French-Speaking Countries

French speaking countries
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Pays francophones

Though it’s named for the roughly hexagonally shaped country that we all know and love in Western Europe, the French language extends far beyond the borders of France, in myriad and frankly confusing ways. This page covers the basics but I think the full story could easily become a dissertation.

Official Language

French is an official language in a total of 29 countries: the single official language in 13 and one of two or more in another 16:

Belgium la Belgique one of three
Benin le Bénin official
Burkina Faso le Burkina Faso official
Burundi le Burundi one of three
Cameroon le Cameroun one of two
Canada le Canada one of two
Central African Republic la Centrafique one of two
Chad le Tchad one of two
Comoros les Comores one of three
Congo (formerly Zaire) la Rép. démocratique du Congo official
Djibouti le Djibouti one of two
Equatorial Guinea la Guinée équatoriale one of three
France* la France official
Gabon le Gabon official
Guinea la Guinée official
Haiti le Haïti one of two
Ivory Coast la Côte d’Ivoire official
Luxembourg le Luxembourg one of three
Madagascar le Madagascar one of two
Mali le Mali official
Monaco Monaco official
Niger le Niger official
Republic of Congo la République du Congo official
Rwanda le Rwanda one of four
Senegal le Sénégal official
Seychelles les Seychelles one of three
Switzerland la Suisse one of four
Togo le Togo official
Vanuatu la Vanuatu one of three

* France itself isn’t limited to Europe either – it also includes a dozen overseas departments and territories (les DOM-TOM). See the list at the end of 7 Names for France.

Regional Importance

Specific regions in some multilingual countries are more francophone than others:

  • Belgium: Wallonia region
  • Canada: Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Québec provinces
  • Switzerland: Genève, Jura, Neuchâtel, Vaud districts

French is also found in certain areas of otherwise non-francophone countries, sometimes with an official status:

  • Channel Islands: Guernsey, Jersey
  • India: Pondicherry
  • Italy: Valle d’Aosta
  • United States: Connecticut, Louisiana, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont

Francophile Countries

Another 50+ countries are connected to France and therefore French historically, and use the language for specific domains (e.g., administration, commerce, law), have significant French-speaking populations, and/or promote the French language to their citizens. Most are therefore members or observers of la Francophonie:

  1. Albania
  2. Algeria**
  3. Andorra
  4. Argentina
  5. Armenia
  6. Austria
  7. Bosnia-Herzegovina
  8. Bulgaria
  9. Cambodia
  10. Cape Verde
  11. Costa Rica
  12. Croatia
  13. Cyprus
  14. Czech Republic
  15. Dominican Republic
  16. Egypt
  17. Estonia
  18. Gambia
  19. Georgia
  20. Greece
  21. Guinea-Bissau
  22. Hungary
  23. Ireland
  24. Kosovo
  25. Laos
  26. Latvia
  27. Lebanon
  28. Lithuania
  29. Malta
  30. Mauritania
  31. Mauritius
  32. Mexico
  33. Moldovia
  34. Montenegro
  35. Morocco
  36. Mozambique
  37. North Macedonia
  38. Poland
  39. Qatar
  40. Romania
  41. São Tomé and Príncipe
  42. Serbia
  43. Slovakia
  44. Slovenia
  45. South Korea
  46. Thailand
  47. Tunisia
  48. Ukraine
  49. United Arab Emirates
  50. Uruguay
  51. Vatican City**
  52. Venezuela**
  53. Vietnam

** Not a member of La Francophonie. This is particularly noteworthy for Algeria, which is second only to France in the number of native French speakers.

French Creoles

Many Caribbean islands use a variety of Antillean Creole French as a lingua franca. These dialects have varying amounts of French and English influence but are, in general, mutually comprehensible. This includes French islands (Guadeloupe, Martinique) as well as some English-speaking islands:

  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Saint Lucia
  • Trinidad and Tobago

Antillean Creole is also related to and mutually intelligible with Haitian Creole.

 Related features

 Listening practice

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Francophone countries
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