Quick, name the continent with the most French speakers in the world…
That’s right… it’s Africa!
French is spoken in 31 African countries. Out of a population of nearly 900 million, up to 115 million people throughout Africa speak French as their first or second language (compared to 53 million in France, 7 million in Canada, 4 million in Belgium, and 1.5 million in Switzerland).
African French varieties are grouped into 3 major categories. The largest is that spoken in west, central and eastern Africa (75 million), followed by Maghreb French (Mauritania, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia; about 36 million), and a variety spoken by less than 2 million Creoles in the Indian Ocean.
Like Arabic in northern Africa and the Horn of Africa, and Swahili in southeastern Africa, French is an important lingua franca among people from western, northwestern and central African countries.
African French varieties have many differences in pronunciation from European and Canadian French. The differences in vocabulary are even more pronounced, including loan words from other languages, terms that acquire different meanings in African French, plus a wealth of colloquial and slang expressions that, like pronunciation, vary from one region to another.
After Paris and Montreal, the third-largest French-speaking city in the world is Kinshasha (Democratic Republic of the Congo).
African countries with the largest number of French speakers (a majority of these speak French as their second language):
- Democratic Republic of the Congo (24 million)
- Algeria (19 million)
- Côte d’Ivoire (13 million)
- Morocco (10 million)
- Cameroon (7 million)
- Tunisia (6 million)
- Guinea (6 million)
African countries with the highest proportion of French speakers (as first or second language) among their population:
- Gabon 80%
- Mauritius 73%
- Côte d’Ivoire 70%
- São Tomé and Príncipe 65%
- Tunisia 64%
- Guinea: 63%
- Seychelles 60%
- Republic of the Congo 60%
- Equatorial Guinea 60%
- Algeria 57%
This Wikipedia article provides some fascinating information about French speakers in Africa.
ASIST Translations regularly provides translations in European French, Canadian French and African French—as well as other languages from Africa, Asia, Europe and elsewhere.
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