How Widely Spoken is French?

Posted by Nancy on 7th Jul 2020 in the blog in the french culture category

When most people think of French, they usually only think of France. Other popular suspects include Belgium, Switzerland and Canada. Did you know that French is the official language of twenty-nine countries and territories? Those countries are part of the francophone community, which comprises over 300 million individuals. Those individuals speak French either as a native or second language. Roughly 40% of the francophone population lives in Europe. Next up is sub-Saharah Africa with 35%, North Africa with 15%, the Americas with 8% and Asia, with 1%. With this many speakers, French usually ranks in the top 10 languages spoken worldwide. Let's explore where it is spoken by continent.

Illustration by Victoria Fernandez


As we read above, roughly 40% of the francophone population lives in Europe. In the European Union, French is the second most widely spoken first language, after German and English (tied in the first place). European countries that list French as an official language include France, Belgium, Switzerland, Monaco, Luxembourg, and the Aosta Valley region of Italy (a dependent entity).


Because of France's colonial past, the language has vastly spread throughout the continent. Several African countries, mostly in the North and Central Africa, list French as their official language. Those countries are grouped into the "Francophone region" of Africa. In Africa, variations of French are spoken by over 120 million people, spread across 24 countries. It is home to more French speakers than any other continent, with over 50% of the global population. Below is a list of African countries that list French as their official language.

Congo DR, Madagascar, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Chad, Guinea, Rwanda, Benin, Burundi, Togo, Congo, Central African Republic, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Djibouti, Comoros and Seychelles.

America, the Caribbean and Oceania

North America is home to only one country that counts French as a national language, Canada. In Canada, French is the official language of the Quebec province. In the region, roughly 95% of the population speaks French as a first or second language. Overall, 20% of the Canadian population speaks French. Quebec's capital city, Montreal, is the fourth largest Francophone city in the world, after Paris, Kinshasa and Abidjan.

In the Caribbean, French is the official language of Haiti and the following dependent entities: French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna, Saint-Barthélemy, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, Clipperton and French Southern and Antarctic Lands.

Asia and the Middle East

Unlike the other continents, there are no countries in Asia and the Middle East that list French as an official language. It is present in those countries due to France's colonial past. However, French is r taught in schools in countries such as Lebanon, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. It is a language spoken among the elderly, the elites and institutions of higher education.

French continues to be one of the fastest-growing languages in the world. It is also the procedural language for the European Union, the only language used for deliberations at the Court of Justice for the European Union, and one of the recognised working languages of the United Nations.

The language is taught in almost every country in the world as a second language. It is estimated that over 700 million people will speak French by 2025. Get ahead of the trend and start learning French with Alexa today!

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