Jean-Marie Le Guen, Minister of State for Development and Francophonie, delivered a speech on March 31 during the public presentation of the assessment of France’s contribution to the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF) for the period 2010-2015.
Spreading the French language is a priority for French diplomacy
French is spoken by 274 million people throughout the world. It is the fifth most widely-spoken language, after Mandarin Chinese, English, Spanish and according to estimations, Arabic and Hindi.
French is the fourth most common language on the Internet, the second most used language for international news in the media, the third most used language in business, the second leading working language of most international organizations and the second most learned language in the world with 125 million students and a half a million French teachers abroad.
It is a tool of international communication, serving as a working language in African, European and multilateral forums (e.g. UN, WTO, OECD, ILO).
Economic potential of La Francophonie
In 2012, all of the French-speaking and Francophile countries accounted for 16% of the world’s GDP in 2012 with an average growth rate of 7%, and accounted for nearly 14% of the world’s mining and energy resources despite the fact that French speakers only account for 4% of the world’s population.
Some 770 million French speakers are expected by 2050
La Francophonie is the 6th largest geopolitical area in terms of its population and could become the 4th largest geopolitical area in 2050.
In order to promote French and the French-speaking world, furthering France’s influence abroad, the actors of French diplomacy have established the following:
a bilateral policy which aims to raise the profile of French abroad through cooperation projects with local authorities to promote French within their education systems (campaigning for the teaching of at least two foreign languages, teacher training, development of bilingual education, etc.), and through teaching provided directly by the French school and cultural networks.
a multilateral policy which aims to bring French-speaking countries together as a political community. France supported the creation of the International Agency of La Francophonie in 1970. Today, the International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF) has 84 Member States and observers with French as a common language. This institution contributes to peace, democracy, human rights, the promotion of French and cultural diversity, and the development of shared and sustainable prosperity.
The appeal of the French language in figures:
50 million learners of French as a foreign language
342,000 students, including 63% non-French nationals, in 495 French etablishments abroad
1.7 million students in bilingual schools including 70,000 students in 158 schools in the LabelFrancÉducation network. The LabelFrancEducation is the only Francophone label of its kind with international reach. It was created in 2012 by the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs to recognize the excellent quality of our bilingual network. The label can be found in 35 countries across five continents and the number of its bearers increased by 70% between 2015 and 2016.