French is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, with 80 million people as first-language speakers. About 274 million people speak it when both first and second language speakers as considered.
Around 40% of the speakers live in Europe, with about 50% around parts of Africa and the Middle East, and the rest around the Americas, Asia, and Oceania. It remains the fourth-most commonly spoken language in the European Union, and the second most popular foreign language taught in EU schools. It’s the most popular foreign language taught in most Canadian schools, outside provinces Quebec and New Brunswick where it’s taught as one of the first languages.
The French language is also the third most common for businesses, behind England and Mandarin!
There are 29 countries that deem French as an official language. France is the most commonly considered, but it is also still spoken as an official language in the former French held islands and territories, such as the Ivory Coast, Guinea, Chad, and Haiti.
Some parts of Switzerland and Canada consider it as an official language, although they have specific dialects. Other parts of Europe use it as an official language, including Belgium, Monaco, and parts of the United States.
Part of the Indo-European family, French joins many other European languages. However, it can be subcategorised as a Romance language, derived from the Vulgar Latin speaking Romans. More specifically, it is derived from the Gallo-Romance language, which was the version of Latin spoken in Northern Gaul.
Many Romance languages have similarities. When it comes to French, it is similar to Belgium, Italian, and Spanish.
There are a number of French dialects spoken around the world. Canadian French and Belgian French are usually the two most commonly considered. However, African French, Cambodian French, Louisiana French, and Vietnamese French are also popular.
Many of the dialects can be understood by native French speakers, who will speak Standard French. However, there will be certain words and phrases that are unintelligible. Many of the dialects are actually considered different languages.
According to the Foreign Service Institute, French is one of the easiest foreign languages for English-speaking people to learn. This isn’t that surprising considering it is taught in many English-speaking schools. In fact, some schools in parts of the EU will make learning a second language compulsory, with French, German, or Spanish offered.
French is a Category I language, according to the FSI. This places it as a language that will take less time to learn. The FSI recommends 575-600 class hours, which will take around 23-24 weeks. This will help students learn the Standard French fluently.