Facts About the French Language

The French language is a member of the Romance group of Indo-European family of languages. Before the 1st century BC, French originated from Vulgar Latin, which had been brought to the current territory of France by Roman soldiers after they had conquered Northern Gaul, and adopted by the local population. The development of French was influenced by Gaulish, a language spoken by the Gaul tribes, and by Germanic languages spoken by the Franks who settled in what is now France after the end of the Roman Empire.

French is the native language of about 70 million people, making it the 18th most common first language in the world, whereas in terms of the total number of French speakers (130 million), it is ranked 11th.

French is the official language in France, and is spoken by large communities in Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, Monaco, Switzerland and several African countries that were French colonies in the past, for instance, Algeria, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Senegal and others. French is an official language at all UN agencies and at most key international organisations.

The French alphabet consists of 26 letters of the Latin alphabet. Some of the letters – mostly small letters – may have diacritical marks, which change their pronunciation and may differentiate the meaning of a word. There are no macrons and no carons in French. There are also special ligatures in French: “œ” (combination of the “o” and “e” letters) and “æ” (combination of the “a” and “e” letters).

In French, articles are used before nouns, determining their gender and number. The article “la” is used with feminine nouns, the article “le” with masculine nouns, and the article “les” for the plural of both feminine and masculine nouns. French also has indefinite articles: feminine “une” and masculine “un”.

The earliest surviving written artefacts in French date from the 10th century.

There are several dialects of French, divided into five major groups: Central, Eastern, Northern, Southwestern and Western. The most popular dialects are Burgundian, Ile de France, Lorrain, Norman, Picard, Poitevin, Swiss French and Walloon (Belgium).

Standard French is based on the Central French dialect spoken in Ile de France, as decreed by the French King Francis I (reigning from 1515 to 1547) in the sixteenth century.

Language code: ISO 639-1: fr.


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Language combinations:

Latvian to French; French to Latvian; Estonian to French; French to Estonian; Lithuanian to French; French to Lithuanian; Russian to French; French to Russian; Czech to French; French to Czech; Polish to French; French to Polish; Ukrainian to French; French to Ukrainian; English to French; French to English; French to Spanish; Spanish to French; German to French; French to German; Italian to French; French to Italian; Danish to French; French to Danish; Norwegian to French; French to Norwegian; Swedish to French; French to Swedish; Finnish to French; French to Finnish and others.


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