19.71% of the European Union's population, French is the third most widely spoken mother tongue or foreign language in the EU after English and German.[8][20]

Under the Constitution of France, French has been the official language of the Republic since 1992[21] (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[clarification needed] are often ignored) and legal contracts; advertisements must bear a translation of foreign words.

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.[22]

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 Romandy, 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 as Biel/Bienne and cantons such as Valais, Fribourg and Berne. French is the native language of about 23% of the Swiss population, and is spoken by 50%[23] of the population.

French is also an official language of Monaco and Luxembourg, as well as in the Aosta Valley region of Italy, while French dialects remain spoken by minorities on the Channel Islands. It is also spoken in Andorra and is the main language after Catalan in El Pas de la Casa. The language is taught as the primary second language in the German land of Saarland, with French being taught from pre-school and over 43% of citizens being able to speak French.[24][25]


  Countries usually considered part of Francophone Africa.
Their population was 430.5 million in 2019,[26] and it is forecast to reach between 845 million[27] and 866 million[26] in 2050.
  Countries sometimes considered as Francophone Africa
  Countries that are not Francophone but are Members or Observers of the OIF

The 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.[12] This number does not include the people living in non-Francophone African countries who have learned French as a foreign language.[12] Due to the rise of French in Africa, the total French-speaking population worldwide is expected to reach 700 million people in 2050.[28] French is the fastest growing language on the continent (in terms of either official or foreign languages).[29][30] 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, Ivory Coast[31] and in Libreville, Gabon.[32] There is not a single African French, but multiple forms that diverged through contact with various indigenous African languages.[33]

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.[34] It is also where the language has evolved the most in recent years.[35][36] Some vernacular forms of French in Africa can be difficult to understand for French speakers from other countries,[37] but written forms of the language are very closely related to those of the rest of the French-speaking world.


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

French is the second most common language in Canada, after English, and both are official languages at the federal level. It is the first language of 9.5 million people or 29% and the second language for 2.07 million or 6% of the entire population of Canada.[14] French is the sole official language in the province of Quebec, being the mother tongue for some 7 million people, or almost 80% (2006 Census) of the province. About 95% 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 4th-largest French-speaking city, by number of first language speakers.[38] 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.[39] 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, Prince Edward Island 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 city of Ottawa, the Canadian capital, is also effectively bilingual, as it is on the other side of a river from Quebec, opposite the major city of Gatineau, and is required to offer governmental services in French as well as English.[citation needed]

French language spread in the United States. Counties marked in lighter pink are those where 6–12% of the population speaks French at home; medium pink, 12–18%; darker pink, over 18%. French-based creole languages are not included.

According to the United States Census Bureau (2011), French is the fourth[40] most-spoken language in the United States after English, Spanish, and Chinese, 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 Louisiana, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. Louisiana is home to many distinct dialects, collectively known as Louisiana French. 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.[41] 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.[42] French also survived in isolated pockets along the Gulf Coast of what was previously French Lower Louisiana, such as Mon Louis Island, Alabama and DeLisle, Mississippi (the latter only being discovered by linguists in the 1990s) but these varieties are severely endangered or presumed extinct.

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 for 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.[43]

French is the official language of both French Guiana on the South American continent,[44] and of Saint Pierre and Miquelon,[45] an archipelago off the coast of Newfoundland in North America.

Areas of French Colonization


Southeast Asia

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.[46] 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.[47] 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. All three countries are official members of the OIF.[48]

Western Asia

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

A former French mandate, Lebanon designates Arabic as the sole official language, while a special law regulates cases when French can be publicly used. Article 11 of Lebanon's Constitution states that "Arabic is the official national language. A law determines the cases in which the French language is to be used".[49] The French language in Lebanon is a widespread second language among the Lebanese people, and is taught in many schools along with Arabic and English. French is used on Lebanese pound banknotes, on road signs, on Lebanese license plates, and on official buildings (alongside Arabic).

Today, French and English are secondary languages of Lebanon, with about 40% of the population being Francophone and 40% Anglophone.[50] The use of English is growing in the business and media environment. Out of about 900,000 students, about 500,000 are enrolled in Francophone schools, public or private, in which the teaching of mathematics and scientific subjects is provided in French.[51] Actual usage of French varies depending on the region and social status. One-third of high school students educated in French go on to pursue higher education in English-speaking institutions. English is the language of business and communication, with French being an element of social distinction, chosen for its emotional value.[52]


A significant French-speaking community is also present in Israel, primarily among the communities of French Jews in Israel, Moroccan Jews in Israel and Lebanese Jews. Many secondary schools offer French as a foreign language.

United Arab Emirates and Qatar

The UAE has the status in the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie as an observer state, and Qatar has the status in the organization as an associate state. However, in both countries, French is not spoken by almost any of the general population or migrant workers, but spoken by a small minority of those who invest in Francophone countries or have other financial or family ties. Their entrance as observer and associate states respectively into the organization was aided a good deal by their investments into the Organisation and France itself.[53] A country's status as an observer state in the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie gives the country the right to send representatives to organization meetings and make formal requests to the organization but they do not have voting rights within the OIF.[54] A country's status as an associate state also does not give a country voting abilities but associate states can discuss and review organization matters.[55]

Oceania and Australasia

A 500-CFP franc (€4.20; US$4.70) banknote, used in French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna.

French is an official language of the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu, where 45% of the population can speak it.[56] In the French special collectivity of New Caledonia, 97% of the population can speak, read and write French[57] while in French Polynesia this figure is 95%,[58] and in the French collectivity of Wallis and Futuna, it is 84%.[59]

In French Polynesia and to a lesser extent Wallis and Futuna, where oral and written knowledge of the French language has become almost nearly universal (95% and 84% respectively), French increasingly tends to displace the native Polynesian languages as the language most spoken at home. In French Polynesia, the percentage of the population who reported that French was the language they use the most at home rose from 67% at the 2007 census to 74% at the 2017 census.[60][58] In Wallis and Futuna, the percentage of the population who reported that French was the language they use the most at home rose from 10% at the 2008 census to 13% at the 2018 census.[59][61]

Other Languages
Адыгэбзэ: Фрэнджыбзэ
адыгабзэ: Францыбзэ
Afrikaans: Frans
Akan: Français
አማርኛ: ፈረንሳይኛ
Ænglisc: Frencisc sprǣc
العربية: لغة فرنسية
aragonés: Idioma francés
Արեւմտահայերէն: Ֆրանսերէն
asturianu: Idioma francés
Avañe'ẽ: Hyãsiañe'ẽ
Aymar aru: Phransiya aru
azərbaycanca: Fransız dili
تۆرکجه: فرانسه دیلی
bamanankan: Faransekan
Bân-lâm-gú: Hoat-gí
башҡортса: Француз теле
беларуская: Французская мова
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Француская мова
Bikol Central: Tataramon na Pranses
български: Френски език
bosanski: Francuski jezik
brezhoneg: Galleg
català: Francès
Чӑвашла: Франс чĕлхи
Cebuano: Prinanses
čeština: Francouzština
Cymraeg: Ffrangeg
davvisámegiella: Fránskkagiella
ދިވެހިބަސް: ފަރަންސޭސި
Diné bizaad: Dáághahii bizaad
dolnoserbski: Francojska rěc
Ελληνικά: Γαλλική γλώσσα
emiliàn e rumagnòl: Francés
español: Idioma francés
Esperanto: Franca lingvo
estremeñu: Luenga francesa
euskara: Frantses
eʋegbe: Fransegbe
Fiji Hindi: French bhasa
føroyskt: Franskt mál
français: Français
Frysk: Frânsk
Fulfulde: Faransinkoore
Gaeilge: An Fhraincis
Gaelg: Frangish
Gàidhlig: Fraingis
ГӀалгӀай: Ференгий мотт
贛語: 法語
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Fap-ngî
한국어: 프랑스어
Hausa: Faransanci
հայերեն: Ֆրանսերեն
hornjoserbsce: Francošćina
hrvatski: Francuski jezik
বিষ্ণুপ্রিয়া মণিপুরী: পর্তুগীজ ঠার
Bahasa Indonesia: Bahasa Prancis
interlingua: Lingua francese
ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ/inuktitut: ᐅᐃᒍᐃᕐᒥᐅᖅ
isiZulu: IsiFulentshi
íslenska: Franska
italiano: Lingua francese
עברית: צרפתית
kalaallisut: Franskisut
Kapampangan: Amanung Pranses
къарачай-малкъар: Француз тил
ქართული: ფრანგული ენა
kaszëbsczi: Francësczi jãzëk
қазақша: Француз тілі
kernowek: Frenkek
Kinyarwanda: Igifaransa
Kiswahili: Kifaransa
Kongo: Kifalanse
Kreyòl ayisyen: Lang franse
kriyòl gwiyannen: Fransé
Кыргызча: Француз тили
لۊری شومالی: زڤون فرانساْیی
latviešu: Franču valoda
Lëtzebuergesch: Franséisch
lietuvių: Prancūzų kalba
Limburgs: Frans
lingála: Falansé
Lingua Franca Nova: Franses (lingua)
Livvinkarjala: Frantsien kieli
la .lojban.: fasybau
lumbaart: Lengua francesa
македонски: Француски јазик
Malagasy: Fiteny frantsay
Māori: Reo Wīwī
მარგალური: ფრანგული ნინა
مازِرونی: فرانسوی زوون
Bahasa Melayu: Bahasa Perancis
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Huák-ngṳ̄
монгол: Франц хэл
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ပြင်သစ်ဘာသာစကား
Dorerin Naoero: Dorerin Prant
Nederlands: Frans
Nedersaksies: Fransk
Nēhiyawēwin / ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐍᐏᐣ: ᐱᔥᑎᑯᔮᐤ ᐊᔨᒧᐎᓐ
नेपाल भाषा: फ्रेञ्च भाषा
日本語: フランス語
Napulitano: Lengua franzese
Nordfriisk: Fransöösk spriak
Norfuk / Pitkern: French
norsk: Fransk
norsk nynorsk: Fransk
Nouormand: Fraunceis
Novial: Fransum
occitan: Francés
олык марий: Француз йылме
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Fransuz tili
Pangasinan: Salitan Français
Papiamentu: Frances
Patois: French
Перем Коми: Франсуз кыв
ភាសាខ្មែរ: ភាសាបារាំង
Picard: Frinsé
Piemontèis: Lenga fransèisa
Tok Pisin: Tok Frens
Plattdüütsch: Franzöösche Spraak
português: Língua francesa
Qaraqalpaqsha: Frantsuz tili
qırımtatarca: Frenk tili
reo tahiti: Reo farāni
română: Limba franceză
rumantsch: Lingua franzosa
Runa Simi: Ransis simi
русиньскый: Французькый язык
саха тыла: Француз тыла
Gagana Samoa: Fa'afarani
संस्कृतम्: फ्रेञ्चभाषा
Sesotho: Sefora
Sesotho sa Leboa: Sefora
Setswana: Sefora
sicilianu: Lingua francisa
Simple English: French language
SiSwati: SíFulentji
slovenčina: Francúzština
slovenščina: Francoščina
словѣньскъ / ⰔⰎⰑⰂⰡⰐⰠⰔⰍⰟ: Франкїискъ ѩꙁꙑкъ
ślůnski: Francusko godka
Soomaaliga: Af-Faransiis
српски / srpski: Француски језик
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Francuski jezik
svenska: Franska
Taqbaylit: Tafrensist
tarandíne: Lènga frangese
татарча/tatarça: Француз теле
Türkçe: Fransızca
Türkmençe: Fransuz dili
удмурт: Француз кыл
українська: Французька мова
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: ڧرانسۇز تىلى
Vahcuengh: Vah Fazgoz
vepsän kel’: Francijan kel'
Tiếng Việt: Tiếng Pháp
Volapük: Fransänapük
文言: 法蘭西語
West-Vlams: Frans
Winaray: Frinanses
Wolof: Wu-faraas
吴语: 法文
ייִדיש: פראנצויזיש
Yorùbá: Èdè Faransé
粵語: 法文
Zazaki: Fransızki
Zeêuws: Frans
žemaitėška: Prancūzu kalba
中文: 法语