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The numbers that tell the story of the French language in 2019

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The numbers that tell the story of the French language in 2019
Photo: alexkich/Depositphotos
14:59 CET+01:00
In honour of International French Language Day, we've collected the figures that show the significance of the language in 2019.
Wednesday marks annual International Francophonie Day which is observed every March 20th to celebrate the French language and Francophone culture.
 
In honour of the event, here are some figures that reveal the global status on the health of the French language, and projections for how the Francophone world might evolve in the future.
 
French is the 5th most spoken language in the world
 
There are some 300 million French speakers worldwide which means French ranks as the 5th most spoken language globally, behind Chinese, English, Spanish and Arabic.
 
However it must be added that this ranking has also been called into contention by experts who believe that the way populations are counted in countries where French is an official language is inaccurate.
 
Experts say an estimate by Ethnologue, a reference guide to world languages that ranks French 14th, may be closer to the mark.
 
READ ALSO:
(Where in the world French is an official language?)
 
Fourth language on the web
 
It might be some consolation to Macron, however, that French can still claim to be one of the most typed languages in the world.
 
It ranks as the 4th biggest language on the Internet, behind English, Chinese and Spanish.
 
It's also the third language of business and commerce.
 
(Photo: AFP)
 
French is spoken on all five continents
 
Perhaps emphasising the potential French has to become the world's leading language, the report highlights the fact that the Francophone world stretches across five continents and overlaps with more than a quarter of the 6,000 languages spoken globally. 
 
The only other language to achieve this is English.
 
(An estimation of the number of French speakers in each continent.)
 
French is an official language of 32 states
 
The report also highlights French's use as an official language throughout the world. Aside from major global organisations such as the UN, and international events like the Olympics, French is listed as an official language of 32 national governments.
 
French is the first language of 12 percent of EU citizens
 
This makes it the 4th most spoken native language in the EU after German, English and Italian, although the Britain's exit from Europe will bump French up to 3rd place next year.
 
It is also the second most popular language to learn in schools across Europe, after English, with just over 26% of students taking up the language in secondary school.
 
There are 51 million French language learners worldwide
 
If le subjonctif still remains a mystery to you, you're not alone.
 
This figure counts learners of French as a second language and numbers them as the second largest group of language learners, after English learners, globally.
 
The report claims that there is no country in the world where French isn't taught, although the majority of students are in Africa, closely followed by Europe.
 
Two thirds of all French speakers are in Africa
 
Not only does the continent contain the most French language learners, but 59% of all French speakers (classed as those who were born into and live their lives in French) live in Africa.
 
French is more widely used in Africa by young people than older generations and most African parents (or potential parents) hope to pass on the language to their children.
 
(What percentage of people are learning French?)
 
There are 10% more French speakers than 4 years ago
 
There are 30 million more French speakers than there was in 2014 and the numbers are set to keep on growing.
 
No, these gains aren't expected to come from Brexit weary Brits packing up and moving to France, but from expected improvements in African education systems.
 
And by the year 2070...
 
Projections for 2070 are that there will be between 477 and 747 million French speakers around the world, compared to 300 million today.
 
 
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