French around the world

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10 July 2019
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French around the world

French as an official language


The status of the French language varies from one country to another. It may be:

  • the language spoken at home and passed on by one’s parents, and/or learnt at school if it is the language of instruction;
  • the official language (either the sole or one of several official languages) of a country, and thus used for administrative procedures, professional relationships and all dealings with the authorities;
  • a social language, used to communicate with fellow citizens who have different mother tongues;
  • the language of communication and culture, used in the media, literature and for cultural activities.


Today, French is an official language in 29 countries.

In Europe: France, Belgium, Switzerland, Monaco, Luxembourg

In Africa: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal, Mali, Rwanda, Guinea, Chad, Burundi, Benin, Togo, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Comoros, Djibouti, Seychelles

In the Americas: Canada, Haiti

In Oceania: Vanuatu

The French-speaking world includes not only countries whose official language is French, but also where people use French in part of or throughout their daily lives and communications.



Facts and figures

  • French is currently the fifth most widely spoken language in the world, at 274 million speakers (native and non-native combined).
  • French is the second most widely learnt foreign language, after English.
  • French is the third most prominent language in the world of business.
  • French is the fourth most prominent language on the internet.
  • 47% of French-speakers are in Africa and the Middle East.
  • French and English are the only languages spoken on every continent.

(Source: Organisation internationale de la Francophonie)


French as a foreign language


French is most widely learnt as a second language in Africa. To be precise, 72%, or around 23 million, of people learning French are African. Next comes Europe, with 10.5 million learners of French, primarily in the Netherlands, Italy and Portugal.

The top three countries worldwide in terms of French foreign language class enrolments are Madagascar (6.9 million learners), Morocco (6.5 million) and Egypt (4.3 million).

In the UK and Ireland, French is the leading foreign language studied, and in the German-speaking countries of Europe, it is in second place, behind English.

Why learn French? Firstly, French can be a great asset in one’s career, as France is the world’s fifth greatest economic power. Proficiency in French also opens the door to a wealth of French culture, including literature, cinema and music. Furthermore, French is a language used in international relations: it is one of the official languages of several major international organisations, including the UN, NATO, the International Olympic Committee, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Finally, French is a language of reflection and debate: after all, it is the language of the Enlightenment, of philosophy, and of the text on which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is based.

Paris, gastronomy, culture… France has so much to offer those who decide to learn the language.



Be it French, or any other language, we can fulfil your translation and interpreting requirements. Tradoc is a specialist language service provider with more than 30 years of experience. Contact us via our contact form or by email.