French is a spoken and written language that originated in what is now the country of France and is currently the fifth-most-spoken language in the world behind English, Mandarin Chinese, Hindu, and Spanish. French is one of six working languages of the United Nations (along with Arabic, Chinese, English, Russian, and Spanish), one of three procedural languages of the European Union (along English and German), and the sole language used during deliberations in the EU's Court of Justice of the European Union.
French is an official language in 29 countries, and is the sole official language in 13 of the 29. In the remaining 16 countries, French shares official status with one or more other languages, which may include German, Dutch, English, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, Swahili, Creole, or additional local languages.
|Benin||Gabon||Mali||Republic of the Congo|
|DR Congo||Ivory Coast||Niger||Togo|
|Belgium||Central African Republic||Equatorial Guinea||Rwanda|
Ironically, the most populous country in which French is an official language is not France, but the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa, followed by France and Canada. French is also the official language of several (mostly French) dependent territories, the most populous of which is French Polynesia (population 267,000). Finally, French is recognized as a cultural language in the US states Maine and Louisiana, where it may be used for education, commerce, and government services.
|French Guiana||Mayotte||Saint Barthelemy|
|French Polynesia||New Brunswick*||Saint Martin|
|Guadeloupe||New Caledonia||Saint Pierre and Miquelon|
|Jersey*||Reunion||Wallis and Futuna|
Note: Regions marked with * are administered by Canada (New Brunswick) or the UK (Jersey) and utilize French as a Co-Official language. All other regions are administered by France and use French as the sole official language.
Linguistically, French is an Indo-European Romance language with roots tracing back to the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire. French speaking people and countries are often referred to as Francophones in both French and English. According to the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), the Earth is home to approximately 321 million Francophones. Similar estimates indicate that French is used by at least 76 million native speakers as well as 235 million fluent daily speakers and another 77-110 users for whom French is a secondary language.
|Guinea-Bissau||15.37%||Sao Tome and Principe||20.18%|
Sole or Co-Official
|Central African Republic||country||Co-Official|
|French Guiana||French overseas region||Sole|
|French Polynesia||French territory||Sole|
|Guadeloupe||French overseas region||Sole|
|Jersey||UK crown dependency||Co-Official|
|Martinique||French overseas region||Sole|
|Mayotte||French overseas region||Sole|
|New Caledonia||French territory||Sole|
|Republic of the Congo||country||Sole|
|Reunion||French overseas region||Sole|
|Saint Barthelemy||French territory||Sole|
|Saint Martin||French territory||Sole|
|Saint Pierre and Miquelon||French territory||Sole|
|Wallis and Futuna||French territory||Sole|
French is the official language of 13 countries, but there are also 16 countries where the language is the co-official language, as well as several territories where French is an official language.