The Main French Speaking Countries

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August 2, 2022

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Have you ever wondered how many countries speak French? Here we explore the main French speaking countries in the world, with some information about the various French dialects and history.

French Speaking Countries

The History of French

French is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world, with over 300 million people speaking it and 29 countries using it as their primary language. According to Babbel, French is the seventh most spoken language.

French is also the procedural language of the EU, used for deliberation in the EU courts.

French is derived from Latin, the language used by the Romans. This is why French is so similar to the other Romance Languages, such as Italian and Spanish. A lot of the words we all use today have origins in Latin, due to the influence of the Roman Empire.

In 1539, French became the state language of France, and François I made it the official administration language. Originally, it was only used by the elite or bourgeoisie, but after the revolution it became France’s official language.


French Speaking Countries

As mentioned before, French is the official language of 29 countries. Some Francophone (French speaking) countries don’t have French as the only official language, such as Canada. 

The most well-known Francophone countries are Canada, Belgium and France, but below is a list of all of them.

French Speaking Countries in Africa

Most of the French speaking countries are actually located in Africa with approximately 115 million Africans speaking the language. A lot of the countries listed below have multiple official languages, French being only one of them.

  • Benin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Comoros
  • Congo
  • Ivory Coast
  • The Democratic Republic of the Congo
    • This is probably the country with the most French speaking population outside of France.
  • Djibouti
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Gabon
  • Guinea
  • Madagascar
  • Mali
  • Niger
  • Rwanda
  • Senegal
  • Seychelles
  • Togo

French Speaking Countries in Europe

French is spoken by roughly twenty percent of European citizens and is the third most common language in Europe (the first being Russian and the second being German).

  • Belgium
    • 4 million native speakers.
    • Third largest French speaking country.
  • France
    • Where the language originated.
    • 65 million native speakers.
  • Luxemburg
  • Monaco
    • The first language of 17,000 people.
  • Switzerland
    • 2 million native speakers.

French Speaking Countries in America

In the continent of America, there are several different variations of French, including Louisiana’s Creole French and the French that is used in Quebec.

Louisiana Creole French came about as a result of a hybrid between French and African languages, due to France controlling the state of Louisiana in 1699 and the influence of African languages during the slave trade.

  • Canada
    • Second largest French speaking country.
    • 7 million native speakers.
  • Haiti

French Speaking Countries in Oceania

  • Vanuatu


Conclusion

While French may not be the only language that is spoken in many of these countries it is commonly spoken and known in all.

Canada is actually an official bilingual country, where both English and French are the official languages. This is partially because the Quebec area of Canada was a French colony at one point in history (1534-1760). 

Also, while all these countries speak French, each has its own dialect, and you will find that in Canada and Belgium, words and phrases can mean different things. For example, “Bienvenue” in Quebec means “You’re welcome” instead of simply “welcome” as it would in France. So, it is important to look into these differences when you are learning the language.

On the topic of different French dialects, you will also find several differences between Northern and Southern France when learning to speak French. For example, when speaking French in Southern France, it is common to say “avec plaisir” when saying “you’re welcome,” though that isn’t used much in Northern France.

If you would like to know more about the differences in the dialect and uses of French in different countries you can find information here and here.
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