A language spoken on all five continents
French is one of the very few languages spoken all over the world, ranked the sixth most widely spoken language after Mandarin Chinese (over a billion speakers), English, Hindi, Spanish and Arabic.
There are currently over 220 million French speakers worldwide, including 72 million so-called partial French speakers.
As a result of population growth, the number of French speakers will rise to over 700 million by 2050, 80% of whom will be in Africa. This would take the proportion of French speakers in the world population from 3% to 8%.
French is an official language of 29 countries, second only to English in this category.
A language taught throughout the world
French shares with English the distinction of being taught as a foreign language in the education systems of most countries around the world. French is thus the second most widely learned foreign language in the world, with almost 120 million students and 500,000 teachers.
An estimated 2 million school pupils in some 50 foreign countries are enrolled in bilingual sections with French as one of the languages of instruction.
French is also taught at establishments run by France’s cultural network abroad (Instituts Français and Alliance Française schools), in 133 countries.
An international language of reference
French is one of the working languages of the United Nations alongside English, Spanish, Russian, Arabic and Chinese.
French is one of the three procedural languages of the European Union, along with English and German, and the sole language used for the deliberations of the Court of Justice of the European Union.
It is one of the working languages of many other international institutions:
- the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),
- the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO),
- the World Health Organization (WHO),
- the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF),
- the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA)
A study entitled “The global economic importance of the French language” conducted by the Foundation for International Development Study and Research (FERDI) in 2012 shed useful light on the positive correlation between a country’s membership of the French-speaking community and its trading position. Sharing a common language would appear to boost trade flows by some 33% on average, mainly by bringing down export costs, making it easier for businesses to penetrate a new export market and helping to sustain existing flows.
French also has a role to play in global communication, thanks to international media channels TV5Monde (55 million weekly viewers), France 24 (45.4 million weekly viewers) and RFI (40.1 million listeners).
French also accounts for 5% of Internet pages, ranking between sixth and eighth of the languages most widely used on the Internet.
Source : www.diplomatie.gouv.fr