We know French is one of the most beautiful languages in the world, but how about some basic data. Do we know how many French speakers there are? Where is French spoken? How many French-speaking countries there are? In which international organizations is French an official language? Let's talk basic facts and figures about the French language.
Arriving at a definitive statistic for the number of French speakers today in the world is not an easy task. According to the "Ethnologue Report," In 2018, French was spoken by nearly 280 million first-language speakers and another 200 million second-language speakers. The same report said French is the second most commonly taught second language in the world (after English).
Another source, "La Francophonie dans le monde 2006-2007," look at it differently:
128 million francophones: speak French (as a native or adopted language) fluently and use it on a regular basis.
72 million "partiel" (partial) francophones: live in a francophone country but do not speak French regularly, due to limited knowledge.
100-110 million students of all ages: do not live in a francophone country, but have learned/are learning French in order to communicate with francophones.
French is spoken officially in 33 countries. That is, there are 33 countries in which French is either the official language, or one of the official languages. This number is second only to English, which is spoken officially in 45 countries. French and English are the only languages spoken as a native language on five continents and the only languages taught in every country in the world.
Countries Where French is the Official Language
French is the official language of France and its overseas territories* as well as 14 other countries:
In many countries, French plays an important role, either as an administrative, commercial or international language or simply due to a significant French-speaking population.
The Canadian provinces of Ontario, Alberta, and Manitoba have smaller but still significant French-speaking populations compared to Québec, which accounts for the largest French-speaking population in Canada.
Countries Loosely Associated With 'la Francophonie'
Although official information about what role French plays in the following countries is scant, French is spoken and taught there, and these countries are members of or associated with la Francophonie.
French is considered an international language not only because it is spoken in dozens of countries, but also because it is one of the official working languages in many important international organizations.
Organizations Where French Is an Official Working Language
The numbers in parentheses indicate the total number of official working languages for each organization.