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French Language

Map No.



French is spoken as a first language by around 70 million people in at least 46 territories. It is derived from Latin, the language of ancient Rome, and by the seventeenth century French was the dominant language of Europe in politics and culture. It also moved further afield, to the Caribbean, and with European settlers in Canada, where it remains a major language, most notably in the province of Quebec. There was also a large French empire in Africa in the nineteenth century, and hence is still used there as an official language in some countries, and by an educated elite.

France has established an organisation known as La Francophonie, a community of French-speaking nations.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Non Commercial - ShareAlike 4.0 International License. For any commercial use (including in publishing) a map use license needs to be obtained.

Technical Notes

The map shows the proportion of all people who speak French as a first language that live in that territory in 2005.

The maps in the 2005 language data series are made from data on the number of people speaking a language as their first-language, that is the language they would use at home.

Data sources
This map uses data several sources, the main one being Ethnologue (15th Edition, 2005). Estimating the number of speakers of a language is fraught with difficulty on several levels (last accessed January 2009). We aim to map as complete data as possible and therefore estimate data for missing values. The language numbers we use and publish are rough estimates, and should not be taken as definitive. In some cases, missing data for very small territories is not used in the cartogram and that area is therefore omitted in the map.

All modifications to the original data source are noted in our data sheets. Data for this map will soon be available as a download.

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