Francophony and the French Language

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Francophonie Summit - Q&A - (13 October 2021)

Q: The 18th summit of La Francophonie, scheduled for the end of November in Tunisia, was postponed by a year so that it could be held in “optimum conditions” rather than “virtually,” according to the OIF and Tunisian diplomats. Is this postponement related to Covid-19, with the understanding that (…)

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Spreading the French language: a priority for French diplomacy

The Francophone area is made up of many countries. There are 300 million French speakers in 33 countries across the globe, a number that has increased by 9.6% since the last census in 2014. However, the Francophone area, as a political community, brings together 88 countries and associate, observer and member governments of the International Organisation of La Francophonie.

France’s aim is to make French one of the main world languages of the future and an asset in an ever-more global world.

French is the fifth most-spoken language in the world, behind Mandarin Chinese, English, Spanish and Arabic. The largest five Francophone countries population-wise are the Democratic Republic of the Congo, France, Algeria, Morocco and Côte d’Ivoire.

Did you know? French is the second most-used language in diplomacy. To discover more statistics on the use of the French language, see our infographic.

To promote the French language and Francophonie, vehicles for outreach and influence, French diplomacy is guided by bilateral and multilateral policy.

France’s commitment at the bilateral level to the promotion and dissemination of the French language

France’s international strategy for the French language and multilingualism, presented by President Emmanuel Macron on 20 March 2018, contains 33 measures for learning, communication and creation in French. It is an ambitious plan to strengthen the place and role of the French language in the world, while respecting multilingualism. The challenge is to make the French language one of the top three world languages of the 21st century and an asset when it comes to globalization.

“Ultimately, French has been emancipated from France, it’s become a language world, a language archipelago”, President Macron stated when presenting his plan for the promotion of the French language on the International Day of the Francophonie, in Paris, on 20 March 2018.

In its bilateral policy, France’s aim is to develop cooperation actions with local authorities to develop the French language in their education systems, and a direct activity of teaching conducted by cultural networks and French schools, including Alliances Françaises, the Instituts Français and French lycées abroad.

To find out more:
Cooperating in the area of education and language
Teaching and learning French

France also advocates the use of French in global governance institutions, particularly the European Union, and works for the systematic translation of adopted texts and decisions into many languages.

France commitment within multilateral Francophonie

Multilateral Francophonie, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020, is an institutional structure aiming to bring together Francophone countries in a political community. It organizes its relations between full member or associated States and Governments, which share a language, French, and motivated by the founding principle of cooperation and solidarity, with the help of various actors:

  • The OIF, which has 88 member and observer States and Governments;
  • The four agencies working for La Francophonie: the University Agency for Francophonie (AUF), TV5MONDE, the International Association of Francophone Mayors (AIMF) and Senghor University;
  • The Parliamentary Assembly of La Francophonie (APF);
  • The 16 institutional networks of La Francophonie;
  • The permanent ministerial conferences (CONFEJES, CONFEMEN);
  • The Conference of INGOs of La Francophonie.

This multilateral Francophonie contributes to peace, democracy, human rights, the promotion of the French language and cultural diversity as well as the development of shared and lasting prosperity.

In 2018, at the Yerevan Summit, Louise Mushikiwabo was appointed as the new Secretary-General of La Francophonie. In her first speech, she stated her intention to place La Francophonie under the theme of living together, insisting that the OIF’s action refocus on the areas “in which its added value is real, where its added value is recognized, where its action is expected”, particularly the dissemination of the French language, defence of gender equality, development of digital technology and commitment to young people.

For International Francophonie Day, on 20 March 2019, Emmanuel Macron visited OIF headquarters in Paris for the first time and met with Louise Mushikiwabo, reaffirming France’s commitment to multilateral Francophonie.

France is the leading contributor to the OIF and its agencies, which reflects how important La Francophonie is as a vehicle for our diplomacy.

Updated: February 2021