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French (français)

French is a Romance language spoken by about 338 million people. It is the third most spoken language in Europe, after German and English, and is also spoken in parts of Africa, North America, South America, Asia and Oceania.

French at a glance

  • Native name: français [fʁ̥ɒ̃sɛ]
  • Linguistic affliation: Indo-European, Italic, Romance, Western Romance, Gallo-Romance, Oïl
  • Number of speakers: c. 338 million
  • Spoken in: France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and many other countries
  • First written: 842 AD
  • Writing system: Latin script
  • Status: official language in Belgium, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Guinea, Haiti, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Monaco, Niger, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Switzerland, Togo, and Vanuatu

French is an official language in Belgium, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Guinea, Haiti, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Monaco, Niger, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Switzerland, Togo, and Vanuatu.

There are also French speakers in Algeria, Cambodia, Laos, Lebanon, Morocco, Mauritius, Mauritania, Tunisia, Vietnam, French Guiana, French Polynesia, Guadeloupe, Guernsey, Jersey, Martinique, Mayotte, New Caledonia, Saint-Barthélemy, Saint-Martin, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, Vietnam, Wallis and Futuna, and in parts of the USA, particularly Louisiana.

French was widely used as a diplomatic language from the 17th century until the middle of the 20th century, when English replaced it in that role. It is still used in many international organisations, such as NATO, the UN, EU institutions, and the World Trade Organisation.

Written French

French first appeared in writing in 842 AD when it was used in the Strasbourg Oaths. Before then Latin, was the language used for literature throughout Europe. During the 10th, and 11th centuries, French appeared in a number of documents and religious, writings, but French literature didn't start to take off until the late, 12th / early 13th century. The first great work of French literature, was the 'Chanson de Roland' (Song of Roland), which was published, in about 1200.

The French alphabet (l'alphabet français)

A a B b C c D d E e F f G g H h I i J j K k L l M m
[ɑ] [be] [se] [de] [ə] [ɛf] [ʒe] [aʃ] [i] [ʒi] [ka] [ɛl] [ɛm]
N n O o P p Q q R r S s T t U u V v W w X x Y y Z z
[ɛn] [o] [pe] [ky] [ɛʀ] [ɛs] [te] [y] [ve] [dubləve] [iks] [igʀɛk] [zɛd]

A recording of the French alphabet by Pascal Couteau

French pronunciation

French pronunciation

Notes

Canadian French

Here are some of the differences in the pronunciation of Canadian French.

Sample text

Tous les êtres humains naissent libres et égaux en dignité et en droits. Ils sont doués de raison et de conscience et doivent agir les uns envers les autres dans un esprit de fraternité

Hear a recording of this text by Jean-Marie Cletz from France

Hear a recording of this text by Xavier G. from Canada

Translation

,

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Information about French | Phrases | Numbers | Kinship terms | Idioms | Colours | Telling the time | Grammar | Tongue twisters | Tower of Babel | Articles | Links | French learning materials

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Links

Information about the French language
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_language
http://www.orbilat.com/Languages/French/French.html

French lessons online with Frantastique - Free trial

Online French lessons
http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/french/
http://www.frenchassistant.com
http://www.france-pub.com/french/
http://french.speak7.com
http://www.rfi.fr/lffr/statiques/accueil_apprendre.asp
http://lexiquefle.free.fr/learn-french.htm
http://www.polarfle.com/learn_french.html
http://www.onlinelearners.net
http://www.french-flashcards.com
http://freefrench.frenchspanishonline.com
http://www.freelanguagetutorials.com/learn-french/
http://www.learnalanguage.com/learn-french/
http://www.yesfrench.com
http://www.frenchlearner.com
http://www.pimsleurapproach.com/resources/french/
http://www.internetpolyglot.com/lessons-fr-en
http://www.qcfrench.com
http://www.frenchspanishonline.com http://polymath.org/french.php
http://ilovelanguages.org/french.php
http://ohlalaispeakfrench.com

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Romance languages

Aragonese, Aranese, Aromanian, Asturian, Catalan, Corsican, Emilian-Romagnol, Extremaduran, Fala, Franco-Provençal, French, Friulian, Galician, Gallo, Genoese, Guernésiais, Italian, Jèrriais, Ladino, Ladin, Latin, Ligurian, Lombard, Megleno-Romanian, Mirandese, Moldovan, Monégasque, Occitan, Picard, Piedmontese, Portuguese, Romanian, Romansh, Sardinian, Sicilian, Spanish, Venetian, Walloon

Other languages written with the Latin alphabet