Did you know that learning French is also a ticket to the world thanks to the more than 40 French speaking countries and territories around the globe?
Metropolitan French, the language we now think of as standard French, is the dialect of the Parisian region, which was elevated to the status of national language following the French Revolution.
Nowadays though, French is also spoken in a variety of forms around the globe, largely due to French exploits during the colonial period.
At one time, French served as the global lingua franca. And although it has since ceded this position to English, in many of the countries where it is spoken, it is still considered a prestige language.
Plus, in certain areas, French is likely to prove more useful than English. And for anyone who wants to know where, here’s my guide to all the places French is spoken around the world.
By the way, if you want to learn French fast and have fun while doing it, my top recommendation is French Uncovered which teaches you through StoryLearning®.
With French Uncovered you’ll use my unique StoryLearning® method to learn French naturally through story… not rules. It’s as fun as it is effective.
If you’re ready to get started, click here for a 7-day FREE trial.
French Speaking Countries In Europe
In Europe, apart from France itself, there are four countries with significant French-speaking populations. And unsurprisingly, they all share borders with France.
Belgium is one of the major European countries with significant numbers of French speakers.
They make up around 40% of the population and mostly live in the southern Walloon Region as well as the Brussels-Capital Region.
The other 60% of the population are native Dutch speakers, a language also referred to as ‘Flemish’ when spoken by Belgians. Both are official languages of Belgium, along with German, which is spoken by only around 1% of the population.
German is Switzerland’s most commonly spoken language, with almost 63% calling it their native tongue.
French is the first language of around 23% of the population. And its speakers are unsurprisingly mostly in the west of the country close to France.
Italian is spoken by just over 8% of the population and all three languages have official status, along with Romansch, which is spoken by less than 1% of Swiss.
Luxembourg, the tiny country located where France, Belgium and Germany converge, has a population of around 650,000, of whom 16% are native French speakers.
The official language of the country is Luxembourgish, a language closely related to German, which around 52% of the population consider their native tongue.
The official language of the Principality of Monaco is French, and the majority of the population speak it.
Monaco also has a significant number of Italian speakers. But Monégasque, the historical national language that can still be seen on road signs, is now spoken by very few.
The continent with by far the largest number of French speaking countries is Africa.
This is the legacy of France’s – as well as Belgium’s – colonial activities there, making French an invaluable language to know if you plan to travel through much of the region.
Although Algerian Arabic is the most widely spoken language in Algeria – and Modern Standard Arabic and Berber are official languages – French is also spoken to some degree by up to two-thirds of the population.
Algeria was part of the French colonial empire until it gained independence in 1962.
French is the only official language of the West African country of Benin – although people speak many local languages, including Yon and Yoruba. French serves as the country’s lingua franca and is used in education from secondary school level up.
#7 Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso in West Africa has French as its only official language. And it serves as a lingua franca among speakers of a broad range of local languages.
The most commonly spoken language is Mossi, with native speakers comprising just over half the population.
The small landlocked country of Burundi, located in Africa’s Great Rift Valley, has French, English and Kirundi as its official languages. Burundi was formerly part of Belgium’s colonial empire.
Located where West Africa meets Central Africa, Cameroon is a country where you can hear as many as 250 different languages.
Germany, France and Britain were all involved in the country’s colonial history. And French and English are now both official languages – although French is more common.
Cameroon is considered one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world. But French, along with local languages like Fulani and Chadian Arabic, serves as a lingua franca, allowing various groups to communicate.
#10 Central African Republic
Bordering Cameroon to the east, the Central African Republic was formerly a French colony. Nowadays French is an official language, a status it shares with Sango, a creole language based on Ngbandi.
Until independence in 1960, Chad, in Central Africa, had been a rather neglected colony of France. French and Arabic are the two official languages while Chadian Arabic is the local lingua franca. Over 100 other languages and dialects are also spoken.
A nation consisting of three major islands and several smaller ones located to the north-west of Madagascar, this former French colony uses French, Arabic and Comorian as its official languages.
#13 Democratic Republic Of The Congo
Located in Central Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was formerly a Belgian colony – the Belgian Congo.
It’s a linguistically diverse country where you'll come across over 200 languages. But French is the official language.
French also serves as a lingua franca – along with the four national languages, Kituba, Lingala, Tshiluba, and Swahili. By population, it is the largest officially francophone country in the world.
#14 Republic of the Congo
The Republic of the Congo formerly fell under French colonial control. French is the official language, but there are many other local languages.
#15 Ivory Coast
A French colony before gaining independence in 1960, Ivory Coast, also known by its French name of Côte d’Ivoire, has French as its sole official language.
French is the language of education and functions as the lingua franca between speakers of the many local languages.
A small country in the Horn of Africa, what is now Djibouti was once part of the colony known as French Somaliland. French is an official language, along with Arabic.
#17 Equatorial Guinea
Equatorial Guinea, a small country on the coast of Central Africa, was a former Spanish colony.
Spanish, French and Portuguese all have official status, but while Spanish is prevalent, French is less common. You'll also hear a number of local languages and creoles.
Also located on Central Africa’s coast, Gabon was a French colony until independence in 1960. Nowadays, French is the official language of Gabon, where around 80% of the population can speak it.
West Africa’s Guinea, once known as French Guinea, gained independence from France in 1958. Today, French is the official language, although people mostly speak local languages like Pulaar, Mandingo and Susu.
Madagascar was a French colony until 1960. French is now an official language, along with Malagasy. Most people speak dialects of Malagasy, with French used as a second language among the educated population.
The landlocked West African country of Mali was part of the French colonial empire until independence in 1960. French is now the country’s official language, although there are many local languages, including Bambara, which serves as a lingua franca.
Mauritius, an island nation in the Indian Ocean to the east of Madagascar, was controlled variously by the Netherlands, France and then Britain until gaining independence from Britain in 1968.
It has no official language. But you'll hear both English and French on the island.
Consisting of a main island, a smaller island and several islets located just to the south-east of Comoros, Mayotte elected to remain part of France when Comoros declared independence.
It is now an overseas French department, the local currency is the euro and it is part of the European Union. French is the official language and the majority of people speak and understand it. The local languages are dialects of Comorian and Malagasy.
France and Spain fought over their colonial interests in Morocco for many years before France eventually gained the upper hand.
You'll still find plenty of people who speak French there, despite the country gaining independence in 1956. And for travel in Morocco, French is likely to be far more useful than English. The official languages in Morocco are Arabic and Berber.
Niger, a large landlocked country in West Africa, gained independence from France in 1960. French is the official language and the language of administration. But Hausa and Zarma-Songhai are the two most widely spoken languages.
Located in the Indian Ocean to the south-west of Mauritius, Réunion is administratively a region of France – meaning French is the official language and the local currency is the euro.
The locals also speak Reunion Creole. And more recent immigrants to the island speak dialects of Comorian, Malagasy, Chinese, Arabic and some Indian languages.
Like neighbouring Burundi, Rwanda is a small landlocked country in Africa’s Great Rift Valley. It was first colonised by Germany and then by Belgium.
German never became popular, but as a result of Belgian influence, French – along with Kinyarwanda, Swahili and English – is one of the country’s official languages.
Senegal, another former French colony, is home to a rich mix of languages. French is the only official language. And it also serves as a lingua franca – along with Wolof, the language of Senegal’s largest ethnic group.
Famed for its stunning beaches, the Seychelles, an archipelago of around 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, was uninhabited before the arrival of European explorers in the 16th century. France and Britain vied for control, with Britain eventually prevailing.
The country gained independence in 1976, and nowadays, both English and French are its official languages, the legacy of the years of competition between the two colonial powers. French-based Seychelles Creole is the most widely spoken local language.
Occupying a narrow strip of land between Ghana and Benin, Togo was once part of German Togoland.
After the First World War, control passed to France until independence in 1960. French is now the only official language. But the Togolese speak many other native languages, including Ewé and Kabiyé, the two national languages.
Like Algeria and Morocco, Tunisia came under the French colonial sphere of influence. And as a result, French is still widely spoken there.
Arabic is the official language, with the Tunisian variety known as Tounsi being most common in daily life. You'll usually see street signs in Arabic and French.
French Speaking Countries In The Americas And Caribbean
Several important areas of the Americas and the Caribbean are French speaking countries, again reflecting France’s former colonial presence in the area.
Canadian French, consisting of several distinct dialects, is the language of Canada’s Quebec province as well as some of the surrounding areas.
If you've only heard French from France, you will find Canadian French quite different. And probably fairly difficult to understand at first.
The French language is zealously protected by the Office québécois de la langue française. And anglicisms that you find elsewhere are rigorously suppressed.
#33 French Guiana
French Guiana, bordering Brazil and Suriname in the north of South America, is an overseas region of France.
Like Mayotte and Reunion, it is part of the EU, the local currency is the euro and the official language is French. French Guianese Creole and several other local languages are also spoken.
Consisting of six inhabited islands and several uninhabited islands and islets located in the Caribbean, Guadeloupe is a French overseas department.
The local currency is the euro and French is the official language – practically the entire population speaks it.
Haiti was originally colonized by Spain. But the French wrested control of the western part of the island, which became known as Saint-Domingue.
Following a slave revolt, the country gained independence in 1804, the first nation in Latin American and the Caribbean to do so.
French and Haitian Creole are the county’s two official languages, with French being used in most schools and spoken by most educated Haitians.
Martinique, a West Indian island, is an integral part of France. French is the official language, but most residents also speak Martinique Creole.
Like other similar French territories, Martinique is part of the EU and the euro is the local currency.
#37 Saint Barthélemy
The Caribbean island of Saint Barthélemy has a similar status to Guadeloupe and Martinique. French is the official language, and the local currency is also the euro.
#38 Saint Martin
French Saint Martin is the northern half of the Caribbean island of the same name. Like Guadeloupe, Martinique and Saint Barthélemy, French is the official language and the currency is the euro.
The southern half of the island, known as Sint Maarten, is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
#39 Saint Pierre and Miquelon
A tiny territory off the coast of Canada’s Newfoundland and Labrador province, Saint Pierre and Miquelon is a self-governing overseas collectivity of France with a population of only around 6,000.
Residents are French citizens, French is the official language and the euro is used in shops.
Although not usually considered a French-speaking country, the USA is home to over 1.3m native French speakers, making French the fifth most common non-English language in the country, after Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Tagalog.
French Speaking Countries In Oceania
France was also active in some of the most far-flung parts of the Pacific. And as a result, the French language is still present in several areas.
#41 French Polynesia
Administratively, French Polynesia is a French overseas country, the only one of its kind. It consists of 118 dispersed islands and atolls where a number of Polynesian languages are spoken.
However, French is considered the only official language and up to three-quarters of the population speak it at home. The local currency is the CFP franc.
#42 New Caledonia
New Caledonia is a French autonomous territory over 1,000km east of Australia in the Pacific Ocean. French is the official language. 95% of the population speak it, although various local languages are also in use. The CFP franc is the local currency.
Vanuatu, an archipelago in the South Pacific, became unified as a nation in 1980 having previously been governed by Britain and France. The national language and lingua franca of the archipelago is Bislama, which, along with French and English, is also an official language.
#44 Wallace And Futuna
Wallace and Futuna, a French overseas territory, consists of three main volcanic islands and some other uninhabited islets in the South Pacific.
The most common languages are Wallisian and Futunan, both Polynesian languages, but French is the official language. The CFP franc is the local currency.
French: A Global Language Worth Knowing
Although English is still the language to learn for travel, in certain areas, being able to speak French is likely to be more useful.
As a result, knowing both English and French will enable you to at least ‘get by’ in many parts of the world.
That's why French was in my list of the 7 best languages to learn for business. In that post, I reveal that French is predicted to be the world's most spoken language by 2050!
Although French varies to a certain extent around the world, no matter which variety you're learning, the best way to get fluent is to use a fun and effective method like StoryLearning®.
With StoryLearning®, you learn through stories, not rules. So you can learn French from home by reading French books or short stories in French. That way, you'll be ready for your travels, no matter where they might take you.