The French language belongs to the Indo-European family and is considered a Romance language. It is the first language in France, the Quebec and New Brunswick provinces in Canada, the Wallonia region in Belgium, the western region of Switzerland, and Monaco. Additionally, France is the official language of 29 countries and 12 dependent territories. The majority of these countries belong to the francophone community, which consists of approximately 300 million individuals who speak French as either a native or second language. Of the francophone community, approximately 40% live in Europe, 35% in sub-Saharan Africa, 15% in North Africa, 8% in the Americas, and 1% in Asia and Oceania. Below is a look at some of the countries and territories where French is an official language (outside of France).
Some Countries and Territories where French is an Official Language
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Interestingly, the largest population of French speakers are found outside of France. French is the official language of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has a population of 82.24 million. This country was previously explored and exploited by the Belgian government from 1877 to 1908 and was a Belgian colony between 1908 and 1960. Since the colonial era, French has been the language of government and education. After the Democratic Republic of the Congo gained its independence, French remained the official language as the majority of the population use it for communication. In Kinshasa, the capital of the country, around 67% of the population can read and write the language and 68.5% are able to speak and comprehend it.
French is one of the official languages of Canada, along with English. This country has a population size of over 35.15 million, 22% of which speaks French as a native language. The majority of French speakers in the country reside in Quebec, where 95% of the population can speak and understand the language. In fact, while French and English are the official languages of the federal government, French is the only language to hold official status in Quebec. Use of this language can be traced back to the 17th century when French colonists settled in the area. The descendants of these colonists, French Canadians, have maintained the use of the language and constitute around 86% of the French-speaking population of the country.
The official languages of Madagascar are French and Magaly. The language policy here has changed a number of times, dependent on the governing administration. When this country became a colony of France in 1897, the French language became the official language of government, education, and media. Upon gaining its independence, the newly formed government attempted to return to its use of Magaly as the official language. At this point, however, French had become widely used. The Constitution of 1992 did not identify an official language, although French and Magaly were widely accepted as the primary languages. In 2000, a Magaly-speaking citizen of Madagascar filed a formal legal case against the government because public documents were only available in French. The Supreme Court ruled that the documents were constitutional and that French was an acting official language. The Constitution of 2007 officially declared Magaly, French, and English as the national languages. English was later removed by public vote in 2010.
The list published below offers a complete look at the territories and countries where French is an official language.