The French Language Outside of France

The Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) just published La Langue française dans le monde 2010, its most recent report on the state of the French language in the world today. It will be in bookstores October 21 (éd. Nathan, 26€), just a day before the XIIIème Sommet de la Francophonie takes place this weekend, October 22-24, in Montreux, Switzerland.

Some statistics on the French language:

  • 220 million people speak French in the world, either as a first or second language (20 million more than just 3 years ago!)
  • 116 million people are learning French as a second or third language
  • most native speakers of French live in Europe, eastern Canada and the US (Maine and Louisiana)
  • most second language speakers of French live in West & Central Africa
  • 67% of people who speak French or who are learning French are located in Africa (compared to 23% in Europe, 8% in the Americas, and 2% in Asia/Oceania)
  • French is the 8th most used language on the internet
  • French is the 4th most spoken language in the United States (after English, Spanish, and Chinese)
  • French is the 3rd most spoken language in the European Union (after German and English)
  • French is the official language in 29 countries and commonly used in 7 other countries
  • the OIF includes 56 member states and 14 observer states who promote the French language (excluding Algeria, Israel, Aosta Valley in Italy, and the US, where French is also spoken by a large number of people)

Over 60 million people speak French as a native language in France, but this include the DOM-TOMS, so remember that there are many places all over the world that are “France” but are not located in Europe, whether they are départements, territories or have a somewhat independent status:

  • Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Martin, and St. Barthélemy in the Caribbean
  • French Guiana in South America
  • St. Pierre et Miquelon in North America
  • La Réunion and Mayotte in the Indian Ocean
  • New Caledonia, Wallis et Futuna, and French Polynesia in the Pacific Ocean

Members of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie

So if you want to learn the French language, but do not want to study in or visit France in Europe, you can always go to a DOM-TOM or one of these countries where French is either an official language or a commonly used language (ranked according to number of French speakers):

  1. Algeria
  2. Côte d’Ivoire
  3. Canada
  4. Tunisia
  5. Democratic Republic of the Congo
  6. Haiti
  7. Belgium
  8. Morocco
  9. Cameroon
  10. Mauritania
  11. Guinea
  12. Togo
  13. Chad
  14. Switzerland
  15. Niger
  16. Republic of the Congo
  17. Gabon
  18. Senegal
  19. Mali
  20. Central African Republic
  21. Madagascar
  22. Benin
  23. Burkina Faso
  24. Lebanon
  25. Rwanda
  26. Luxembourg
  27. Burundi
  28. Comoros
  29. Mauritius
  30. Djibouti
  31. Equatorial Guinea
  32. Vanuatu
  33. Andorra
  34. Monaco
  35. Seychelles

You can download a 26 page summary of La Langue française dans le Monde 2010 in PDF format.

And OIF is now on Twitter: @OIFfrancophonie

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.