Written by Isabel Harmse
In 2010 the United Nation’s Department of Public Information established French Language Day (Journée de la langue française) “to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity as well as to promote equal use of all six official languages throughout the Organization”. UN French Language Day is observed annually on 20 March.
In 2018 it was established that African French, the generic name of the varieties of the French language, was spoken by an estimated 141 million people in Africa,spread across 34 countries and territories.This includes those who speak French as a first or second language in these 34 African countries and territories, but it does not include French speakers living in other African countries. Africa is thus the continent with the most French speakers in the world.
According to the latest report from the Observatoire de la langue française, the world’s French-speaking population has grown by 21 million new daily speakers over the past four years, reaching 321 million by 2022. A whopping 62% of users are in Africa with a profile dominated by young people estimated between the ages of 15 and 24.
French is not only a language spoken by millions of people worldwide, but it also opens doors to a bigger world for business. The language offers access to information, education, media, and culture around the world. It increases the ease of doing business with external Francophone (of, having, or belonging to a population using French as its first or sometimes second language) partners. French language skills also facilitate career and professional opportunities both nationally and globally.
In 2018, the French government launched a worldwide campaign for French, based on communication, culture and creation. French president Emmanuel Macron specifically highlighted the importance of French in Africa in the worldwide campaign launch, stating that French could be “the number-one language in Africa … and maybe even the world.”
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DID YOU KNOW?
The other five official languages of the United Nations are Arabic, Chinese, English, Russian and Spanish.