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The French Speaking World: 220 Million and Growing

Did you know that over 220 million people belong to the French speaking world? In fact, it is the official language of 29 countries, second only to English! According to the French government, about 40% of them live in Europe, 51% live in Africa and the Middle East, and the nearly 9% remaining live in the Americas, the Caribbean and other islands.

You can see that French is spoken widely around the world!The number of people who speak French is projected to grow in the coming years. This is partly because the birth rate in France is estimated to grow making French the most widely spoken language in Europe. But it is mostly as a result of the growth of Africa in both population and economy.

According the The Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) there will be over 700 million French speakers by the year 2050, 80% of whom will live in Africa. As the continent of Africa becomes one of the world’s major economies and grows in population, French will become more and more important! Let’s break it down.

The French Speaking World: 220 Million and Growing

Europe

Belgium

There are three official languages in Belgium, but 45% of the population belongs to the French speaking world.

France

Mais, bien sȗr! Of course they speak French in France. They invented French in France and the history of it is quite fascinating.

Luxembourg

There are three official languages in this tiny country that is sandwiched between Belgium, France, and Germany. They are French, German, and Luxembourgish (the national language).

Monaco

This small country in France’s mediterranean has a population of just under 40,000 whose official language is French. People also speak Monégasque here.

Switzerland

With four official languages (French, German, Italian and Romansh) 20% of Swiss people are part of the French speaking world.

Sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Ocean

Benin

Eleven million people speak French here, where it is the official language.  Other languages include Fon, Ge, Bariba, Yoruba, Dendi.

Burkina Faso

French is the official language to the 18.6 million people who live here, although other indigenous language are also spoken.

Burundi

The official languages are French and Kirundi in this country of 10 million people.

Cameroon

There are over 200 linguistic groups in Cameroon, but the official languages are French and English. They also speak the languages of Bantu, Semi-Bantu and Sudanic groups.

Comoros

This group of islands is home to 813,000 people whose official languages are French, Arabic, and Comorian.

The Republic of Congo

The official language is French in this central African country of 5 million people.

The Democratic Republic of Congo

Home to some 80 million people, this is a large part of the French speaking world! The official language is French while Lingala, Kiswahili, Kikongo, and Tshiluba are also spoken.

The Ivory Coast

French is the official language in this country of 23.7 million people.

The Republic of Djibouti

French is the official language of this country that is home to just under 1 million people. Arabic, Somali and Afar are also spoken.

Gabon

Gabon has a population of 1.5 million people whose official language is French. Other Bantu group languages are also spoken here.

Guinea

Ten and a half million people call this country home where the official language is French. They also speak Susu, Fulani, and Mandingo.

Equatorial Guinea

This is a small country with 1.2 million people. The official languages are Spanish, French, and (as of 2010) Portuguese.

Madagascar

This island is another big member of the French speaking world with 25 million people. The official languages are Malagasy and French.

Mali

The population of 18.5 million speaks French as the official language. Other major languages spoken include Bambara, Berber, and Arabic.

Niger

The official language of this country of 16.6 million people is French. People also speak Hausa, Songhai, and Arabic.

The Central African Republic

With a population of 4.7 million people, French is the official language, but Sangho is the lingua franca of this country.

Rwanda

Kinyarwanda, French, and English are the official languages of this country of 11.2 million people.

Senegal

In this country of 15.5 million people, French is the official language, and Wolof is the lingua franca.

The Seychelles

The 94,000 inhabitants of these islands speak  French, English, and Seychellois Creole as their official languages.  

Tchad

French and Arabic are the official languages of this country of 11.8 million people.

Togo

The official language of this country of 7.6 million people is French.

North Africa and the Middle East

Although none of these countries counts French as an official language, a little over 15% of the French speaking world lives here.

Algeria

Arabic is the official language of this country, but many people still speak French. In fact, it is the second largest Francophone nation based on the number of speakers, according to the World Atlas.

Egypt

Arabic is the official language, but most educated people here speak fluent English, French, or both.

Mauritania

The official language of this North African country is Arabic, but French is widely spoken.

Morocco

While Arabic is the official language, French is considered the country’s unofficial second language.

Qatar

Again, Arabic is the official language of this African country. But the people who live here speak many other languages too, including French.

Tunisia

The official language is Arabic here too, but French is also widely spoken.

The Americas and the Caribbean

Canada

Canada is home to 7.2 million French speakers, most of whom live in Quebec, where it is the official language.

French Guiana

Located on the northeast coast of South America this is actually a department of France. French is the official language here, bien sȗr!

Guadeloupe

This is a French island in the Caribbean that is home to about 400,000 members of the French speaking world.

Haiti

Found in the Caribbean, this country counts Haitian Creole and French as the official languages.

Martinique

Another French island in the Caribbean, Martinique is home to over 300,000 French speakers.

United States

Louisiana, the state named after King Louis XIV, has a large French speaking population numbering around 200,000. Like all French speakers, they are very proud of their language and some even want to see it make a come back!

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