A breakthrough guide to all 40 French speaking countries & territories

They say learning a language can take you places, but did you know just how many countries you can go to when you learn French?

Whether you’re just getting started with the ABCs in French or are already an intermediate speaker and want to put your language chops to the test, you may wonder: where do people actually speak French in the world?

Just as English is a global language, French is also spoken far and wide, including in many places that you may not have imagined. After English, French is used as the national language of more countries than any other language globally.

That means that if you speak English and French, you will be able to speak the two most international languages! Talk about becoming a world citizen, huh?

Besides France, French is spoken in dozens of countries in every single continent in the world. Thanks to French speaking countries, French Overseas Territories, and speakers of French as a foreign language, you can feel rest assured that speaking French is a skill that will come in handy all around the world.

Ready to learn just how massive the Francosphere is? Let’s get into it!

Women speaking French in Africa.

How many French speaking countries are there in the world?

Formally, 29 countries use French as the national or official language. Additionally, France has 11 Overseas Territories, which are administrative subdivisions of France outside of the mainland. These are similar to what Puerto Rico is to the United States.

These countries and regions are spread out all over the globe, with at least one in each of the following regions:

  • Africa
  • The Caribbean
  • Europe
  • North America
  • South America
  • The Caribbean
  • Oceania

And, if you include countries where French is used as an administrative language (a step-down from the official language), you can add Laos and Cambodia, which get you francophone countries in every single continent!

French speaking countries

At this point, you might be dying to find out exactly which countries speak French. If you’re studying French online or at home, it may be hard to visualize just how many countries speak French.

To make the list more manageable, we’ll break down the countries that speak French by continent or region. We’ll also provide you with more information about each country, such as its population, flag, and capital.

That way, you’ll more easily understand the true extent of the French language worldwide. If you’re familiar with French slang, seeing the geographic reach of the language may help you put things into perspective. Geographic diversity usually translates into linguistic diversity when it comes to language, and how could this not be the case with so many different cultures using French to communicate?

The data in the following sections are taken from the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie and Laval University in Québec.

Without further ado, let’s get started with our French speaking countries list!

French speaking countries of Africa

Africa is — by far — the continent with the most countries that speak French. It’s also the continent with the most French speakers. Oh, and the most populous country that uses French as its national language? That’s in Africa too.

In fact, French has become somewhat of a lingua franca in most of Eastern Africa. Whereas countries in Northern Africa tend to use Arabic as lingua franca, countries in Central Africa use Swahili, and countries in Southern Africa use English, most of the East uses French.

Here are the 21 African countries that use French as a national or official language.

Man feeds giraffe in one of the 21 African countries that use French as a national or official language.

CountryFlagCapitalPopulationPercentage of the population who speak French
Benin🇧🇯Porto-Novo12,785,00033.68%
Burkina Faso🇧🇫Ouagadougou22,103,00024.45%
Burundi🇧🇮Gitega12,625,0008.51%
Cameroon🇨🇲Yaoundé27,912,00067.0%
Central African Republic🇨🇫Bangui5,017,00028.60%
Chad🇹🇩N'Djamena17,414,00012.91%
Côte d'Ivoire🇨🇮Yamoussoukro27,742,00033.61%
Comoros🇰🇲Moroni907,00026.13%
Congo🇨🇬Brazzaville5,798,00060.68%
Congo, Democratic republic of🇨🇩Kinshasa95,241,00051.37%
Djibouti🇩🇯Djibouti1,016,00050.0%
Equatorial Guinea🇬🇶Malabo1,497,00028.92%
Gabon🇬🇦Libreville2,332,00065.14%
Guinea🇬🇳Conakry13,866,00027.24%
Madagascar🇲🇬Antananarivo29,178,00026.49%
Mali🇲🇱Bamako21,474,00017.24%
Niger🇳🇪Niamey26,084,00012.89%
Rwanda🇷🇼Kigali13,600,0005.83%
Senegal🇸🇳Dakar17,654,00026.28%
Seychelles🇸🇨Victoria99,00053.54%
Togo🇹🇬Lomé8,681,00040.94%

French speaking countries of Europe

Of course, we all know French is spoken in France. But did you know that there are four other countries in Europe that speak French? Try to see if you can guess which ones before you look at our table below!

Belgium is one of many French speaking countries in Europe.

CountryFlagCapitalPopulationPercentage of the population who speak French
Belgium🇧🇪Brussels11,668,00075.55%
France🇫🇷Paris68,508,00096.91%
Luxembourg🇱🇺Luxembourg City642,00092.06%
Monaco🇲🇨Monaco40,00097.50%
Switzerland🇨🇭Bern8,774,00067.12%

French speaking countries and cities of North America

If you live in the United States, you probably already know that Canada has a French speaking region. Québec, the largest territory of Canada, speaks almost exclusively French with over 93% of its population being able to speak the language. New Brunswick also has a significant French speaking population, with 42% of residents being able to speak it.

CountryFlagCapitalPopulationPercentage of the population who speak French
Canada🇨🇦Ottawa38,694,00028.59%

French speaking countries of the Caribbean

You might be surprised to learn that there is only one country in the Caribbean that uses French as its national language. But what about Martinique? What about Guadeloupe? St. Barts??? Well, those are all Overseas France, which means they are technically French territory!

CountryFlagCapitalPopulationPercentage of the population who speak French
Haiti🇭🇹Port-au-Prince11,680,00042.0%

French speaking countries of Oceania

Yep, French is spoken even all the way in Oceania! Australia and New Zealand are commonly referred to as “the Antipodes,” which means the point on Earth that is the diametrical opposite of where you are. In this case, Oceania in general is the antipode of Europe. So, yeah, French somehow made it all the way to the antipode of France!

CountryFlagCapitalPopulationPercentage of the population who speak French
Vanuatu🇻🇺Port Vila322,00031.06%

French Overseas Territories where French is spoken

As mentioned earlier, France has significant overseas territories that are considered French soil for all intents and purposes. Most of these territories have their own senators, and up until recently had their own representation at the European Parliament. So, even though they aren’t sovereign nations, they should count as countries for our purposes.

TerritoryFlagContinentPopulationPercentage of the population who speak French
French Guiana🇬🇫South America294,43666.23%
Guadeloupe🇬🇵Caribbean384,23987.45%
Martinique🇲🇶Caribbean364,50883.13%
Mayotte🇾🇹Africa299,34851.78%
Réunion🇷🇪Africa868,84687.82%
French Polynesia🇵🇫Oceania279,30099.53%
Saint Barthélemy🇧🇱Caribbean9,96190.0%
Saint Martin🇸🇽Caribbean32,48998.49%
Saint Pierre and Miquelon🇵🇲North America6,000100.0%
Wallis and Futuna🇼🇫Oceania11,55877.87%
New Caledonia🇳🇨Oceania271,40766.62%

Where else is French spoken where it’s not an official language?

Just because French isn’t an official language of a country doesn’t mean that it isn’t widely spoken. There are many countries around the world with a significant francophone population. At least 10% of the population of all of the countries in the table below speak French.

The Netherlands has a significant francophone population.

CountryFlagCapitalContinentPopulationPercentage of the population who speak French
The Gambia🇬🇲BanjulAfrica2,558,00020.02%
Mauritius🇲🇺Port LouisAfrica1,275,00072.63%
São Tomé and Príncipe🇸🇹São ToméAfrica228,00020.18%
Lebanon🇱🇧BeirutAsia6,685,00038.0%
Morocco🇲🇦RabatAfrica37,773,00035.63%
Tunisia🇹🇳TunisAfrica12,047,00052.47%
Andorra🇦🇩Andorra la VellaEurope77,00070.13%
Algeria🇩🇿AlgiersAfrica45,350,00032.86%
Italy🇮🇹RomeEurope60,263,00019.58%
Portugal🇵🇹LisbonEurope10,141,00025.12%
Cabo Verde🇨🇻PraiaAfrica568,00010.74%
Guinea-Bissau🇬🇼BissauAfrica2,063,00015.37%
Mauritania🇲🇷NouakchottAfrica4,902,00013.38%
Romania🇷🇴BucharestEurope19,031,00011.99%
Austria🇦🇹ViennaEurope9,067,00012.86%
Ireland🇮🇪DublinEurope5,020,00012.67%
Malta🇲🇹VallettaEurope444,00013.06%
Germany🇩🇪BerlinEurope83,884,00014.66%
Spain🇪🇸MadridEurope46,719,00011.71%
Netherlands🇳🇱AmsterdamEurope17,211,00019.21%
United Kingdom🇬🇧LondonEurope68,498,00016.47%

Honorable mentions of other countries where French is spoken

French is an extremely popular language worldwide. Even if a country doesn’t have any significant ties to France or the former French Empire, it’s still very common for people to choose to study French as a foreign language. The countries in the table below all have at least half a million French speakers.

CountryFlagCapitalContinentPopulationNumber of people who speak French
Egypt🇪🇬CairoAfrica106,157,0003,205,000
Vietnam🇻🇳HanoiAsia98,954,000693,000
Poland🇵🇱WarsawEurope37,730,000947,000
Greece🇬🇷AthensEurope10,317,000754,000
Israel🇮🇱JerusalemAsia8,923,000528,000
Russia🇷🇺MoscowEurope/Asia145,806,000629,000
United States🇺🇸Washington, D.C.North America334,805,0002,179,000
Sweden🇸🇪StockholmEurope10,219,000845,000

How many people in the world speak French?

As of 2022, there are over 321 million French speakers all over the world. Perhaps surprisingly, fewer than 100 million of them speak French as their native language. This makes French one of the languages with the most non-native speakers in relation to native speakers!

There are two main reasons why this happens. First, there are many countries that use French as one of the official languages. This means there are multiple official languages within a country, and French becomes the lingua franca.

Second, French is one of the most popular languages to learn worldwide! Perhaps it's due to the powerful influence of French culture around the world, including its cuisine, media, literature, and arts. Or perhaps there’s something intrinsically appealing in French. Either way, students all over the globe can’t get enough of French!

What are the countries with the most French speakers?

Unsurprisingly, France is the country with the most French speakers worldwide. But can you guess which countries follow? Maybe Canada, Belgium, or Switzerland? Nope! Check out our table below to find out which are the five countries with the most French speakers in the world (the last one might surprise you!).

CountryFlagNumber of French speakers
France🇫🇷66 million
Democratic Republic of Congo🇨🇩48.9 million
Algeria🇩🇿14.9 million
Morocco🇲🇦13.4 million
Germany🇩🇪12.3 million

How French became a global language

After getting through this article, you may be wondering just how French became such a global phenomenon.

Of course, English is the current global language in part thanks to the massive English-speaking economies of the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, and other countries with significant anglophiles like India, Nigeria, and the Philippines. So, how did France manage to make its language so global?

Well, there are quite a few reasons. Let’s get into some of the most important ones.

Friends hiking in Canada which is a French speaking country.

Influence within Europe

One of the first instances of French being used outside of France was in the 11th century, much before the French even began thinking about exploring the world outside of Europe. The English aristocracy adopted French for official and legal use within the English court system and upper society. In fact, French was used in English legislation until the Proceedings in Courts of Justice Act of 1730, which replaced French and Latin with English as the official language of the English courts.

Keep in mind that this was a time when Latin dominated Europe. Virtually all scientific, academic, and political discourse across Medieval Europe was carried out in Latin. That is, of course, until French replaced Latin as the European lingua franca for international treaties.

It all started with the Peace of Westphalia Treaty, which marked the end of the Eight Years’ War. This was the first international document of major significance that was written entirely in French. After this, French started to slowly supplant Latin as the most important lingua franca in Europe.

Fast-forward a few centuries (and a handful of Napoleonic Wars), and French had become the most important language among the educated all across Europe by the 19th century. Even the Russian nobility spoke French, with Prince Dmitry Golitsyn famously speaking terrible Russian with a thick French accent.

French colonization

Outside of Europe, French became an important language because of French colonization. The French Empire was at one point the second-largest empire in the world and still remains one of the largest empires in the history of humanity.

As the French Empire grew, so did the reach of the French language all over the world. France ended up having over 60 colonies in every corner of the Earth. Most former colonies still have significant French speaking populations today, and some still use French as the national language.

As discussed earlier, some of the remnants of the French Empire were incorporated into France as Overseas Territories, so the impact and influence of France’s colonial ambitions can still be felt today.

Belgian colonization

Despite France having a much bigger empire, we cannot forget about the Belgian Empire and its influence on the Francosphere. Despite not being nearly as far-reaching, the Belgian Empire did establish colonies in Africa, Asia, and North America.

By far, the most significant linguistic consequence of the Belgian Empire is the francophonie in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As mentioned earlier in this article, the D.R. Congo is the most populous French speaking country. Not only that, but its population is expected to more than triple to 360 million people by the year 2099.

So, it turns out Belgium is actually responsible for the largest French speaking country today!

French diplomacy

France has historically made strides to institutionalize and internationalize French as a language. Starting with the Académie Française in 1635, France has done more than any other country to preserve and disseminate its language.

Today, the Alliance Française is the organization in charge of promoting French culture and language all over the world. With close to a thousand institutes in over 130 countries worldwide, Alliance Française centers are places where students can watch French movies, borrow or purchase French books, and learn more about the French language and French culture.

The success of Alliance Française is hard to be overstated, as it is the oldest and largest of all European language institutes, including the British Council, the Goethe Institute, and the Cervantes Institute.

Official language of international organizations

Finally, French is an official language of many important international organizations. This ensures that French stays relevant for international actors today.

French is the official language of the United Nations.

Some of the most important organizations in which French is an official or working language are:

  • The United Nations
  • The World Trade Organization
  • UNESCO
  • The European Union
  • The International Court of Justice
  • NATO
  • The International Red Cross
  • The International Olympic Committee

And many, many more!

The future of the French language

With France’s deep history, it’s easy to think of French as a dying (or waning, at best) language. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, Forbes called French the language of the future!

By 2065, French is expected to have over one billion speakers. That’s more than triple the current number of French speakers in a matter of fewer than 50 years! If these predictions are accurate, then French will displace Spanish and Arabic in terms of total number of speakers.

This growth is largely due to the developing francophone countries, which are expected to grow tremendously over the next few decades. In particular, Africa — where French is one of the three lingua franca along with English and Arabic — is expected to experience a population boom unlike anything ever seen before.

As of 2022, there are 1,406,722,629 people living in Africa. By 2065, it is expected that there will be 3,108,925,401 people. That’s more than twice the current population and a net gain of over one and half billion people!

This is where most of the growth in global francophones will come from. As francophone African countries like D.R. Congo, Cameroon, and Madagascar double or even triple their population over the next few decades, the use of French will continue to increase worldwide.

FAQs about countries that speak French

Is French still useful worldwide?

Of course! In addition to being an official language of 29 countries around the world, French is an extremely useful language to learn for business or otherwise. Bloomberg ranked French as the third most useful language for business, only after English and Mandarin.

French is also ranked as the third most powerful language by the Power Language Index. Again, French is third only after English and Mandarin. The index takes into account geography, economy, communication, media, and diplomacy.

French is a useful language to know for business.

Is French or Spanish more useful?

In general, French is more useful than Spanish as it’s considered to be a better language for business and a more powerful language according to the Power Language Index. However, Spanish could be more useful for you depending on where you live. If you live in the United States, then learning Spanish will almost undoubtedly be more helpful than French.

What country has the best French accent?

Metropolitan French — also known as Parisian French — is generally considered to be the best French accent. That is because it’s considered to be standard or “accentless” French. Of course, whether or not Metropolitan French is the best accent or not ultimately depends on who you ask!

If you’re trying to find the best French accent for learners, then the Southern French accent may be what you’re looking for. People in the South of France tend to speak much more slowly and clearly than Parisians, making them easier to understand for foreign language learners.

Is African French different from French from France?

African French is entirely based on standard French. However, with over 20 different countries in Africa using French as an official language, it is only natural for African French to vary somewhat from Metropolitan French.

And that’s part of what makes French such a fun language! With dozens of countries using French as a national language, you can imagine how much fun slang there is! Luckily, you don’t have to imagine it—just check out our blog with 275 French slang words and phrases!

Keep up with the Francosphere

Hopefully, this blog has helped inspire you to continue or begin learning French! Now that you’re aware of all the places French can take you, what’s stopping you from jumping headfirst into your next French lesson?

And if you can’t get enough of French and want to learn more now, then check out our French blog for more awesome (and free!) content.

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