Do you know where are the French speaking countries? How many parts of the world use French as an official language?
Ever seen the francophonie flag?
French speaking countries in Europe
As well as in France, French is an official language in Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Monaco and Andorra.
In Belgium there are about 4 million people who speak French.
In Luxembourg everyone speaks French and German.
Switzerland has three official languages: German, French, Italian. 20% are French-speaking then more than 1 million people live in the French part of Switzerland.
Andorra is a small state jointly administered by France and Spain. Consequently all these people speak French and Spanish.
Monaco is a small French kingdom close to the Italian border.
In north-western Italy, close to the French border, people are very often bilingual, speaking Italian and French.
French speaking countries in Africa
Twenty-four states in Africa have French as an official language.… Or half of the African mainland is French-speaking!
You’re probably wondering why?
Well, the use of French spread in Africa as France expanded its overseas empire in the 19th century.Today, many former colonies are still French-speaking as French is widely used as a language for business communications.
French speaking parts of the world
In the 1950s and 1960s many French colonies gained independence from France. But some decided to stay French.
These are called French overseas provinces or French overseas territories.
Overseas provinces are considered to be part of the French mainland where people can elect representatives to the French parliament.
The small island Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon is all that is left of the territory the French once held in North America.
The Caribbean islands la Martinique and la Guadeloupe, with over 700 000 inhabitants, were visited by Christopher Columbus in 1493. They are now very popular holiday destinations for French people. Their everyday language is a mixture of French and West African languages. Same for the food based on French and African recipes! Delicious!
French Guiana lies on the South American continent next to Brazil. The launching site for the European space rocket is in Kourou, the 3rd city of French Guiana.
La Reunion is a beautiful volcanic island (still active) in the Indian Ocean with over half a million inhabitants. The people come from many places. In the 17th century French settlers brought African and Indian slaves to work in sugar cane plantations. In 1880, Chinese people came to work on the island.
Mayotte was an overseas territory until 2011. This small island in the Indian Ocean is now an overseas province, part of the French mainland.
Overseas territories are French speaking countries, or further French states of the world which are not part of the French mainland. These are the South Pacific islands such as French Polynesia, the New Caledonia, Wallis-et-Futuna and the terres australes antarctiques.
Francophonie in North America
As I said earlier, Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon is all that is left of the territory the French once held in North America. For instance, Louisiana in the USA was originally a French colony.
However, Canada is officially a bilingual country, using English and French. French is the main language in the eastern province of Quebec, where over a quarter of Canada’s population live. Then more than 5 million of the Canadian population is French-speaking.
Quebec’s provincial capital is Quebec city, the oldest city in Canada by the way. It was founded in 1608 by French explorer Samuel Champlain. The French territory existed in Canada more than 150 years until 1763 when the British took it over from the French.
Montreal, Canada’s largest city, has a population of 3 million and is the second largest French-speaking city in the world.
French was also spoken in the South-East Asian countries of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.