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French is a language that belongs to the Romance group within the Indo-European language family. According to Wikipedia, this language originated from the Vulgar Latin used in the Roman Empire, similar to all other Romance languages. French developed from the Latin spoken in the region of Gaul, particularly in the northern part. It is closely related to the langues d’oïl, which were once spoken in northern France and southern Belgium, but has largely replaced them. Influences on French came from the native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul and the Frankish language spoken by the Frankish invaders after the fall of Rome. French has expanded globally through France’s former colonies, leading to various French-based creole languages, such as Haitian Creole. French-speaking individuals or nations are often called Francophone.
French serves as an official language in 28 countries and is used worldwide. It is the language with the second-most widespread presence after English, recognized in around 50 countries and territories as an official or customary language. Many of these places are part of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), a group of 54 states that use or teach French. Additionally, French is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Native speakers predominantly live in France; parts of Canada including Quebec, Ontario, and New Brunswick; Belgium; western Switzerland; certain areas of Luxembourg; some U.S. states; Monaco; Italy’s Aosta Valley; and other communities globally.
In 2015, around 40% of French speakers were in Europe, 36% in Africa and the Indian Ocean, 15% in North Africa and the Middle East, 8% in the Americas, and 1% in Asia and Oceania. It is the second most common first language in the European Union. Approximately one in five Europeans who speak a language other than French can also speak French as a second language. French is commonly taught and used in the EU, where it is a working language alongside English and German, and is the sole language for some EU institutions.
About 76 million people are native French speakers, 235 million speak it fluently every day, and 77–110 million people speak it as a second language, primarily in Africa. The OIF says that around 321 million people globally can speak French, though the criteria for this are not detailed. Projections suggest that there could be 500 million French speakers by 2025 and 650 million by 2050, with the OIF estimating as many as 700 million by 2050, mostly in Africa.
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