If you watched the 2018 FIFA World cup, like many people, you must have wondered why there are so many French speaking national teams out there. Six world cup national teams, including the 2018 champion, speak French as first or second language. Well, French ranks 6th as the most widely spoken language in the world but unlike other major world languages, it is the fastest growing. Did you know that more than half of all French speakers in the world live in Africa? As the world population continues to rise, it is estimated that the number of French speakers worldwide will be more than 700 million in 2050, with 80% of these in Africa. It is a well-known fact that English is a national and official language in many parts of the world, so who are those people who speak French?
In most countries in Europe and Africa where French is spoken, it coexists in a multilingual context. In Europe for instance, 45% of people speak French in Belgium, 20% in Switzerland and 20% in Luxembourg. Children of parents who already speak French either as a first or second language are increasingly introducing their children to french at an early age, a trend that will be globally felt in 2025 when it is estimated that the leading mother tongue in Europe will be French, followed by Germany and then English.
Like Romanian, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian, French is considered a language of love which originated from basic Latin. After the fall of the Roman empire in the 16th century, French would evolve from dialects spoken in northern France and especially when François I made it the official language in 1539. Today, 29 countries of the world use French as their official language, 14 of which are in Africa. If you have watched EU proceedings, you will notice that the procedural language is French. While the UN does not use French as its official business, it recognizes it as a working language.
Naturally, since it is the birthplace of French, France has the highest number of native French speakers at 62 million, but quite surprisingly The Democratic Republic of Congo has the highest in the world at 77 million. The DRC was initially a Belgian colony but after independence, choose French as an official language for its perceived neutrality. In North America, Canada stands out a French-speaking nation courtesy of government communication and historical literature. While the prevalence of official language status differs from state to state, 36% of the entire population speaks French.
French is spoken in five of the world’s continents; the majority will be found in Africa, North America, and Europe but there are pockets of speakers in Oceania, South America, Asia and the middle east. It is only a matter of time before French takes over the world as a global language; better be ready by studying the language.
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