is the sole language that is a mother tongue in countries on 5 different continents. It is officially spoken in 29 countries that include France, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Algeria, Morocco, Haiti, and Vanuatu. About 120 million people globally speak it as a native tongue, while an estimated 200 million people have acquired it as a second or foreign language. It has a significant group of speakers in roughly 57 countries worldwide and is one of the United Nations and several other international organization’s official languages.
A member of the Indo-European family, French is very similar to some of its other Romance relatives including Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Catalan and Galician. It shares lexical similarity with Italian (89%), Sardinian (80%), Rhaeto-Romance (78%) and equally with Romanian, Spanish and Portuguese (75%). It is written using the Latin script and is based on the commonly used 26 letters of the alphabet, but makes use of its own accented vowels.
French was primarily descended from Vulgar Latin but has evolved out of spoken Latin in northern Gaul and Gallo-Romance dialects from northern France. Because of its base 20 nature, several experts compare the counting system to that of archaic English. It is also noteworthy that before the US became the dominant superpower, French was the most important international language, used for diplomacy between the 17th and mid-20th century.
Dialects and Geographical Distribution of French
Due to France’s extensive expansion overseas in the past, the language travelled farther than most others and is the basis for several Creoles or pidgin versions, such as Haitian Creole (Haiti), Karipúna (Brazil) and Tây Bồi (Vietnam).
Many dialects exist within and outside of Europe, the most widely spoken of which is African-French, which has a sub-branch Maghreb that is spoken in North Africa. Most of these dialects share the same writing system with major differences in intonation and pronunciation and slight ones in vocabulary and word use.
French is the second most spoken language in Canada and a mother tongue for many of its citizens. Other Francophone speakers in N. America are mostly scattered in Maine, Louisiana, New Hampshire and some surrounding counties. While in South America, French-Guiana and Saint Pierre and Miquelon use it an an official means of instruction and communication. It is also spoken in parts of South East Asia, Australasia and the Middle East.
At a glance here are some exciting facts about French and its speakers:
- Behind English and Mandarin Chinese, it has been ranked the 3rd most useful language to learn for business.
- It also ranks 3rd only behind English and Spanish for the largest user community on language-learning app, Duolingo.
- Some historical figures or famous speakers include Joan of Arc, Napoleon, Claude Monet, Coco Chanel and Louis Vuitton.