|Spoken in||29 countries|
|Region||Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Oceania|
|Total speakers||about 130 million (native), more than 600 million (total)|
|Ranking||9 (native), 4 (total)|
|Writing system||Latin alphabet|
|Official language in||29 countries|
|Regulated by||Académie française (French Academy)|
|ISO 639-2||fre (B)||fra (T)|
|Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode.|
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French (français, French pronunciation: [fʀɑ̃sɛ]) is a Romance language spoken, around the world, by about 130 million people as a first language (mother tongue), by 190 million as a second language, and by about another 200 million people as an acquired foreign language, with significant speakers in 54 countries. Most native speakers of the language live in France, where the language originated. The rest live essentially in Canada (Quebec), Belgium, Switzerland, Francophone Africa, Luxembourg, and Monaco. Most second-language speakers of French live in Francophone Africa, arguably exceeding the number of native speakers. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the Francophone country with the largest population.
French is a descendant of the Latin language of the Roman Empire, as are national languages such as Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and Romanian, and minority languages ranging from Catalan and Occitan to Neapolitan and many more. Its development was also influenced by the native Celtic languages of Roman Gaul and by the Germanic language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders.
It is an official language in 29 countries, most of which form what is called, in French, La Francophonie, the community of French-speaking nations. It is an official language of all United Nations agencies and a large number of international organizations. According to the European Union, 129 million (26% of the 497,198,740) people in 27 member states speak French, of which 65 million (12%) are native speakers and 69 million (14%) claim to speak it either as a second language or as a foreign language, which makes it the third most spoken second language in the Union, after English and German. In addition, prior to the mid 20th century, French served as the preeminent language of diplomacy among European and colonial powers as well as a lingua franca among the educated classes of Europe.
According to the Constitution of France, French has been the official language since 1992 (although previous legal texts have made it official since 1539, see ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts). France mandates the use of French in official government publications, public education except in specific cases (though these dispositions are often ignored) and legal contracts; advertisements must bear a translation of foreign words.
In addition to French, there are also a variety of regional languages and dialects. France has signed the European Charter for Regional Languages, but has not ratified it since that would go against the 1958 Constitution.
French is one of the three official languages of Switzerland (along with German and Italian) and is spoken in the part of Switzerland called Romandie. French is the native language of about 20% of the Swiss population.
Most of Swiss French is mutually compatible with the standard French spoken in France, but it is often used with small differences, such as those involving some numbers.
signs in Brussels.]]
In Belgium, French is the official language of Wallonia (excluding the East Cantons, which are German-speaking) and one of the two official languages —along with Dutch— of the Brussels-Capital Region where it is spoken by the majority of the population, though often not as their primary language. French and German are not official languages nor recognized minority languages in the Flemish Region, although along borders with the Walloon and Brussels-Capital regions, there are a dozen municipalities with language facilities for French speakers. A mirror situation exists for the Walloon Region with respect to the Dutch and German languages. In total, native French speakers make up about 40% of the country's population, while the remaining 60% speak Dutch as a first language. Of the latter, 59% claim to speak French as a second language, meaning that about three quarters of the Belgian population can speak French.
Maltese is a Semitic language influenced by Italian and to a lesser extent French; 17% of the Maltese population speaks French. A French presence has existed on Malta since the arrival of the Ordre des Hospitaliers in 1530.
Although Monégasque is the national language of the Principality of Monaco, French is the only official language, and French nationals make up some 47% of the population.
and candidate countries]]
French is also an official language, along with Italian, in the province of Aosta Valley, Italy. In addition, a number of Franco-Provençal dialects are spoken in the province, although they do not have official recognition.
French is one of three official languages of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, alongside German and Luxembourgish, the natively spoken language of Luxembourg. Luxembourg's education system is trilingual: the first years of primary school are in Luxembourgish, before changing to German; while in secondary school, the language of instruction changes to French.
French is an official language in Jersey and Guernsey, the two bailiwicks collectively referred to as the Channel Islands, although they are separate entities. Both use French to some degree, mostly in an administrative capacity. Jersey Legal French is the standardized variety used in Jersey. However, Norman is the historical vernacular langue d'Oïl of the islands.
A large portion of words of the English Language (originating in Great Britain) are of French root or origin. This is due to the Norman Invasion, which made French the language of administration and was spoken by the aristocracy and upper classes (while the peasants and lower classes spoke an Anglo-Saxon Language).
French is a large minority language and immigrant language in the UK, with over 1 million speakers as a first language. It is also the most popular foreign language, with just under a quarter of the British population being able to speak French proficiently.
on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, an example of bilingualism at the federal level in Canada.]]
French is the second most common language in Canada, after English, and both are official languages at the federal level. French is the sole official language in the province of Quebec, being the mother tongue for some 7 million people. New Brunswick, where about a third of the population is Francophone, is the only officially bilingual province. Portions of Ontario, Nova Scotia and Manitoba have sizeable French minorities, but its prescription as an official language in those jurisdictions and the level of Francophone services varies.
are not included.]]
Although it has no official recognition on a federal level, French is the third most-spoken language in the United States, after English and Spanish, and the second most-spoken in the states of Louisiana, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. Louisiana is home to many distinct dialects, of which Cajun French has the largest number of speakers. According to the 2000 US Census, there are over 194,000 people in Louisiana who speak French at home, the most of any state if Creole French is excluded.
A majority of the world's French-speaking population lives in Africa. According to the 2007 report by the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, an estimated 115 million African people spread across 31 Francophone African countries can speak French as either a first or a second language.
French is mostly a second language in Africa, but it has become a first language in some areas, such as the region of Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire and in Libreville, Gabon. It is not possible to speak of a single form of African French, but rather of diverse forms of African French which have developed because of the contact with many indigenous African languages.
In the territories of the Indian Ocean, the French language is often spoken alongside French-derived creole languages, the major exception being Madagascar. There, a Malayo-Polynesian language (Malagasy) is spoken alongside French. The French language has also met with competition from English, since English has been the official language in Mauritius and the Seychelles for a while and has recently become an official language of Madagascar.
Sub-Saharan Africa is the region where the French language is most likely to expand, because of the expansion of education and rapid demographic growth. It is also where the language has evolved the most in recent years. Some vernacular forms of French in Africa can be difficult to understand for French speakers from other countries, but written forms of the language are very closely related to those of the rest of the French-speaking world.
French is an official language in many African countries, most of them former French or Belgian colonies:
In Algeria, various reforms have been implemented in recent decades to improve the status of Arabic in relation to French, especially in education.
While the predominant European language in Egypt is English, French is considered to be a more sophisticated language by some elements of the Egyptian upper and upper-middle classes; for this reason, a typical educated Egyptian will learn French in addition to English at some point in his or her education. The perception of sophistication may be related to the use of French as the royal court language of Egypt during the nineteenth century. Egypt participates in La Francophonie.
French is also the official language of Mayotte and Réunion, two overseas territories of France located in the Indian Ocean, as well as an administrative and educational language in Mauritius, along with English.
"mille livres" (thousand-pound) bank note]] French is the official language in Lebanon, along with Arabic. It is considered an official language by the Lebanese people and is used on bank notes (along with Arabic) and on official buildings. French is widely used by the Lebanese, especially for administrative purposes, and is taught in many schools as a primary language along with Arabic.
Like Lebanon, French was official in Syria until 1943. But in contrast to Lebanon, the language is not official, but still spoken by educated groups, both elite and middle-class.
French is an administrative language in Laos and Cambodia, although its influence has waned in recent years. In colonial Vietnam, the elites spoke French, and many who worked for the French spoke a French creole known as "Tây Bồi" (now extinct). The language was also spoken by the elite in the leased territory Guangzhouwan in southern China.
In Burma, French is gaining popularity amongst university students and the tourism sector, as the country slowly opens up. French is not offered at the basic education level, but the University of Foreign Languages in Yangon offers a B.A. in French, and Alliance Française has active centres in Rangoon and Mandalay. The Francophone community is estimated to number from 25,000 to more than 50,000.
French has de-jure official status in the Indian Union Territory of Pondicherry, along with the regional languages Tamil and Telugu. Some students of Tamil Nadu opt for French as their second or third language (usually behind English and Tamil).
French is commonly taught as a third language in secondary schools in most cities of Maharashtra, including Mumbai, as part of the preparation for secondary school (X-SSC) and higher secondary school (XII-HSC) certificate examinations. Certain high-profile schools affiliated with the CBSE in the NCR offer French as an option as early as grade 4. In grade 9, students are asked to drop either French or Hindi, which is their native language.
French is a second official language of the Pacific Island nations of Vanuatu and Wallis & Futuna. In France's territories of French Polynesia and New Caledonia, it has more than 90% speakers as either native or secondary language.
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Although there are many French regional accents, foreign learners normally study only one version of the language, which has no commonly used special name.
French pronunciation follows strict rules based on spelling, but French spelling is often based more on history than phonology. The rules for pronunciation vary between dialects, but the standard rules are:
French spelling, like English spelling, tends to preserve obsolete pronunciation rules. This is mainly due to extreme phonetic changes since the Old French period, without a corresponding change in spelling. Moreover, some conscious changes were made to restore Latin orthography:
As a result, it is difficult to predict the spelling on the basis of the sound alone. Final consonants are generally silent, except when the following word begins with a vowel. For example, all of these words end in a vowel sound: pied, aller, les, finit, beaux. The same words followed by a vowel, however, may sound the consonants, as they do in these examples: beaux-arts, les amis, pied-à-terre.
On the other hand, a given spelling will almost always lead to a predictable sound, and the Académie française works hard to enforce and update this correspondence. In particular, a given vowel combination or diacritic predictably leads to one phoneme.
The diacritics have phonetic, semantic, and etymological significance.
There are two ligatures, which have various origins:
French writing, as with any language, is affected by the spoken language. In Old French, the plural for animal was animals. Common speakers pronounced a u before a word ending in l as the plural. This resulted in animauls. As the French language evolved this vanished and the form animaux (aux pronounced /o/) was admitted. The same is true for cheval pluralized as chevaux and many others. Also castel pl. castels became château pl. châteaux.
French grammar shares several notable features with most other Romance languages, including:
The majority of French words derive from Vulgar Latin or were constructed from Latin or Greek roots. There are often pairs of words, one form being "popular" (noun) and the other one "savant" (adjective), both originating from Latin. Example:
The French words which have developed from Latin are usually less recognisable than Italian words of Latin origin because as French evolved from Vulgar Latin, the unstressed final syllable of many words was dropped or elided into the following word.
It is estimated that 12% (4,200) of common French words found in a typical dictionary such as the Petit Larousse or Micro-Robert Plus (35,000 words) are of foreign origin. About 25% (1,054) of these foreign words come from English and are fairly recent borrowings. The others are some 707 words from Italian, 550 from ancient Germanic languages, 481 from ancient Gallo-Romance languages, 215 from Arabic, 164 from German, 160 from Celtic languages, 159 from Spanish, 153 from Dutch, 112 from Persian and Sanskrit, 101 from Native American languages, 89 from other Asian languages, 56 from other Afro-Asiatic languages, 55 from Slavic languages and Baltic languages, 10 from Basque and 144 — about three percent — from other languages.
The French counting system is partially vigesimal: twenty (vingt) is used as a base number in the names of numbers from 60 to 99. The French word for eighty, for example, is quatre-vingts, which literally means "four twenties", and soixante-quinze (literally "sixty-fifteen") means 75. This reform arose after the French Revolution to unify the different counting systems (mostly vigesimal near the coast, because of Celtic (via Breton) and Viking influences). This system is comparable to the archaic English use of score, as in "fourscore and seven" (87), or "threescore and ten" (70).
Belgian French and Swiss French are different in this respect. In Belgium and Switzerland 70 and 90 are septante and nonante. In Switzerland, depending on the local dialect, 80 can be quatre-vingts (Geneva, Neuchâtel, Jura) or huitante (Vaud, Valais, Fribourg). Octante had been used in Switzerland in the past, but is now considered archaic. In Belgium, however, quatre-vingts is universally used.
It should also be noted that French uses a period (also called a full stop) or a space to separate thousands where English uses a comma or (more recently) a space. The comma is used in French numbers as a decimal point: 2,5 = deux virgule cinq.
Cardinal numbers in French from 1 to 20 are as follows:
The "Canadian" audio samples here are not necessarily from speakers of Quebec French, which has distinct regional pronunciations of certain words.references needed
|English||French||IPA pronunciation (Canadian accent)||IPA pronunciation (French accent)|
|Yes||Oui (si when countering an assertion or a question expressed in the negative)||/wi/||/wi/|
|Hello!||Bonjour ! (formal) or Salut ! (informal)||/bɔ̃ˈʒuːʀ/||/bɔ̃ʒuʀ/|
|Good evening!||Bonsoir !||/bɔ̃swɑːʁ/||/bɔ̃swaːʀ/|
|Good night!||Bonne nuit !||/bɔnnɥi/||/bɔn nɥi/|
|Goodbye!||Au revoir !||/ɔʁˈvwɑːʁ/||/ɔʁ vwa/|
|Have a nice day!||Bonne journée !||/bɔn ʒuʀˈne/||/bɔn ʒuʀne/|
|Please||S'il vous plaît (formal) or S'il te plaît (informal)||/sɪlvuplɛ/||/sil vu plɛ/|
|You're welcome||De rien ("it is nothing") or Je vous en prie (formal) or Je t'en prie (informal)||/də ʁiɛ̃/|
|I'm sorry||Pardon or Je suis désolé (if male) / Je suis désolée (if female) or Excuse-moi (informal) / Excusez-moi (formal)||/paʀdɔ̃/ / /dezɔle/||/paʁdɔ̃/ / /dezɔle/|
|What?||Quoi ? (←informal; used as "What?" in English)) or Comment ? (←formal; used the same as "Pardon Me?" in English)||/kwa/||/kwa/|
|What's your name?||Comment vous appelez-vous ? (formal) or Comment t'appelles-tu ? (informal)||/kɔmɑ̃ vu‿zap le vu/|
|Because||Parce que / "À cause de" — literally "because of" or "due to"||/paʁs(ə)kə/||/paʀs kǝ/|
|For (when used as "because")||Car||/kaʀ/|
|How much?||Combien ?||/kɔ̃ˈbjɛ̃/||/kɔ̃ bjɛ̃/|
|I do not understand.||Je ne comprends pas.||/ʒə nə kɔ̃pʀɑ̃ pɑ/||/ʒə nə kɔ̃pʀɑ̃ pa/|
|Yes, I understand.||Oui, je comprends. Except when responding to a negatively posed question, in which case Si is used preferentially over Oui||/wi ʒə kɔ̃pʀɑ̃/||/wi, ʒə kɔ̃ pʀɑ̃/|
|Help!||Au secours !! (à l'aide !)||/o səˈkuʀ/||/o səku:ʁ/|
|Can you help me please ?||Pouvez-vous m'aider s'il vous plaît ? / Pourriez-vous m'aider s'il vous plaît ? (formal) or Peux-tu m'aider s'il te plaît ? / Pourrais-tu m'aider s'il te plaît (informal)|
|Where are the toilets?||Où sont les toilettes ?||/u sɔ̃ le twalɛt/||/u sɔ̃ le twa.lɛt/|
|Do you speak English?||Parlez-vous anglais ?||/paʀle vu ɑ̃ɡlɛ/||/paʁ le vu ɑ̃ɡ lɛ/|
|I do not speak French.||Je ne parle pas français.||/ʒə nə paʀlə pɑ fʀɑ̃sɛ/||/ʒə nə paʁl pa fʁɑ̃sɛ/|
|I don't know.||Je ne sais pas.||/ʒə (nə) se pa/|
|I know.||Je sais.||/ʒə sɛ/|
|I am thirsty.||J'ai soif. (literally, "I have thirst")||/ʒe swaf/|
|I am hungry.||J'ai faim. (literally, "I have hunger")||/ʒe fɛ̃/|
|How are you? / How are things going? / How's everything?||Comment allez-vous? (formal) or Ça va? / Comment ça va ? (informal)|
|I am (very) well / Things are going (very) well // Everything is (very) well||Je vais (très) bien (formal) or Ça va (très) bien. / Tout va (très) bien (informal)|
|I am (very) bad / Things are (very) bad / Everything is (very) bad||Je vais (très) mal (formal) or Ça va (très) mal / Tout va (très) mal (informal)|
|I am ok/so-so / Everything is ok/so-so||Assez bien or Ça va comme ci, comme ça or simply Ça va.. (Sometimes said: « Couci, couça. ») i. e. « Comme ci, comme ça. »)|
|I am fine.||Je vais bien.||/ʒə vɛ bjɛ̃/|
|Wikiversity has learning materials about French language|
|French language edition of Wiktionary, the free dictionary/thesaurus|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: French|
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Here are sentences from other pages on French language, which are similar to those in the above article.