Francophony and the French Language

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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 or Hindi.

French is the fourth most common language on the Internet, the third most used language in business, the second most used language for international news in the media, 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 multilateral, European and African forums (e.g. UN, WTO, OECD, ILO).

The appeal of the French language in figures:

  • The French school network abroad is made up of 492 establishments in 137 countries. They offer teaching in accordance to the French national curriculum to 350 000 students of which over half are foreign nationals.
  • Bilingual French education is expanding with approximately 1.2 million pupils in bilingual sections. 209 foreign school establishments in 44 countries obtained the LabelFrancÉducation, a label which has been awarded since 2012 by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs to establishments providing excellent quality bilingual education.
  • 50 million people learn French as a foreign language.
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.

Updated: February 2018