French Language Data Points and Fun Facts

welocalize June 15, 2018

French is the official language of 29 countries, covering Europe, North America, the Caribbean and Africa. French has spread around the world through territorial and colonial expansion, and this has allowed many differing versions to develop, such as in Canada and Africa. It is spoken by 66 million people in France and there are 115 million African people spread across 31 Francophone countries (as a first or second language). French is the official language of Quebec in Canada.

In 2017, Welocalize Life Sciences translated 2,247,437 words into French for Belgium, Cameroon, Canada, France, Haiti and Switzerland.

Here is a collection of data points and tips about French to help you on your global journey:

  • Fastest growing language? The French language has taken a back seat in recent years due to the continued dominance of English, but a 2014 study by French bank Natixis suggests the tide could soon turn. Natixis’ study concludes that by 2050 French could be the world’s most spoken language with a potential 750 million people speaking the language. That’s a big jump compared to the 220 million French-speakers in 2010.
  • Government agencies and NGOs. French is a working language of the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and dozens of international organizations including the International Red Cross committee, International Labor Organization, Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders. Francophone countries form an important bloc in the UN, the EU, the African Union and the Arab League.
  • Clinical Studies. According to CenterWatch, there are more than 164,000 clinical trials underway in France.
  • The rise of clinical trials in sub-Saharan Africa. SSA is emerging as an important destination for clinical trials. In 2013, 4,060 clinical trials were conducted in this region, and, according to the US National Institutes of Health, all major pharmaceutical companies have a presence in Africa. Read this comprehensive guide to conducting trials in this region, from application requirements by country to informed consent challenges.
  • Going online. According to Internet World Stats, as of June 2017, out of all of the world’s internet users, over 108 million speak French.
  • High concentration of speakers. The majority of the world’s French-speaking population can be found in Africa. Here it is mostly a second language to locally spoken languages.

Tips for translation and localization with French as the target language:

  • Be aware of target country. The location of the target language is an important factor to note when carrying out a translation or localization project with French as the target language. Words and phrases may differ depending on which French-speaking target market you wish to reach.
  • Always remember accentuation, where required. This means adding the following characters: é, à, è, ê, ù, ï, ç, «, », in encoding.
  • Nouns and gender matter. In the French language, every noun has a gender, which must be taken into account when translating.
  • Spacing requirements may differ. French words and phrases tend to be longer than English, so when designing the UI, space must be kept available for a French translation, should one be required.
  • Clarity and brevity rule. Keep sentences short, clear and simple to ensure readability.

And for a few fun facts…

  • Culinary destination. From foie gras and brie to sauvignon blanc, France is known for its fine dining, as well as for its wine exports.  But the influence of the French language goes beyond the restaurant and back into the kitchen as well.  Chefs have taught themselves to master the French arts, including julienne, and consommé.
  • I’m loving it! It may surprise you to learn that in addition to the exquisite restaurants and culinary experiences, there are more than 1,200 McDonald’s in France. In fact, France is the chain’s most profitable country outside the U.S. Interested in where the other 30,000+ McDonald’s locations are? Click here to find out.
  • Let’s socialize! As of June 2017, 58.7 million Facebook users identified themselves as French speakers.

Contact us if you’re in need of professional French translation services. Please also follow us on Twitter: @Welocalize_LS.