About French Language
French (français, French pronunciation: [fʁɑ̃sɛ]) is a Romance language spoken as a first language by about 136 million people, worldwide. Around 190 million people speak French as a second language, and an additional 200 million speak it as an acquired foreign language. French speaking communities are present in 57 countries and territories. Most native speakers of the language live in France, where the language originated. The rest live essentially in Canada, particularly Quebec, as well as Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and certain places in the U.S. states of Maine and Louisiana. Most second-language speakers of French live in Francophone Africa, arguably exceeding the number of native speakers.
French is a descendant of the Latin language of the Roman Empire, as are national languages such as Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian and Catalan, and minority languages ranging from Occitan to Neapolitan and many more. Its closest relatives however are the other langues d'oïl and French-based creole languages. Its development was also influenced by the native Celtic languages of Roman Gaul and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders.
It is an official language in 29 countries, most of which form what is called, in French, La Francophonie, the community of French-speaking nations. It is an official language of all United Nations agencies and a large number of international organizations. According to the European Union, 129 million (or 26% of the Union's total population), in 27 member states speak French, of which 65 million are native speakers and 69 million claim to speak French either as a second language or as a foreign language, making it the third most spoken second language in the Union, after English and German. Twenty-percent of non-Francophone Europeans know how to speak French, totalling roughly 145.6 million people. In addition, prior to the mid 20th century, French served as the pre-eminent language of diplomacy among European and colonial powers as well as a lingua franca among the educated classes of Europe.
As a result of France's extensive colonial ambitions between the 17th and 20th centuries, French was introduced to America, Africa, Polynesia, and the Caribbean.
Legal status in France - According to the Constitution of France, French has been the official language since 1992 (although previous legal texts have made it official since 1539, see ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts). France mandates the use of French in official government publications, public education except in specific cases (though these dispositions are often ignored) and legal contracts; advertisements must bear a translation of foreign words.
In addition to French, there are also a variety of regional languages and dialects. France has signed the European Charter for Regional Languages, but has not ratified it since that would go against the 1958 Constitution.
Switzerland - French is one of the four official languages of Switzerland (along with German, Italian and Romansh) and is spoken in the part of Switzerland called Romandie. French is the native language of about 20% of the Swiss population.
Most of Swiss French is mutually compatible with the standard French spoken in France, but it is often used with small differences, such as those involving some numbers.
Belgium - French is the official language of Wallonia (excluding the East Cantons, which are German-speaking) and one of the two official languages (along with Dutch) of the Brussels-Capital Region where it is spoken by the majority of the population, though often not as their primary language. French and German are not official languages nor recognized minority languages in the Flemish Region, although along borders with the Walloon and Brussels-Capital regions, there are a dozen municipalities with language facilities for French speakers. A mirror situation exists for the Walloon Region with respect to the Dutch and German languages. In total, native French speakers make up about 40% of the country's population, while the remaining 60% speak Dutch as a first language. Of the latter, 59% claim to speak French as a second language, meaning that about three quarters of the Belgian population can speak French.
Monaco & Andorra - Although Monégasque is the national language of the Principality of Monaco, French is the only official language, and French nationals make up some 47% of the population.
Catalan is the only official language of Andorra; however, French is commonly used because of the proximity to France. French nationals make up 7% of the population.
Italy - French is also an official language, along with Italian, in the small region of Aosta Valley, Italy, although most people speak the Franco-Provençal dialect, they use standard French to write. That is because the international recognition of Franco-Provençal as a separated language was quite recent.
Luxembourg - French is one of three official languages of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, alongside German and Luxembourgish, the natively spoken language of Luxembourg. Luxembourg's education system is trilingual: the first years of primary school are in Luxembourgish, before changing to German; while in secondary school, the language of instruction changes to French.
The United Kingdom & the Channel Islands -
French is a large minority language and immigrant language in the UK, with over 300,000 French-born people in the UK. It is also the most popular foreign language. French is understood by 23% of the UK population.
A large portion of words of the English language (originating in Great Britain) are of French root or origin. This is partly due to the Norman Invasion, which led to Norman French becoming the language of administration for a period in history and the use of French by sections of the aristocracy and upper classes (while the peasants and lower classes spoke an Anglo-Saxon language).
French is an official language in Jersey and Guernsey, the two bailiwicks collectively referred to as the Channel Islands, although they are separate entities. Both use French to some degree, mostly in an administrative or ceremonial capacity. Jersey Legal French is the standardized variety used in Jersey. However, Norman is the historical vernacular langue d'Oïl of the islands.
Canada - French is the second most common language in Canada, after English, and both are official languages at the federal level. French is the sole official language in the province of Quebec, being the mother tongue for some 6.8 million people, or almost 80.1 % (2006 Census) of the Province. About 95.0 % of the people of Quebec speak French as either their first or second language, and for some as their third language. Quebec is also home to the city of Montreal, which is the second largest French speaking city, by number of first language speakers. New Brunswick, where about a third of the population is francophone, is the only officially bilingual province. Portions of Eastern Ontario, Northeastern Ontario, Nova Scotia and Manitoba have sizable French minorities, but its prescription as an official language in those jurisdictions and the level of francophone services varies. Smaller pockets of French speakers exist in all other provinces. 10,170,000 Canadians can speak French as either a first or second language, or 30.6% of the country. Due to the increased bilingual school programs in English Canada, the portion of Canadians proficient in French has risen significantly in the past two decades, and is still rising.
In Quebec, where the majority of French-speaking Canadians live, the Office québécois de la langue française (English: Quebec Board of the French language) regulates Quebec French and ensures the Charter of the French Language (Bill 101) is respected. As Québécois live near to English-speaking regions, they are more sensitive about the language situation than the European French speakers are, and many object to the use of English words in French (anglicisms). Thus, while the word "stop" is accepted in international French, the Government of Quebec has mandated the French translation "arrêt" for use on stop signs.
Haiti - French is an official language of Haiti, although it is mostly spoken by the upper class, while Haitian Creole (a French-based creole language) is more widely spoken as a mother tongue.
French overseas departments & territories in the Americas French is also the official language in France's overseas departments and territories of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Barthélemy, St. Martin and Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.
The United States French language spread in the United States. Counties marked in yellow are those where 6–12% of the population speak French at home; brown, 12–18%; red, over 18%. French-based creole languages are not included.French is the fourth most-spoken language in the United States, after English, Spanish and Chinese, and the second most-spoken in the states of Louisiana, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. Louisiana is home to many distinct dialects, of which Cajun French has the largest number of speakers. According to the 2000 US Census, there are over 194,000 people in Louisiana who speak French at home, the most of any state if Creole French is excluded.
Brazil - The French language in Brazil was spoken in brief period at the colonial attempts in France antarctique and France ecquinociale. Also, the language was used by the small community of French immigrants and expatriates in the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries.
Today the Karipuna indigenous community (nearly 30,000 people) of Amapá in North Brazil speaks a French creole, the Lanc-Patuá, possibly related to the French Guiana Creole.
Africa - A majority of the world's French-speaking population lives in Africa. According to the 2007 report by the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, an estimated 115 million African people spread across 31 Francophone African countries can speak French as either a first or a second language.
French is mostly a second language in Africa, but it has become a first language in some areas, such as the region of Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire and in Libreville, Gabon. It is not possible to speak of a single form of African French, but rather of diverse forms of African French which have developed because of the contact with many indigenous African languages.
In the territories of the Indian Ocean, the French language is often spoken alongside French-derived creole languages, the major exception being Madagascar. There, a Malayo-Polynesian language (Malagasy) is spoken alongside French.
Sub-Saharan Africa is the region where the French language is most likely to expand, because of the expansion of education and rapid demographic growth. It is also where the language has evolved the most in recent years. Some vernacular forms of French in Africa can be difficult to understand for French speakers from other countries, but written forms of the language are very closely related to those of the rest of the French-speaking world.
French is an official language in many African countries, most of them former French or Belgian colonies