French is a romance language just like Romanian, Portuguese, and Spanish. It originated from Vulgar Latin, which was the language of the Romans. After the dissolution of the Western Roman Empire, individual territories became culturally and linguistically isolated. French was developed in France, and it replaced Latin as the official language in 1539. Today, approximately 300 million people across the world speak French including the native, non-native, partial speakers, and those who use it as a creole language. Nearly 80 million are native speakers, and more than 220 million use French as the second or third language. French is the sixth most spoken language after Arabic, Spanish, Hindi, English, and Mandarin. In the South Pacific, the French territories of French Polynesia, New Caledonia, and Wallis and Futuna recognize French as the official language.
South Pacific Countries That Speak French
New Caledonia is located in the southwest Pacific Ocean 750 miles east of Australia and 12,000 miles from mainland France. There are over thirty native languages in New Caledonia, but the Constitutional Law 92-554 of June 1992 sets French as the official language.
Although French Polynesia is a French territory, it is considered a country and remains the only overseas country of France. French Polynesia is made up of about 118 islands and atolls. A law adopted in April 1996 declares French the official language, but Tahitian and several other Polynesian languages can be used. About 70.1% of the population speak French every day compared to the 23.1% who speak Tahitian.
Wallis and Futuna
The territory of Wallis and Futuna is sandwiched between Tonga, Samoa, Tokelau, and Fiji. It covers an area of about 55 square miles with a population of 12,000. Although French is used in an official capacity, it is neither the popular or preferred language in the territory. About 16.2% of the people speak the Wallisian language at home, 29.9% speak Futunan, and only 9.7% speak French.
French in the Rest of the World
In Europe, French is used as an official language of France, Switzerland, Belgium, Monaco, and Luxembourg. About 60 million people speak French in France as a native language while 30 million use it as a second language in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is also spoken by half of the population in Belgium. French is also spoken in several Asian nations including Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. By 2050, the French-speaking population is expected to have risen to about 700 million.