The second most widely-learned language after English
Parlez-vous francais? According to the Organisation internationale de la francophonie, an organization tracking the worldwide use of French, some 274 million people around the world were predominantly French-speaking in 2014: 7.6% in North America and the Caribbean, 36.4% in Europe, 54.7% in Africa, 0.9% in the Middle East and 0.3% in Asia and Oceania.
Spoken by 274 million people throughout five continents, French is the second most widely-learned foreign language after English. Some 13% of the 125 million people learning French are in North America and the Caribbean. French is now recognized as the second-most important international language in global media, and the language of business within most international organizations.
900 million consumers understand and speak French, making it third in line (after English and Chinese) as the preferred business language. These consumers represent 14% of the worlds population and 20% of global business trade.
In terms of number of speakers, French is ranked sixth in the world, after Mandarin, English, Spanish and Arabic or Hindi. Obviously a thriving, popular language, French cannot be overlooked on the world stage. And given Africa’s growing population, it is a language in continuous growth; the number of francophones in the world in 40 years is projected to be 700 million people.
French is also the fourth-most widely used language on the Internet,
shared by over 180 million users
After France and Algeria, Canada is home to the third-largest French-speaking community in the world, with Statistics Canada reporting 10,360,760 Francophones in Canada in 2016 (Census, Statistics Canada). As a country, Canada maintains dual language status, with English and French its two official languages. Quebec is predominantly French-speaking, New Brunswick is officially bilingual, and the other eight provinces, some with small pockets of French-speaking communities, are largely unilingual English.
The USA is home to a few small French-speaking communities, such as Louisiana (a former colony of France named after King Louis XIV), where a local Cajun French vernacular is still spoken, most notably in New Orleans. Spoken with a strong English accent, Cajun French is a remnant of the area’s historic association with people hailing from France, from Quebec, Canada, and from the Caribbean island of Haiti. Today, most people think of New Orlean’s spicy cuisine when they think of Cajun.
Like many languages, the French dialect varies from region to region; as a remote territory of France, French-Canadians (mostly in the province of Quebec) evolved the language on their own, creating a bank of words that are understood but not necessarily shared by Francophones worldwide. As one example, the French in France would refer to a car as a “voiture”, whereas in the province of Quebec, Canada, it is generally called an “auto”, or even a “char”, an archaic form of French-Canadian. The vernacular “joual” is an entire subset of French still used in Canada, similar to the cockney English spoken in some parts of the UK.
To sum it up, the regional differences in French from one region to another are mainly in the spoken language. Yet sensitivities to knowing these differences can run high, as is humorously explained in the video below, with the title loosely translated as “Quebecois for Dummies.” Like any regional users, those who speak “Quebecois” want to be spoken to in their own language, something that marketers and advertisers need to understand and acknowledge. That’s why ON TARGET offers “Transcreation” instead of translation for such markets.
This French video takes a humorous look at the differences between the spoken French in France and the spoken French in Quebec, Canada, generally called “Québécois” French.