French: The most internationally significant Romance language in the world.

Written by Isabel Harmse

The history of the French language is long and fascinating. The events that shaped the language are relevant even today. Since French is such a major language worldwide, it is worth looking at its origins, history, and roots. French is one of the Romance languages, meaning that it is descended primarily from Vulgar Latin. It’s an official first or second language of 29 countries across several continents. It’s the 16th most spoken language in the world, with 77.2 million people in 54 countries speaking it as their first language. Worldwide, there are approximately 279.8 million French speakers. People speak French in many parts of Europe, North America, Asia, and even in several countries in Africa, from Benin to Tunisia (

When ancient Gaul, now modern France, was conquered by the Romans in the first century B.C., its inhabitants spoke Gaulish, a Celtic language, which was rapidly supplanted by the Latin of the Roman overlords. In the 5th century A.D., the Franks, a group of Germanic tribes, began their invasion of Gaul, but they too were romanised. Although modern French thus inherited several hundred words of Celtic origin and several hundred more from Germanic, it owes its structure and the greater part of its vocabulary to Latin. (


Modern-day French is the working language of the United Nations.

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