French language

French (français) belongs to the Romance branch of the Indo-European language family. Like all Romance languages, it evolved from the Vulgar Latin spoken by the Roman invaders. Before the Roman invasion of what is now France, the territory was inhabited by a Celtic people whom the Romans called the Gauls. The language of the Gauls had little impact on French.
From the third century onwards, the Gauls were invaded by Germanic tribes whose languages had a profound effect on the region's Vulgar Latin, especially its vocabulary.

In 1539, King Francis I made French the official language of administration and judicial proceedings in France, replacing Latin as the country's official written language. After a period of unification and standardization, the language spoken in the 17th and 18th centuries became the basis of modern French. From the 17th century, French was granted the status of language of culture and diplomacy throughout the Western world. European colonization brought French to the American continent, to sub-Saharan Africa and to Southeast Asia.

Dialects of French


European French is generally divided into two main dialects which, in turn, include many regional variants.

Langue d'oil

Northern and central dialects of French, including Belgium. One of the dialects of langue d'oil was francien, which was spoken in the Ile de France. This became the basis of standard French. However, it did not become dominant throughout France, even after it became a major international language of culture and diplomacy.

Langue d'oc

Northern varieties of French, which include dialects spoken in Switzerland and Aosta Valley in Italy, closely linked to Catalan.


All varieties of Canadian French differ from standard French in pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar. Canadian French is generally divided into three varieties:

Quebec French is spoken in Quebec. It is spoken by an overwhelming majority of French-speaking Canadians.

The Franco-Ontarian dialect, spoken in Ontario, Western Canada, Labrador and New England. It is considered a very conservative dialect of French.
Acadian French is spoken by Acadians in some parts of the Maritime Provinces of Canada.


Africa has the largest population of French speakers in the world. African variants of French are spoken in 31 African countries and the number of speakers as first and second languages exceeds 100 million. All variants of African French differ from standard French in pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar. They are usually divided into several groups.

Varieties of French spoken in West, Central and East Africa with about 75 million speakers as first and second languages;

Variants of French, known as Maghreb French, spoken in Northwest Africa with some 36 million speakers as first and second languages;

Dialects of French spoken in the Indian Ocean (Reunion, Mauritius and Seychelles) with approximately 1.6 million speakers as first and second languages.

Speakers of French

French is spoken in 53 countries, making it one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. The number of French speakers as first and second languages worldwide is estimated at between 220 and 300 million people. It is an official and co-official language in 29 countries. Countries that use French as a first or second language are spread over four continents.  Four of them are in Europe: France, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg. Two, in the Americas: Canada and Haiti. There are also two French overseas departments: Martinique and Guadeloupe.

The rest are former French colonies in Africa and islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. French is the second most spoken language in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. The spread of French is due to the political, economic, scientific and cultural influence of France.

Translation agency for Spanish-English-French

Now that you know a little more about the French language, you might be interested to know that we offer professional translation services from both English to French and from French into English. We specialise in translation from and into Spanish.

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