French (le français [lə fʁɑ̃sɛ] or la langue française [la lɑ̃ɡ fʁɑ̃sɛz]) is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the province of Quebec and the Acadia region in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts of the world, the largest numbers of whom reside in Francophone Africa. In Africa, French is most commonly spoken in Gabon (where 80% report fluency) Mauritius (78%), Algeria (75%), Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire (70%). French is estimated as having between 70 million and 110 million native speakers and 190 million second language speakers. French is the second-most studied foreign language in the world, after English.
French is a distortion of the spoken Latin language of the Roman Empire, as are languages such as Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian, Sardinian and Catalan. Its closest relatives are the other langues d’oïl, languages historically spoken in northern France and Belgium which have largely been supplanted by French today. The development of French was also influenced by the native Celtic languages of Roman Gaul and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France’s past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole.
It is an official language in 29 countries, most of which form what is called, in French, la francophonie, the community of French-speaking countries. 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 twenty-six percent of the Union’s total population, can speak French, of whom 72 million are native speakers (65 million in France, 4.5 million in Belgium, plus 2.5 million in Switzerland which is not part of the EU) and 69 million are second-language or foreign language speakers, thus making French the third language in the European Union that people state they are most able to speak, after English and German. Twenty percent of non-Francophone Europeans know how to speak French, totaling roughly 145.6 million people in Europe alone.
George Weber, author of “Top Languages: The World’s 10 most influential Languages”, wrote that until the end of the nineteenth century, French had a global dominance similar to that now occupied by English. He said “nobody could pass for educated without the ability to speak French” and “However, French dominance was never so complete as its rival’s is now for the simple reason that 100 years ago large parts of the world were not yet connected to rest as they are all today. In Mongolia it was sufficient to speak Mongolian, in Madagascar Malagasy could get you anywhere. Globalization had not been heard of then.” As a result of extensive colonial ambitions of France and Belgium (at that time governed by a French-speaking elite), between the 17th and 20th centuries, French was introduced to the Americas, Africa, Polynesia, the Levant, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean.
According to a demographic projection led by the Université Laval and the Réseau Démographie de l’Agence universitaire de la francophonie, French will be represented by approximately 500 million people in 2025 and by 650 million people, or approximately seven percent of the world’s population in 2050.
Picked From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia