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World > Europe > France > France Language

 Language of France

French used to be the language of the nobility and diplomacy all across
Europe and in the Ottoman Empire, then the world's first real international
language until English replaced it in the mid-20th century.
Metropolitan France counts several native regional languages : Alsatian and
Lorraine German (both High German dialects), Occitan (incl. Gascon and
Provençal), Oïl dialects (such as Picard and Poitevin-Saintongeais), Basque,
Breton, Catalan, Corsican and Franco-Provençal.
In spite of foreign stereotypes, many French people can speak at least one
foreign language (45% are able to participate in a conversation in a foreign
language according to Eurobarometer in 2005), and English is the most widely
spoken (34%).
A survey in 1794 revealed that a mere 11% of the population of France were
pure French speakers. As late as in 1880, only 20% of the population could
actually speak French fluently. Nowadays, 86% of French people are native
French speakers if this is defined by the language their parents spoke with
them before the age of 5. Oc languages account for 3.65%, Oïl languages for
3.10%, German and German dialects for 3.15%, and Arabic for 2.55%.
French was the official language of England for over 300 years (from 1066
until the early 15th century). It is still the official language of 30
countries worldwide.
French language is spoken by 270 million people worldwide (almost as much as
the population of the USA), of which 120 million are native or fluent. There
are less than 60 million of White Caucasian native speakers of standard
French worldwide.
The variety of French spoken in Quebec, Canada, is a distant dialect from the
French spoken in Europe, and sometimes hard to understand for French people.


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