Why is French Spoken in Africa?

By Remitbee - Dec 28, 2021

Did you know that Africans speak French? French has risen to 7th place in the world's most spoken languages, thanks to the millions of Africans who speak it every day. Three hundred million people now speak French across five continents!

With roughly half of all French speakers residing in Africa, the French language is one of the fastest-growing languages globally. While it is still strongly associated with France—where it originated—most French speakers live in other countries.

If you are a French student, or just someone who loves the language, understanding how many are French speakers and where it is spoken will take you to almost every continent on the planet. This article will focus on why French is spoken in Africa - a magnificent continent that has so much to teach us!

A Quick Overview of the French Language

Like Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, and Spanish, French is a Romance language. The Romans' everyday language, Vulgar Latin, is the ancestor of Romance languages. Roman colonists spread it widely, but many conquered lands became culturally and linguistically isolated after the Western Roman Empire fell apart.

Vulgar Latin evolved into numerous local dialects, eventually evolving into the Romance languages we know today. French evolved from northern France's Gallo-Romance dialects and replaced Latin as the state language of France in 1539.

French is ranked second only to English as the most widely used official language. French is also the procedural language of the European Union, the only language used in EU Court of Justice deliberations, and one of the United Nations' recognized working languages.

Trailing only English, Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, Arabic, and Bengali, French has become the world's seventh most widely spoken language. About 300 million native speakers there are, including partial speakers and speakers of many French dialects and creoles.

Brief History of French in Africa

Africa has the most French speakers of any continent. The French language was introduced to the African continent due to colonialism. France and Belgium lost control of their African colonies in the 1950s and 1960s. However, French is still spoken in at least 29 African countries.

Although it is primarily a second language for most speakers, it has surpassed local languages in some areas, such as Abidjan in Ivory Coast. Estimates say that there will be 700 million French speakers by 2050, with Africa accounting for 80 percent of them!

In countries with multiple local languages, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, French is a lingua franca - a language used by people who do not speak each other's native language. It is also used as the language of administration and in school.

Also, Read - What are the French Speaking Countries in Africa and Their Currencies?

French Speaking Countries in Africa

In 11 African countries, French is the only official language (and the second official language in ten others).

Guinea

Because of its vast mineral wealth, this country of 10.5 million people in western Africa can be one of the richest in Africa. French is the official language, but Susu, Fulani, and Mandingo are also spoken.

Benin

One of Africa's most stable democracies, Benin's official language is French. Beninese people also speak Fon, Ge, Bariba, Yoruba, and Dendi.

Burkina Faso

With over 18.6 million people living, Burkina Faso is Africa's poorest country. Also, located in the west, French is the official language, but other indigenous languages are also spoken.

Cameroon

Known as "Africa in miniature," this country in central Africa has one of the continent's highest literacy rates. The official languages are French and English, which over 200 linguistic groups speak. They also speak Bantu, Semi-Bantu, and Sudanic languages.

The Republic of Congo

The Republic of Congo's official language is French. This country is the major oil producer in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Ivory Coast

The Ivory Coast, located in western Africa, is the world's largest exporter of cocoa beans, with French being its official language.

Madagascar

Off the east coast of Africa, well-known for its plant and animal life, Madagascar is home to 25 million people and the world's fourth-largest island! Malagasy and French are the official languages.

Other French-speaking countries in Africa are listed below:

Burundi, Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Djibouti, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, Niger, the Central African Republic, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Tchad, Togo.

Final Thoughts

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