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The French Language

The majority of the world’s 77 million French speakers are found in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Canada (Quebec); in addition, over 5 million French speakers can be found in former French colonies in Africa, and significant numbers of speakers use French in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. French is the official language of France and 22 other countries; it is a co-official language in Belgium, Switzerland and Canada.

Standard French, according to the Encyclopædia Britannica, is derived from the dialect spoken in Paris, known as Francien.1 This spoken and written form of French was made the official standard language very early on when compared to the histories of other languages in Europe (since the mid-16th Century), and by the 18th Century its grammar and vocabulary had been “standardized and polished to an unprecedented degree.”2 Through the power of its official status, Francien has for the most part replaced the regional dialects of northern and central France (known as the langue d ‘oïl), as well as the Occitan language used in southern France (known as the langue d’oc).3

Below are some brief but important facts about the larger markets within the French-speaking world:


France

Capital: Paris
Currency: Euro (EUR)
Government Type: Republic
Population: 60,424,213 (July 2004 est.)
Internet Country Code: .fr
Internet Hosts: 2,396,761 (2004)
Internet Users: 21.9 million (2003)


Belgium

Capital: Brussels
Currency: Euro (EUR)
Government Type: Federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch
Population: 10,348,276 (July 2004 est.)
Internet Country Code: .be
Internet Hosts: 166,799 (2004)
Internet Users: 3.4 million (2002)


Switzerland

Capital: Bern
Currency: Swiss franc (CHF)
Government Type: Federal republic
Population: 7,450,867 (July 2004 est.)
Internet Country Code: .ch
Internet Hosts: 667,275 (2004)
Internet Users: 2.556 million (2002)


Canada (Quebec)

Capital: Ottawa
Currency: Canadian dollar (CAD)
Government Type: Confederation with parliamentary democracy
Population: 32,507,874 (July 2004 est.)
Internet Country Code: .ca
Internet Hosts: 3,210,081 (2003)
Internet Users: 16.11 million (2002)

For additional demographic information on the countries listed here, you can check out the following link:

http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html

For information on The French Writing System, please see our Quick Facts Library.


1 “French language” Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service
http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?tocId=9035353

[Accessed December 11, 2004]


2 “Romance languages” Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service
http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?tocId=74693

[Accessed December 11, 2004]


3 “French language” Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service
http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?tocId=9035353

[Accessed December 11, 2004]