32 French-Speaking Countries Around the World, From North America to Africa
When you think of the French language, odds are your mind immediately goes to the Eiffel Tower, croissants and well-dressed Parisians.
In other words, you’re thinking of France—and why wouldn’t you be? It is where the language originated, plus French culture has worldwide influence.
However, due to colonial history and that worldwide cultural influence, there are now many other French-speaking countries to explore.
- How French Spread Around the World
- 7. Algeria
- 8. Benin
- 9. Burkina Faso
- 10. Burundi
- 11. Cameroon
- 12. Central African Republic
- 13. Comoros
- 14. Côte d’Ivoire
- 15. Democratic Republic of the Congo
- 16. Djibouti
- 17. Equatorial Guinea
- 18. Gabon
- 19. Guinea
- 20. Madagascar
- 21. Mali
- 22. Mauritius
- 23. Niger
- 24. Republic of Congo
- 25. Rwanda
- 26. Senegal
- 27. Seychelles
- 28. Togo
- North America
- Other Countries with Major French-Speaking Communities
How French Spread Around the World
French is the official language of more than 30 countries–and it’s spoken significantly in several more, amounting to a whopping 400 million speakers worldwide.
What’s even more amazing is that these countries are spread out all over the world, including North America, the Caribbean and Africa.
From the 16th to the 19th centuries, France was a major world power, seizing many territories across the continents and introducing French to the native people.
English would eventually replace French as the main global language, but many of these countries still have French as their official language, which is why French is spoken in so many places today!
This post will provide you with a list of 32 French-speaking countries that you should know about including: France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco, Romania, Switzerland, Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central Asian Republic, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Niger, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Togo, Canada, Haiti, Martinique and Vanuatu.
Population: 11.6 million
French speakers: 8.6 million
As with many of the other French-speaking countries on this list, Belgian French is only a step away from Standard French.
As a country with two official Germanic languages (Dutch and German) alongside French, it’s no wonder a few things crept into the French dialect from Dutch, such as Kom je mee? (Are you coming with?)
Being on the lookout for an odd Germanic construct can be helpful when deciding how something should be expressed in Standard French.
Population: 67.5 million
French speakers: 64 million
Here we have where it all started: France. The French language spoken in France originated from a form of Latin spoken in Gaul.
French is a part of the romantic language family, so it shares many characteristics with Spanish, Italian, Romanian and Portuguese.
Due to colonialism and global influence, French has now spread from France to all corners of the Earth, primarily in Africa. French was once so influential that it was considered the international lingua franca before English.
To hear how French is used in France and other countries, you can check out FluentU, which combines French native videos such as movie clips, music videos and more with language learning tools.
While you watch a video, you can use interactive subtitles, flashcards and quizzes to help you retain the new grammar and vocabulary you learn.
FluentU is available on iOS and Android.
French speakers: 626,000+
This country may be small (998 square miles to be exact), but its citizens are incredibly multilingual, with the majority being able to speak four languages.
This is clearly a priority for Luxembourg as students are taught three languages throughout their schooling.
The official languages of Luxembourg are Luxembourgish, French and German although many other European languages are commonly spoken.
French speakers: 11,000+
This micro-state is incredibly unique. It is essentially completely surrounded by France, yet maintains sovereignty.
Since it’s surrounded by France, it only makes sense that French is Monaco’s official language. However, French is actually not the only language spoken in this tiny country.
The luxurious lifestyle of Monaco draws people from all over the world, so you will also hear a lot of English, various Italian dialects and other foreign languages.
Population: 19.1 million
French speakers: 5.3 million+
Romania has traditionally had a longstanding love affair with France’s culture and language.
At the turn of the millennium L’Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (of which Romania has been a member since 1993) recorded that a whopping 28% of the population claimed to be French-speaking.
Romania’s traditional ties to France remind us that a knowledge of French is still vital to our understanding and enjoyment of an immense amount of artistic and scientific heritage.
Population: 8.7 million
French speakers: 5.7 million
Switzerland is a unique country that features four official languages: French, German, Italian and Romansh.
Most of this linguistic diversity can be attributed to the geography of the country. The country’s Eastern borders touch Austria and Germany, so that region mostly speaks German.
On the Western side, Switzerland borders France, so experiences more French influence in that region. There are also smaller regions that speak Italian (of course they’re close to the Southern border that is next to Italy).
German and French are the dominant languages of Switzerland.
Population: 44.6 million
French speakers: 27 million
After Algeria’s War of Independence against France ended in 1962, Arabic was made the official language but it didn’t entirely displace French, nor the country’s native Berber language.
In fact, French as a second language appears to be growing with a vast number of Algerians actually preferring to use French on social media platforms.
Learning about Algeria and the way the language is spoken there is fascinating in that French seems to be so seamlessly blended into Arabic and Berber.
Population: 12.4 million
French speakers: 3.8 million
Another African country affected by French colonialism, Benin boasts a wide linguistic diversity with 68 different languages being spoken.
French is the official language and is used for administrative functions, but Fon is the most widely spoken. Yom and Yoruba are also widely spoken, sharing national language status with Fon.
Most people in Benin speak more than one language, so French is used as a lingua franca, or a common language that different groups use to communicate.
9. Burkina Faso
Population: 21.5 million
French speakers: 5 million
Burkina Faso was a part of the French West Africa from 1896 to 1960. Following the French colonial rule, French remained as the official language.
Despite French being the official language used for legislature, the press and other public services, Burkina Faso has about 60 indigenous languages that are spoken.
The most widely used of the indigenous languages is Mooré, which is spoken by over 50% of the population. Overall, French may be official in Burkina Faso, but it’s not the most used.
Population: 12.3 million
French speakers: 369,000 to 1.2 million (since it’s a minority, there’s no exact estimate)
Burundi was actually under Belgian rule, not French, but they did pick up Belgian French in the colonial era and kept it as an official language alongside English and Kirundi.
Although French and English are official, Kirundi is the main language that is used by the country’s natives. In fact, less than 10% of the population is actually fluent in French.
The fact that there’s only one main indigenous language speaks to the way that Burundi is attempting to unite its people.
Population: 27.2 million
French speakers: 10 million+
Unlike some of the other countries on this list, French is an official language AND widespread. English is also official and widespread, although not as common as French.
Cameroon’s government strives for bilingualism, but this has yet to be achieved as very little of Cameroon’s population is fluent in French and English.
There are still hundreds of indigenous languages spoken in Cameroon, but Cameroonians have a higher level of understanding of French than some other African francophone countries.
12. Central African Republic
Population: 4.92 million
French speakers: 1.4 million
The two biggest languages in the CAR are French and Sango, which are both official languages and the most widespread.
Despite French being official and widely spoken relative to some 70 unofficial languages, it is not nearly as common as Sango, which is spoken by 4.4 million people.
French ends up being used mostly in writing and for formal situations, but Sango is by far the most commonly spoken day to day.
French speakers: 216,000+
Comoros is a tiny island off the East coast of Africa that has three official languages: Comorian, French and Arabic.
Comorian is the most widely spoken language, but French is the second most used, although only about 26% of the population is fluent.
Arabic is actually not too widely known in Comoros, but since the country is mostly Islam, the language was given official status.
You can also find a few people that speak Swahili or Malagasay as well.
14. Côte d’Ivoire
Population: 27.1 million
French speakers: 8.9 million+
Due to its French colonial legacy evident from the country’s name, the Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) maintains French as an official language.
Despite the fact that only about 33% of the population speaks French, it is the only language with official status.
Other than French, this country has about 77 other languages in use with the indigenous dialects originating from the Niger-Congo language family.
15. Democratic Republic of the Congo
Population: 92.4 million
French speakers: 42.5 million
This extremely linguistically diverse country has over 240 languages that are spoken in the area. Despite having so many languages spoken, French is the only official language.
Kikongo, Lingala, Swahili and Tshiluba are considered national languages.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo was a Belgian colony, and today over 50% of the population speaks French. A unique piece of this country’s colonial history is that the four national languages were actually still taught in schools.
Population: 1 million
French speakers: 17,000
Djibouti has French and Arabic as official languages, but Somali and Afar are the most used languages in this small country.
Djibouti was once part of the French Somaliland from 1896 to 1967. After a French referendum, the area was renamed the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas.
This territory remained until 1977, when the people voted to separate from France and finally became the sovereign state of Djibouti.
Islam is the predominant religion of the state, so that is why Arabic has its official status.
17. Equatorial Guinea
Population: 1.5 million
French speakers: Less than 150,000
This small West African country was actually a Spanish colony that gained its independence in 1968.
Although it didn’t have direct French influence, Equatorial Guinea adopted French as an official language in 1988 in order to build better relationships with francophone countries.
This was mostly an economic and political move, so it’s spoken by less than 10% of the population. Spanish is the main language spoken alongside Portuguese and various indigenous languages.
Population: 2.3 million
French Speakers: 1.8 million
Gabon is a country in Western Africa that used to be a colony of French from 1885 to 1960, after which it became independent.
French is Gabon’s official language and it’s spoken by a majority of the population. It’s also he main language used in schools.
Aside from French, indigenous Bantu languages such as Fang and Eshira are also widely spoken in Gabon.
Population: 13.5 million
French speakers: 3.8 million
Guinea has 22 major languages, with French being the only official language. Although it’s official, French is usually only a second language after one of the indigenous languages.
The indigenous languages Pular, Maninka, Susu, Kissi, Kpelle and Toma have national language status. Pular is the most widely spoken of the indigenous languages.
Population: 28.4 million
French speakers: 5.2 million
Madagascar has two official languages: Malagasay and French. Despite the fact that Madagascar was a French colony until 1960, the language is only spoken by about a fifth of those who live there.
Malagasay is definitely the most widely spoken language in Madagascar, but you can also find quite a few English, Arabic and Chinese speakers as well.
Population: 20.9 million
French speakers: Less than 2.1 million
French is the only official language of this West African country, but only between five and ten percent of the population actually speak it.
The indigenous language Bambara is by far the most widely spoken language in Mali, with over half of the population being able to speak it.
There are also over 70 other indigenous languages present in Mali.
Population: 1.2 million +
French speakers: 900,000+
French isn’t an official language in Mauritius. In fact, there isn’t one!
Although French is a lingua franca on this jewel of an island, most of the population’s first language is Mauritian Creole.
This French-based language is uniquely mixed with both Asian and African influences.
When Mauritians speak Standard French in their native accent, the result is a relaxed, alluring and sultry sound.
Population: 25.1 million
French speakers: 2.5 million+
Niger achieved independence from France in 1960. The official languages of Niger are French and Arabic, yet most of the people of Niger speak Hausa.
French is mostly only spoken by people who receive an education and is used for official public use such as media, business and government.
There are also many other indigenous languages that are used in Niger.
24. Republic of Congo
Population: 92.4 million
French speakers: 27.7 million
This highly urbanized country is very linguistically diverse, with over 60 languages being spoken.
French is the Republic of Congo’s official language, while the indigenous languages Kituba and Lingala hold national language status.
Since most of the population lives in the cities, it only makes sense that this is where you will find the majority of French speakers.
Population: 13.3 million
French speakers: 724,000+
Rwanda has four official languages: French, English, Swahili and Kinyarwanda. French came from Rwanda’s time as a Belgian colony in the twentieth century.
Kinyarwanda is the most widely spoken language in Rwanda, as it’s the first language of most who live there.
In 2008, the language of education switched from French to English. Since then, English has become the more dominant foreign language, although many educated Rwandans speak French.
Population: 17.2 million
French speakers: 6.4 million
There are over 30 different languages that are spoken in Senegal. French may be the official language of this country, but it is certainly not the only one or even the most widely spoken.
In fact, only about 37% of the population speaks French and it’s hardly ever the first language. About 50% of the population actually speaks Wolof as their first language.
The indigenous languages Wolof, Serer, Pular, Mandinka, Soninke and Jola-fony hold national language status in Senegal.
French speakers: 29,000+
Seychelles is an archipelago of islands in the Indian Ocean and was actually a British colony until 1976.
Despite being an English colony, the most widely spoken language in this country is Creole, which is heavily influenced by French, although it contains English elements as well.
French, English and Creole are all official languages, but French isn’t actually used all that much.
Population: 8.5 million
French speakers: 2.6 million+
This West African country was once a French and British colony (land was split between the two). Eventually, the French region of former Togoland gained independence in 1960.
Since then, Togo has kept French as an official language, although it’s really only used for government functions and some businesses.
National languages include the indigenous languages Ewé and Kabiyé. French is only spoken by 30-37% of the population.
Population: 37 million
French speakers: 10 million+
French Canadian dialects are actually closer to the version of the language spoken in France during the 17th and 18th centuries.
The noticeable differences in grammar, syntax and pronunciation give the Canadian French a beautifully archaic aspect.
Understanding Canada’s francophone history might change your perspective on the French language.
If you’ve only listened to Parisian French, it will likely sound kind of strange at first. But, after you’ve adjusted to it, you may develop a greater love for Canadian French.
Population: 11.5 million
French speakers: 4.6 million
Haiti was initially a part of the Spanish colony Hispaniola, but was eventually annexed by the French. Almost the entire population of Haiti consisted of slaves brought from Africa to work on the plantations on the island.
Eventually, the slaves led a revolt against the French and claimed independence in 1804, making Haiti the world’s oldest black republic.
French and Haitian Creole are the official languages of Haiti, though most Haitians only speak Creole. Creole is mostly French, with influence from several other languages that make it unique.
French speakers: About 374,000
Martinique is considered to be an overseas department of France located in the Caribbean between the islands Dominica and Saint Lucia.
A beautiful island itself, Martinique is full of its own culture and unique linguistic differences.
Although nearly the whole population speaks French, you’ll also commonly hear locals conversing in Martiniquan Creole, which features a wide variety of linguistic influences from African dialects to English.
French speakers: 125,000+
Vanuatu has three official languages: French, English and Bislama. Bislama is a form of pidgin English and is used the most by locals in day-to-day life.
English is used a lot in the tourism sector and French is used in some businesses. Even though French and English are official languages, they’re relatively low on Vanuatu’s linguistic hierarchy.
Most people from Vanuatu will speak an indigenous language first, with Bislama as a second language and French or English as a third language.
Other Countries with Major French-Speaking Communities
The list doesn’t end there! There are countries where at least 20% of the population speak French, even though it’s not listed as their official language:
|Country||Percentage of French Speakers|
As with any other influential language, French has grown and developed uniquely in different areas of the world.
Exploring French-speaking countries other than France can really supercharge your French language skills.