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.
Which countries speak French?
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.
Countries in Which French is the Sole Official Language:
|Benin||Gabon||Mali||Republic of the Congo|
|DR Congo||Ivory Coast||Niger||Togo|
Countries in Which French is a Co-Official Language:
|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.
Non-Country Territories in Which French is an Official Language:
|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.
Additional Countries in Which French is Spoken by At Least 10% of the Population:
|Guinea-Bissau||15.37%||Sao Tome and Principe||20.18%|