Learning a language can open doors to new opportunities and experiences, and French is no exception. With its global reach, learning French can take you to a surprising number of countries all over the world. Whether you're just starting out with the basics or are a more advanced learner looking for a challenge, you might be curious about where exactly French is spoken.
In fact, French is used as a national language in more countries than any other language besides English. This means that by learning French, you'll be able to communicate in two of the world's most widely spoken languages, making you a true global citizen. So if you're looking to expand your horizons and discover new cultures, learning French might be just the ticket!
In addition to France, French is spoken across every continent in dozens of countries worldwide, including French-speaking nations, French Overseas Territories, and non-native speakers of the language. This means that learning French is a valuable skill that can be applied in a wide range of contexts around the globe.
The extent of the Francophone world may surprise you, with French being spoken in diverse regions all over the world. Curious to learn more? Let's dive in and discover just how vast the Francophone world truly is!
How many French-speaking countries are there in the world?
There are 29 countries in the world that have French as their national or official language, as well as 11 French Overseas Territories that are administrative subdivisions of France outside of mainland Europe. These countries and regions are spread across all continents, including Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, North and South America, and Oceania.
In addition, if you include countries where French is used as an administrative language, the list expands to include Laos and Cambodia, making French a language spoken on every continent.
To help visualize the extent of the French language, the countries that speak French are broken down by continent or region, with additional information provided for each country, including population, flag, and capital. This highlights the linguistic and cultural diversity that exists within the Francophone world and the importance of learning French for communicating with diverse populations globally.
If you're curious to find out which countries speak French, the following sections break down the Francophone world by continent or region. By providing more information about each country, including population, flag, and capital, this list makes it easier to understand the true extent of the French language worldwide. Seeing the geographic reach of French may also help to put its linguistic diversity into perspective, as the language is used by many different cultures to communicate.
The data for this list is sourced from the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie and Laval University in Québec, ensuring that the information is accurate and up-to-date. Without further ado, let's explore the diverse range of countries that speak French!
French-speaking countries of Africa
Africa has the largest number of French-speaking countries, making it the continent with the most French speakers in the world. French has become a widely used lingua franca in most of Eastern Africa, while Northern African countries tend to use Arabic and Central and Southern African countries use Swahili and English, respectively.
There are 21 African countries that use French as a national or official language.
- Burkina Faso
- Central African Republic
- Côte d'Ivoire
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- Equatorial Guinea
French-speaking countries of Europe
Many people are aware that French is spoken in France, but not everyone knows that there are actually four other countries in Europe where French is also spoken.
French-speaking countries and cities in North America
If you live in the United States, you may already be aware that Canada has a French-speaking region. Quebec, the largest province of Canada, predominantly speaks French, with over 93% of its population being able to speak the language. New Brunswick also has a significant French-speaking population, with 42% of its residents being able to speak French.
French-speaking countries of the Caribbean
You may be surprised to learn that Haiti is the only country in the Caribbean that uses French as its national language. You might be wondering about Martinique, Guadeloupe, and St. Barts, but these are actually Overseas France territories, which means they are technically French territories.
French-speaking countries of Oceania
French is spoken in Oceania as well, with Australia and New Zealand sometimes referred to as "the Antipodes," which is a point on Earth that is diametrically opposite to your location. In this case, Oceania is generally considered to be the antipode of Europe. Despite the distance, the French language has made its way to the opposite side of the globe from France. Vanuatu is a French-speaking country in Oceania, with approximately 31% of the population speaking French.
French Overseas Territories where French is spoken
As mentioned previously, France has several significant overseas territories that are considered French soil for all intents and purposes. Most of these territories have their own senators and, until recently, had their own representation in the European Parliament. Even though these territories are not sovereign nations, they are recognized as separate entities and can be considered countries for the purposes of our discussion.
- French Guiana
- French Polynesia
- Saint Barthelemy
- Saint Martin
- Saint Pierre and Miquelon
- Wallis and Futuna
- New Caledonia
Where else is French spoken where it’s not an official language?
It's worth noting that just because French isn't an official language of a country doesn't mean that it isn't widely spoken. Many countries around the world have a significant Francophone population, with at least 10% of the population in each of the countries listed below speaking French.
- The Gambia 20.02%
- Mauritius 72.63%
- São Tomé and Príncipe 20.18%
- Lebanon 38%
- Morocco 35.63%
- Tunisia 52.47%
- Andorra 70.13%
- Algeria 32.86%
- Italy 19.58%
- Portugal 25.12%
- Cabo Verde 10.74%
- Guinea-Bissau 15.37%
- Mauritania 13.38%
- Romania 11.99%
- Austria 12.86%
- Ireland 12.67%
- Malta 13.06%
- Germany 14.66%
- Spain 11.71%
- Netherlands 19.21%
- United Kingdom 16.47%
Honourable mentions of other countries where French is spoken
French is a highly popular language globally, with many people choosing to study it as a foreign language, even if their country doesn't have any significant ties to France or the former French Empire. The countries below all have at least half a million French speakers.
- United States
How many people in the world speak French?
As of 2023, there are over 321 million French speakers around the world, with less than 100 million of them speaking French as their native language. This makes French one of the languages with the highest number of non-native speakers in relation to native speakers.
Two main factors contribute to this phenomenon. Firstly, many countries use French as one of their official languages, which makes it a common lingua franca in those regions. Secondly, French is one of the most popular languages to learn worldwide, due in part to the strong influence of French culture across the world, including cuisine, media, literature, and the arts. There is an intrinsic appeal to French that draws learners from all corners of the globe.
What are the countries with the most French speakers?
It may not be surprising that France has the highest number of French speakers in the world. However, the countries that follow may not be as obvious. While one might guess Canada, Belgium, or Switzerland, these countries do not make the top five. Check out the table below to discover the five countries with the most French speakers worldwide (the last one may surprise you!).
- France - 66 million French speakers
- Democratic Republic of Congo - 48.9 million French speakers
- Algeria - 14.9 million French speakers
- Morocco - 13.4 million French speakers
- Germany - 12.3 million French speakers
How French became a global language
After reading this article, you may be curious about how French became such a global phenomenon.
While English has become the current global language due in part to the massive English-speaking economies of the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, and other countries with significant English-speaking populations such as India, Nigeria, and the Philippines, you may wonder how France managed to make its language so global.
Several reasons contribute to this phenomenon, and some of the most significant ones are outlined below.
Influence within Europe
The French language gained significant influence in Europe from an early age. In the 11th century, French was adopted by the English aristocracy for official and legal use within the English court system and upper society, well before France began exploring the world outside of Europe. At this time, Latin was the dominant language in Europe and used for scientific, academic, and political discourse.
The Peace of Westphalia Treaty marked a significant turning point for the French as it was the first international document of major importance that was written entirely in French. After this, the French slowly replaced Latin as the most important lingua franca in Europe. By the 19th century, French had become the most important language among the educated all across Europe, with even the Russian nobility speaking French, and Prince Dmitry Golitsyn famously speaking terrible Russian with a thick French accent.
French became an important language outside of Europe because of French colonization. The French Empire was once the second-largest empire in the world and remains one of the largest empires in the history of humanity.
As the French Empire expanded, so did the reach of the French language worldwide. France had over 60 colonies in every corner of the Earth, and many former colonies still have significant French-speaking populations today, with some using French as the national language.
As previously mentioned, remnants of the French Empire were incorporated into France as Overseas Territories, ensuring that the impact and influence of France’s colonial ambitions can still be felt today.
Although France had a much larger empire, the Belgian Empire also played a role in the Francosphere and had colonies in Africa, Asia, and North America.
The most significant linguistic impact of the Belgian Empire is the Francophonie in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the most populous French-speaking country. Its population is expected to more than triple to 360 million people by the year 2099. Thus, it can be said that Belgium is responsible for being the largest French-speaking country today.
France has a long history of preserving and promoting the French language through institutions such as the Académie Française, which was founded in 1635, and the Alliance Française, which is responsible for promoting French culture and language worldwide. With close to a thousand institutes in over 130 countries, Alliance Française offers students the opportunity to learn more about French culture and language, watch French movies, and borrow or purchase French books. The success of Alliance Française is significant, as it is the oldest and largest of all European language institutes, surpassing the British Council, the Goethe Institute, and the Cervantes Institute.
The official language of international organizations
French is indeed the official language of many important international organizations, including the United Nations, the European Union, the International Olympic Committee, the International Red Cross, and many more. This means that French is used in diplomatic, political, economic, and cultural contexts all around the world. It also ensures that French is used in important negotiations and agreements and that it remains a crucial language for international relations.
Some of the most important organizations in which French is an official or working language are:
- The United Nations
- The World Trade Organization
- The European Union
- The International Court of Justice
- The International Red Cross
- The International Olympic Committee
And many, many more!
The future of the French language
The French language is not a dying language, but rather a language of the future, with Forbes predicting that French will have over one billion speakers by 2065, more than triple the current number of speakers, and is expected to displace Spanish and Arabic in terms of a total number of speakers, largely due to the developing francophone countries, particularly in Africa where French is one of the three lingua franca along with English and Arabic, which is expected to experience a population boom, as the francophone African countries double or even triple their population over the next few decades.
FAQs about countries that speak French
Is French still useful worldwide?
French's status as the official language of many international organizations, including the United Nations, the European Union, and the International Olympic Committee, makes it an important language for diplomacy and international relations. Additionally, French is a major language in the fields of science, technology, fashion, and cuisine, making it useful for business and cultural exchange.
Is French or Spanish more useful?
While French may be a more powerful language in certain contexts, such as international business or diplomacy, Spanish is more commonly spoken in the United States and many countries in Latin America. So, if you live in an area with a significant Spanish-speaking population or if you plan to travel or do business in a Spanish-speaking country, learning Spanish would likely be more useful. Ultimately, the choice of which language to learn depends on individual goals and circumstances.
What country has the best French accent?
Metropolitan French — also known as Parisian French — is generally considered to be the best French accent. That is because it’s considered to be standard or “accentless” French. Of course, whether or not Metropolitan French is the best accent or not ultimately depends on who you ask!
If you’re trying to find the best French accent for learners, then the Southern French accent may be what you’re looking for. People in the South of France tend to speak much more slowly and clearly than Parisians, making them easier to understand for foreign language learners.
Is African French different from French France?
One of the fascinating things about languages is how they can evolve and take on unique characteristics depending on where they are spoken. Regional variations and slang are a natural part of any language, and French is no exception. Exploring the slang and regional differences in French can add a whole new dimension to learning the language and help you better understand the culture and people who speak it.
Keep up with the Francosphere
If you're looking for a new language to learn, we hope that this article has piqued your interest in French. With so many countries around the world using French as an official or second language, the benefits of learning French are clear. Whether you're interested in French for business, travel, or just for fun, the opportunities for using the language are nearly limitless. And if you're ready to get started, don't forget to check out our French language courses.