French is the 9th most widely spoken language on Earth, with 2014 figures indicating 274 million French speakers across all five continents*. It also an official language of the United Nations (UN), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the African Union (AU), the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the European Union (EU). Who knows, with the June 2016 Brexit vote in the UK, maybe French will overtake English as the language of business amongst European Union member states?
We glimpsed some of the quirks of summer culture and society in France in our previous article. We have also taken a whirlwind tour of a few chosen pit stops in the French-speaking world, by encouraging French learners to think far and wide about where they might go on their travels to speak French…
Now seems like a suitable time to look more closely at just where French is primarily spoken – in other words, what places comprise the Francophone world.
There are 29 sovereign states worldwide where French constitutionally has the status of official language: 13 where it is the only official language; and 16 where it is just one of the official languages*.
States where French is the only official language*:
Bénin Burkina Faso Congo Congo RD Côte d’Ivoire France Gabon Guinée Mali Monaco Niger Sénégal Togo
States where French is one of the official languages*:
Belgique (+ néerlandais et allemand) Burundi (+ kirundi) Cameroun (+ anglais) Canada (+ anglais) Centrafrique (+ sango) Comores (+ shikomor and arabe) Djibouti (+ arabe) Guinée équatoriale (+ espagnol) Haïti (+ créole) Luxembourg (+ allemand and luxembourgeois) Madagascar (+ malgache) Rwanda (+ anglais and kinyarwanda) Seychelles (+ créole and anglais) Suisse (+ allemand, italien and romanche) Tchad (+ arabe) Vanuatu (+ anglais and bichlamar)
There are also 15 federal states and non-sovereign autonomous territories, where French is an official language*:
Belgique: Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles (previously known as Communauté française)
Canada: Nouveau-Brunswick (+ anglais) Nunavut (+ anglais and inuktitut) Québec Territoires du Nord-Ouest (+ anglais, chipewyan, cri, dogrib, gwich’in, inuktitut and slavey) Yukon (+ anglais)
Inde: Pondichéry (+ anglais, malayalam, tamoul and télougou)
Italie: Val-d’Aoste (+ italien)
Suisse: Berne (+ allemand) Fribourg (+ allemand) Genève Jura Neuchâtel Valais (+ allemand) Vaud
One of the beauties of learning French is that you open yourself up to a whole new language, but also to a multiplicity of different cultures and geographical locations.
However, with the connectedness the internet provides, if travelling to more far-flung French-speaking places isn’t an option, often you can still listen to local radio stations online and find useful local online news websites. The valuable insights these media outlets provide can broaden your awareness of French-speaking cultures, as well as improving your French, without you having to remove your slippers.
We will write more specifically about international Francophone media outlets in our next article, as well as the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie.