The French Speaking World

There Are Best 3 Different Circles in the French Language

The first circle includes mother-tongue Francophones who have long lived in a relatively small area, France, Walloon Belgium and Brussels, French speaking Switzerland, and Quebec. In this space, the majority of French speakers are monolingual.

A second circle is made up of populations from partially French-speaking countries and regions, all bilingual or multilingual, in sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Ocean, in North Africa, in the Middle East, in Haiti, in Vanuatu, in the departments and territories. Overseas French…, who use French as their language of use or second language and master it at quite different levels of language.

A third circle is made up of occasional Francophones, who master the language to varying degrees and use it occasionally, in addition to their mother tongue (s) or vehicular language (s), everywhere in the world. . Included in the latter group are people who have learned French in non-French-speaking contexts, either as a language of instruction or as a foreign language.

The French-speaking linguistic space formed by these three circles represented, in 2018, according to the Observatoire de la langue française, around 300 million people. [1]

This estimate should be viewed with caution. It is, in fact, very difficult to know with precision the number of speakers of the most widely spoken languages in the world. The table below, taken from the site Ethnologue, [2] allows us to locate the French language, among the 10 most spoken languages.

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At the risk of surprising us, let us underline that there have never been so many people who speak French in the world as today and that this figure is constantly and sharply increasing. This is how the OIF estimated the number of Francophones at 175 million in 2005 [1], 228 million in 2010 [2], and 273.8 million in 2014 [3].

Another important finding: one of the strengths of French as a language of international communication is its geographical dispersion. French is, in fact, along with English, the only language is spoken as a mother tongue or second language on the five continents.

Almost 60% of the daily French speakers live in Africa and the Middle East. (44% in sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Ocean and 15% in North Africa and the Near East). 33% live in Europe, including around 28% in France. 7% live in America and they are only 0.3% in Asia and Oceania. Let us stop thinking that France is at the heart of the Francophonie since barely more than a quarter of Francophones are French.

As President Macron rightly observed during his speech at the Institut de France on March 20, 2018, where he presented a plan for the French language in the world and plurilingualism: “We are moving from the old idea of ‘a Francophonie which would be the margin of France to this conviction that the Francophonie is a sphere of which France, with its own responsibility and its historical role, is only an active part, voluntary but conscious of not carrying alone the destiny of French. ”

The French language today is a global language whose center of gravity is in Africa. Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, has become the first French-speaking city in the world.

Another observation: Francophones are overwhelmingly bilingual or multilingual. We speak dialectal Arabic or Berber and French in Morocco and Algeria; Wolof, French and, if applicable one or more other African languages in Senegal; Creole and French in Haiti; Arabic, English, and French in Lebanon; Luxembourgish, French and German in Luxembourg…

But, depending on the country, the rate of French speakers varies considerably. If it is estimated at 97% in France where the population is overwhelmingly monolingual, it goes, according to OIF statistics, from 6% in Rwanda to 73% in the Republic of Mauritius and is, on average, in Africa, below 50% of the population.

And, in this regard, we often have distorted representations. Senegal is often cited as one of the poles of the French-speaking world, but only 26% of Senegalese are French-speaking. We also often refer to the Ivory Coast, which has only 33% French-speaking people, like Algeria. The most French-speaking countries in Africa and the Indian Ocean are Mauritius, Gabon (66%), Congo (59%), Seychelles (53%), Democratic Republic of Congo (51%), and Djibouti (50%).

French is thus the official or co-official language in 29 countries.

It is the only official language in 13 countries, all members of the International Organization of La Francophone:

In Europe: France and Monaco

in Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Congo, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo

 

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