French Language Data Points (and fun facts)

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. 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’s study concludes that by 2050 French could be the world’s most spoken language with a potential 750 million people speaking the language of Moliere. That’s a big jump compared to the 220 million French speakers in the world 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.
  • 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. Interested in SSA? 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, out of all of the world’s internet users, over 97 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. Francophone Africa consists of a large percentage of North and West Africa, including Ivory Coast, Morocco and Algeria.
  • Book club. The New York Times recently reported that as independent bookstores crash and burn in the United States and Britain, the book market in France is doing just fine. France boasts 2,500 bookstores, and for every neighborhood bookstore that closes, another seems to open.
  • Translation tip: 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. Read more translation tips.

And for a few fun facts…

  • I’m loving it! 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 November 2015, 52 million Facebook users identified themselves as French speakers.

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