“The French language.”
What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Perhaps it’s the Académie française, lavender season in Provence or the Eiffel Tower glittering on the hour, every hour just like you remembered.
In other words, you’re thinking of France—and why wouldn’t you be? The country had inspired a worldwide fascination well before the croissant started tempting humankind with its addictive, buttery goodness.
Due to other factors, such as the country’s colonial history and its strong desire to export the French language and culture abroad, there are now many other French-speaking countries aside from l’Hexagone to explore. This raises another question.
Why should you bother?
Well, as you’ve presumably noticed the title already, the answer kind of says it on the tin.
Learning about other French-speaking countries will quickly open your eyes to the fascinating twists that have been intertwined in the language around the world. Not only will this equip you with extra tools in your language-learning toolbox, but it’ll also increase your enjoyment of the vast language learning process.
Of course, there are many regional differences within France itself to discover (i.e. not Parisian French), but for now, we shall cross land and sea to other climes, even if it’s just over the border to…uh, Belgium.
How Learning About Different French-speaking Countries Will Enhance Your Language Abilities
Cultural Interest and Know-How
Our horizons could be a teensy bit broader—wouldn’t you agree?
Learning about other French-speaking countries will do just that, my friend! And not to mention, the francophone world will, in return, open up to you like never before.
You’ll be able to access more French-speaking media and deepen your cultural understanding of the way French is used in different countries. You never know, you might even prefer it to Standard French!
Having this extra language knowledge can also help you in sticky situations.
I once needed to communicate with a Tunisian guy who came to my apartment to set up the internet. Not all Tunisians speak French of course, but my knowledge of the fact that over half of the population have at least a partial or full understanding gave me the confidence to give it a shot.
It worked. I got my internet up and running tout de suite (right away)!
Oh, So Smooth Communication
Imagine the scene. You’re in a taxi in a French-speaking country where, for argument’s sake, the accent is quite different from Standard French. You’ve never given yourself the opportunity to listen to anything but the latter and as a result, you have no idea what the person is saying and you don’t know what to say back.
If however, you’d practiced listening to real-world videos from the French-speaking country you’re traveling to, this situation would’ve been minimized or avoided altogether.
You can do that on FluentU.
Utilizing FluentU’s videos, lessons, quizzes and flashcards is the next best thing to being exposed to the language in-person, and can help you avoid situations like this.
A Comprehensive Comprehension
Listening aside, learning more about other French-speaking countries will increase your overall comprehension of French. However subtle, there are no doubt differences in grammar and vocabulary and being aware of this, even in a passive way, will make you a better learner.
5 French-speaking Countries That Add Their Own Twists to the Language
The Far Reaches of the French Language
These five countries either declare French as an official or non-official language and each one has its own unique twist on the language. There are, of course, many more to add to this list, and I encourage you to check those out too!
Canada: Let Them Eat Cake?
Closer to Marie Antoinette than a Parisian.
Population: 37 million
The number of full or partial French speakers: 7 million +
It may come as a surprise that French Canadian dialects are in a sense, closer to the version of the language spoken in France during the 17th and 18th centuries.
The noticeable differences, including features of grammar, syntax and pronunciation, give the Canadian French a beautifully archaic aspect.
Although these features vary within Canadian French dialects (not to mention times are always changing), one example of this would be the pronunciation of the oi sound as in une étoile.
In Standard French, this is ā tWAl. Traditionally, Canadian French would pronounce it as ā tWɛl.
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.
Belgium: Are You Coming With?
Germanic influences on Belgian French.
Population: 11 million
The number of full or partial French speakers: 5 million +
As with many of the other French-speaking countries on this list, the step away from Standard French is often very slight. The differences in the case of Belgium serve only to add that little extra something—the powdered sugar on your waffle.
As a country with two official Germanic languages (Dutch and German) alongside French, it’s no wonder a few things crept in 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 on how something should be expressed in Standard French.
Mauritius: Totally Not Official
Adding spice to the coq au vin (a traditional French chicken casserole), just like the language.
Population: 1 million +
The number of full or partial French speakers: Unknown (although it’s estimated that most Mauritians have a working knowledge of French as a second language.)
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.
Romania: Country of Dracula, the Carpathian Mountains and Wait…French?
A country of second-language lovers.
Population: 19 million
Number of full or partial French speakers: 5 million +
Ok, a bit of a weird one, I know.
Truth be told, despite the fact that English is now more or less on an equal footing in Romania, the country 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.
Nowadays, many people think that French isn’t the most useful language to learn. Romania’s traditional ties to France reminds us that a knowledge of French is still vital to our understanding and enjoyment of an immense artistic and scientific heritage. With Romania on the list, you never know what other unexpected places you’ll run into French speakers.
Algeria: Let’s Mix It Up
A unique use of French in the Maghreb.
Population: 43 million
Number of full or partial French speakers: 22 million +
As their popular football slogan goes: “One, two, three, viva l’Algérie!”
Algeria has a complicated relationship with France and so too with the language.
After the War of Independence ended in 1962, Arabic was made the official language but didn’t entirely displace French, nor the country’s native Berber language by a long shot.
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.
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!
Sophie McDonald is a freelance content writer with a burning passion for writing and languages. You can find her Twitter page here where she is probably talking about either writing or languages.
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