French is an official language in twenty-nine countries around the world, including Canada, Monaco, Switzerland, Senegal, Belgium, Luxembourg, and you guessed it – France.
The French Language Around The World
French language speakers
Ranked as the 5th most spoken language in the world, French is the language used by 300 million speakers in over 106 countries from 5 continents. In Europe, the French language is the one of most widely spoken language, right behind the English and the German language.
The number of French speakers worldwide is growing, and most of them are outside of France.
French language learners
Around the world, many schools and higher education institutions teach in French to over 80 million students. Students learning French as a second language, Français langue étrangère (FLE), are estimated at around 50 million persons in 115 countries according to l’organisation internationale de la Francophonie.
Largest French-Speaking Cities
The cities below are among the largest French-speaking cities in the world:
- Kinshasa, Democratic Republic Of Congo
- Paris, France
- Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire
- Montreal, Canada
- Dakar, Senegal
- Port-Au-Prince, Haiti
- Yaoundé, Cameroon
- Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
- Bamako, Mali
- Antananarivo, Madagascar
A few notes about the list. Some countries, like France and the Democratic Republic Of Congo have more than one large French-speaking city. In the list below, only one city per country is selected. As for the population numbers, they can be found in the 16th edition of Demographia World Urban Areas 2020 report.
1. Kinshasa, Democratic Republic Of Congo
Kinshasa is the city with the highest number of French speakers. Kinshasa is the capital of the Democratic Republic Of Congo where French is the official language. In 2016, the population of Kinshasa exceeded 12 million and became greater than the population of Paris. In Kinshasa, 67% of the population could read and write French.
2. Paris, France
The Paris region has an estimated population of over 11,020,000 in 2021. La ville lumière is the second-largest francophone city on the planet. Paris is both the political and economic capital of France. Like many other French cities, Paris has many cultural and touristic monuments that attract visitors from around the world.
3. Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire
Abidjan is the economical capital of Côte d’Ivoire and is located on the southern Atlantic coast of the country. With its 4,965,000 population, Abidjan is among the most populous French-speaking cities in Africa. French is the official language in Côte d’Ivoire and Abidjan is recognized as one of the few areas in Africa where French is truly a native tongue (colloquial Abidjan French).
4. Montreal, Canada
Montreal is the second-most populous city in Canada with a population estimated at 3,625,000. Montreal, one of the oldest cities in North America, is located in the Canadian province of Quebec. Montreal ranks in the 4th position among the largest French-speaking cities. Yet, a large percentage of the population of this francophone city is bilingual and able to speak both English and French.
5. Dakar, Senegal
Dakar is the capital of Senegal. Dakar’s metropolitan area has a population of 3,446,000. The French language is the official language of the country. French is a language that is seen as essential in education. It is the main language of education in Dakar where half of Dakar residents identify as Francophone.
6. Port-Au-Prince, Haiti
Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital city, ranks among the largest French-speaking cities. The population of Port-au-Prince is around 2,941,000. French has become the language of education with most Haitian schools teach in French. The French language is also present in broadcast media and in the newspapers.
7. Yaoundé, Cameroon
Cameroon is the 2nd African country with the highest number of French speakers. Around 39.9% of the population (9,839,000) is considered to be able to speak French. Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, with its 4,159,000 urban population is one of the largest cities in terms of French speakers.
8. Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
The French language is the official language in Burkina Faso. Around 24 % of the population can speak and understand French. The capital, Ouagadougou, has an estimated population of 3,460,000. The French language in the city of Ouagadougou is part of the bilingual program in schools.
9. Bamako, Mali
Bamako is the capital of Mali and one of the largest West African urban centers with an estimated population of 3,637,000. French is the official language in Mali. With the Arabic language, French is the other major language in the education system.
10. Antananarivo, Madagascar
Antananarivo, or Tananarive in French, is the capital of Madagascar. With over 2,202,000, Antananarivo is another city where a large percentage of the local population can speak French. The French influence is part of the educational system in Madagascar just after the Malagasy language.
Reasons to learn French
The French Ministry for Europe and foreign affairs provides a detailed article that contains a list of 10 good reasons to learn French.
Among these motivating reasons, learning French:
- removes the language barriers when traveling to many French-speaking countries and their biggest cities
- opens the doors of renowned French universities for international students,
- increases the chances of finding amazing work opportunities and well-paying jobs all over the world.
The 5 most spoken languages in the world
More good reasons to take action
Learning a new language has amazing benefits such as strengthening cognitive abilities and unlocking intellectual abilities. Of course, learning the French language takes effort and time. But after all, it is a powerful tool to help you get what you want and where you want. French is also an important language in diplomacy.