French is one of the most significant languages in the world. It is the official language of more than 25 countries. There are 280 million French speakers, of which 79.9 million are natives. French, like English and Spanish, is spoken in 29 nations and has spread throughout the world thanks to the French colonial empire.
It is the language of culture and has the third-highest number of non-native speakers. French is France’s first language and one of the United Nations’ six official languages. Furthermore, it is the second most common language in the European Union. Along with English and German, French is the official language of all European Union institutes.
Considerably, French is a scientific and literary language at a global level. It is also the second language of several international organizations, including the United Nations, the European Union, NATO, and the World Trade Organization. With such appreciation, French is the world’s 16th most natively spoken language and the world’s 5th most spoken native language.
A Brief History of the French Language
The history of Old French dates from 800 CE. The first ever French document was written in 842 CE. It was a Roman version of oaths – known as Strasbourg Oaths – penned down by two of Charlemagne’s grandsons. Although, that was not a purely French text as it was thinly disguised with Latin-constructed words. The second French text was written in 880 – 882 CE by Prudentius on the life of St. Eulalia. Later, in the 12th – 13th century French dialects became dominant and became literary language. Because of the exceptional literary works, Frech started to be known as the Language of Romance.
In the late 13th century, the French started to revolutionize with the addition of northern features. In the 14th century, French had more prestige, in the literary sphere, and in the 15th century, it proved as the most popular written language as opposed to Latin and other dialects.
List of French Speaking Countries in Europe
Due to its rich history and significance in literary works, French is an important language in the European region. Other than English, French is the second most spoken language in Europe. It has been around for centuries and has been evolving with time.
Looking at history, French was a common language of people from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Its journey from country to country makes it an ideal vehicle for communication between people.
Furthermore, the significance of French in the business world is also impeccable. Many global organizations including International Olympic Committee use French as their official language. Moreover, French is one of the most taught languages in the world. Students from different regions prefer to learn French as their second language. Here, we have prepared the list of French-speaking countries in Europe, and we bet you must already know the first name on the list, that’s:
French is the official language of France. Although the language revolved a lot and came across multiple countries, it settled down in France – a country with a rich history and culture. French is a language inspired by other languages such as Germanic and Latin, like English and Dutch. In the early French texts, a clear essence of Latin words can be seen.
Today, French has become the national language of France, and about 80% of natives speak French. However, the remaining speak it as a second language. The “standard” French also called the Metropolitan French dialect, is taught in most schools in the region and is primarily spoken in Paris. Metropolitan French is not the only dialect in France; it is also a regional dialect of South France, including Marseille, Avignon, and Toulouse regions.
The second French-speaking country is Belgium. It is a linguistically and culturally diverse country. Belgium has a very wide French-speaking population. Moreover, the country has 1.16 million population of which 75% are French speakers. Brussels, the capital of Belgium, has been a French-speaking city since the 14th century. Other than that, several small towns founded by French settlers still exist, retaining the essence of their French language and culture.
According to the officials and lawmakers at the time of the independence of the country, French should be the official language of the newly independent country. However, Dutch speakers gained the authority and pushed back on this decision. Today, there are two official languages in Belgium, the one is French and the second is Dutch. In Belgium, French has two dialects. The first one is the dialect of the Wallonia region, which borders France and the second is the dialect of the Flemish region which borders the Netherlands.
The third French-speaking country in Europe is Luxembourg. It is located in Western Europe, sharing the borders with France and Belgium. Although it is a small country, it has a 43% French-speaking population. Most of the Luxembourg people speak French as a native language while the remaining use it as a second language. Most people also speak German and Luxembourgish.
There is a historical impact of French on the country. At the time when Luxembourg was founded, French speakers had a prestigious status in politics that continued to shape the linguistic settings of the language in the country. A thing that makes Luxembourg a highly influential region is its style. Most people use a combination of French and Luxembourgish for conversation. Moreover, French is another regime students learn in schools, but Luxembourgish and German come first. The Metropolitan French is the most spoken dialect in Luxembourg, then comes the Belgian and Swiss dialects.
Monaco is a state, famous as a destination for the wealthy. It is a small country located in the French Riviera but one of the top official French-speaking countries in Europe. In Monaco, 97% of the population speaks French as their first language. Moreover, the international language schools are also one of the main reasons for the significance of this country. Other than French, they taught English and other languages.
Italian is another dominant and primary language in Monaco. Therefore, French and Italian were not always the common languages in Monaco. The Monaco residents used to speak Monegasque; a dialect of Ligurian before France annexed the territory in 1893. As the government failed to preserve it, the Monegasque nearly died out in the 1920s. That’s why, native Monegasque speakers are rare to find.
Last on the list of our French-speaking European countries in Europe is Switzerland. It is a country with multiple languages of which the most significant are French, German, and Italian. Notably, 22% of the Swiss population speaks French. However, their dialect of French, known as Swiss French, is slightly different from the Metropolitan French.
Like the above, French is also the official language is Switzerland and is an important language for diplomacy and business. There are schools available to offer French courses and the availability of French speakers helps you to improve your French skills by practicing in everyday life.
Countries Where French is Spoken as a Second Language
Above, we have discussed the European countries that speak French and use it as an official language. Moreover, there are many other overseas territories considered French soil for all purposes and intents. In the following countries, French is the second language and also has significance as the language of officials. Here is the list:
- Saint Barthelemy
- French Guiana
- French Polynesia
- Saint Martin
- Saint Miquelon and Pierre
- Futuna and Wallis
- New Caledonia
Countries Where French is Spoken but Not as an Official Language
Next, we have the list of countries, where French is neither a second language nor an official language, but still, they count as French-speaking countries because at least 10% of the population of each country speaks or understands French. Here is the list:
- The Gambia
- Sao Tome
- Cabo Verde
- United Kingdom
French is the Official Language of International Organizations
Nothing can deny the significance of French as an official language. It is indeed the official language of many international organizations. It shows the global importance of French in the fields of politics, diplomacy, economics, and cultural contexts. Moreover, it also implies that French is a crucial language for international relations and the language of important agreements and negotiations between officials. Here is the list of international organizations in which French is an official language:
- The International Court of Justice
- The United Nations
- The European Nations
- The World Trade Organization
- The International Olympic Committee
- The International Red Cross
An Insight into the Future of the French Language
Looking at the history of the French language and its importance in almost every field; we can consider the significance of the language. According to a report, Forbes predicts that the French language will have 1 billion speakers by 2065 which is considerably a huge number for a language. Also, the prediction says that the French will displace the Arabic and Spanish speakers due to its francophone countries, particularly in Africa where French is one of the three local languages along with Arabic and English. So, in the coming years, the French language will see a population boom in terms of the number of populations.