• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

French language is on the up, report reveals

The Local · 6 Nov 2014, 11:36

Published: 06 Nov 2014 11:36 GMT+01:00

Those who say French is a dying language may need to think again.

A report published by the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF) revealed that the number of French speakers has grown by 25 percent since 2010 and will increase almost threefold by the year 2060.

According to the OIF, the number increased from 220 million in 2010 to 274 million in 2014, making French the sixth most spoken language in the world after Mandarin, English, Spanish, Arabic and Hindi. That number will increase to 767 million by the year 2060, the OIF predict.

Although French is no longer the official language of diplomacy and has been overtaken by English in the EU, in parts of Africa the language is booming.

"French is benefiting from the demographic growth of sub-Saharan African nations," the OIF's outgoing secretary general Abdou Diouf said.  The region accounted for 15 percent of the reported increase.

SEE ALSO: Ten ways France could make learning French easier

“French is the fourth language of the internet, the third language of business, the second language in international news in the media, the second working language in most organizations and the second most commonly learned language in the world,” Diouf added in the report.

There are 37 Francophone countries, in which French is either an official language or is spoken by at least one in five people.

However, of the 274 million people capable of speaking French worldwide, only 212 million of those use the language on a daily basis, representing a rise of seven percent on the equivalent figure from 2010 – according to the report, which also acknowledged that more resources were needed to confirm the trends.

While the figures may make positive reading, especially for organizations like the Académie Française, whose mission it is to promote and protect the French language, Clément Duhaime, Director General of the OIF, fired a word of warning.

He welcomed the dynamism reflected by the organization's report, but stressed the need for investment in education to maintain the spread of French.

"If there is no educational facilities and training of teachers, young people could quickly turn away from French", he said, calling the language “a giant with clay feet”.

The news could mean a boost for French overseas interests, which the country is hoping to increase in order to bolster the struggling economy. Having lost ground to English over the years exploiting the increase in French speakers in Africa could help drive economic growth.

President François Hollande commissioned a report in August which found that countries with the same language do 65 percent more business with each other than those that do not, and has tasked Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius with developing overseas growth opportunities, focusing on the African market.

The report claims the future of French is also bright:

“Long-term, based on projections of the UN, the population of those countries which have French as an official language will together exceed that of those with other common official languages: German, Portuguese, Spanish and even Arabic," it said.

The report in figures:

  • There are now 274 million French speakers across the globe

  • 212 million people use French on a daily basis

  • French is the fifth most widely spoken language in the world after Mandarin, English, Spanish, Arabic and Hindi

  • There are 37 Francophone countries in the world, in which at least one in five people speak French

  • French is the official language in 32 countries

  • French is the second most commonly learned language in the world   

A recent study commissioned by French bank Natixis came up with similar findings earlier this year, concluding that by 2050 French could be the world’s most spoken language, with a potential 750 million people speaking it. It also attributed the rise to the population surge of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Others were more sceptical, with Alexandre Wolff from the Observatory of the French Language responding to the Netixis study in Challenges magazine saying: “In reality English will remain the most used language in the world by 2050. But on the other hand it is possible [for French] to achieve such a result if we just take into account the inhabitants of countries where French is the official language.

“This concerns 32 states where French is the official language and here the projections are indeed impressive, but they do not take into account the coexistence of languages, which is the reality in many countries. Many countries have several official languages, like Belgium, while in African countries, French may be the official national language, but not the most spoken.”

by Lindsey Johnstone

 

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
View from the rue
What do Parisians think of France's burqini bans?
Photo: AFP

With 64 percent of the French against burqinis at the beach, what do the Parisians think?

Almost half of France now on heatwave alert
Children cool off in Nice's fountains. Photo: AFP

Orange alerts - the second highest level - were issued to 43 départements as France's heatwave shows no signs of stopping.

France's top ten beaches to survive the heatwave
Photo: Gomezdegomera/Flickr

Temperatures are soaring... why not head to the beach?

Parisians invited to swim in the Bassin de la Villette
People taking part in activities in the Bassin de la Villette. Photo: AFP

If you fancy a rare chance to swim along the Paris canal system, here comes your chance.

French wine output drops 10 percent after stormy weather
A vineyard in Valfaunes partially destroyed after a violent hailstorm near the southern city of Montpellier. Photo: AFP

Bad weather has pushed wine production in France down ten percent this year.

Migrants armed with sticks hold up truck driver in Calais
Migrants standing near the Calais motorway. File photo: AFP

The driver involved says he deals with similar incidents "every night".

Majority in France against burqinis on beaches
The burqini ban in 30 French towns has provoked debate worldwide. Photo: AFP

Almost two thirds of French people said they're against the controversial swimwear.

Five tips for surviving an internship in France
Photo: Thomas Heylen/Flickr

A few things you need to know about interning in France.

Police arrest Lyon man who 'talked of attack plans'
French soldiers patrolling the Part-Dieu train station last year. Photo: AFP

The man had talked about plans to attack a busy district in central Lyon.

France's burqini ban goes before country's top court
A woman models the burqini swimsuit. Photo: AFP

France's highest administrative court will on Thursday examine a request to scrap a ban on the Islamic burqini swimsuit.

Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
Eight tips on buying wine in a French supermarket
Sponsored Article
5 reasons to try dating in Paris with The Inner Circle
Society
Here's how to enjoy Paris (while avoiding the heat)
Society
Ten mistakes to avoid when dating a Frenchman
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Society
Twelve 'French' things that aren't actually French at all
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
'World's priciest home' on sale in French Riviera for €1 billion
Lifestyle
RECIPE: How to make the tastiest ratatouille
National
Paris sees Europe's biggest plunge in 'liveability'
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
National
Life on the home front in rural France's 'war on terror'
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Features
Weird facts you didn't know about the French language
Society
Paris foodie event cancelled over lack of security
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
How to tackle six of the trickiest French verbs
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
National
Summer in France - 'the ideal time to find a job'
National
'Burqini bans will only divide France more'
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
National
French vineyards revive horse-drawn ploughs
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
French mayor bans Pokemon Go app from his village
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
National
'To boycott France is to surrender to terrorists'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Travel
21 photos to make you want to come to France right now
Society
This is how much the French are obsessed with cheese
National
French MP's call for Facebook ID cards blasted 'as idiotic'
Travel
Summer checklist: Fourteen great travel ideas for France
Travel
Here's why France is still world's top tourist destination
'Wealthy American tourists' snub France over terror fears
National
Where to go swimming in France (and where to avoid)
2,751
jobs available