You might believe that there is a high concentration of French speakers in Europe. And you would be correct, as 33.4% of the European population speaks it. You might also believe that the concentration of French speakers is the highest in Europe, but you would be incorrect. Of the 300 million French speakers around the world, 44.4% of them live in sub-Saharan Africa, and that percentage is growing daily.
The Expansive Population of Francophones
A Francophone is a person who speaks French, typically as their first language. Why so many Francophones living in Africa? The short answer is colonization. Today, the increase in Francophones in Africa might be driven by the fact that children there learn French from an early age. In an interview with France 24, professor and linguist Samir Marzouki explains that “French is taught in almost 100% of schools, and it’s useful from an economic standpoint. We live in a world where having several languages under your belt is a huge asset.”
44% Strong and Growing
The BBC reports that “By 2050, a full 85% of French speakers could live on the continent,” according to organizations that monitor language statistics. Another reason for the language population? Demographics; “The practice of French is increasing on the African continent. It’s a reality driven by demographics, and in West Africa, by countries surrounded by French-speaking neighbours who want to learn the language” (BBC).
Thanks to the millions of Africans who speak French every day, Quartz reports that “French has moved up a place to become the world’s fifth most spoken language… Africans are making French a truly global language.” Which can be fantastic for businesses around the globe. Could it ever reach number one? Some believe so. Currently, France 24 reports that the most commonly spoken languages around the world are:
A Breakdown of French-speaking Countries
• Democratic Republic of the Congo
The following have the highest percentage of people who speak the language:
• Gabon: 80%
• Mauritius: 72.2%
• Côte d’Ivoire: 70%
• Senegal: 70%
• Sao Tomé and Principe: 65%
• Tunisia: 63.3%
• Guinea: 63.2%
• Seychelles: 60%
• Republic of Congo: 60%
• Equatorial Guinea: 60%
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