Proportion of French speakers by country in 2014:
This article details the geographical distribution of speakers of the French language, regardless of the legislative status within the countries where it is spoken. French-based creoles are considered separate languages for the purpose of this article.
French became an international language in the Middle Ages, when the power of the Kingdom of France made it the second international language, alongside Latin. This status continued to grow into the 18th century, by which time French was the language of European courts and diplomacy. The importance of French began to wane in the early 20th century, when the spread of English due to the British Empire and the rise of the English-speaking United States to superpower status eroding its place as the language of diplomacy.
According to a 2014 estimate by the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, 274 million people worldwide can speak French, of which 212 million use the language daily, while the remaining 62 million have learnt it as a foreign language. Despite a decline in the number of learners of French in Europe, the overall number of speakers is rising, largely because of its presence in high-fertility African countries: of the 212 million who use French daily, 54.7% are living in Africa.
The following figures are from a 2014 report of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF). No distinctions are made between native speakers of French and those who learnt it as a foreign language, between different levels of mastery or how often the language is used in daily life. For African countries where French is the main language of education, the number of French speakers is derived from the average number of schooling years.