French Speaking Countries are more common than you might think. In its strictest sense Francophonie refers to people who speak French as their first and native language. However, the word is more commonly used to define populations throughout the world whose cultural heritage is principally linked to the French language. As a result, there are a number of French speaking countries. **Naturally, the French didn’t just gift these places their beautiful language. Aspects of French culture were also absorbed into the native ways in the time the Gallic interlopers ruled: the cuisine, the sense of style and of course the romance. French is one of the official six languages of the United Nations and La Francophonie is an international organisation of 56 countries where French is the mother tongue. It would be impossible to educate you here on all 56 so read on for La Francophonie: 8 Countries Where They Speak French as an Official Language. Consider this your beginner's guide to learning about **French speaking countries.
Many French speaking countries are those you wouldn't expect. Madagascar isn’t the most obvious place in the world to have French as its official language. A sham invasion of the island in 1883, despite being relatively short-lived, has meant that French was introduced; it survived and now the modern population still speak French. Madagascar is a fabulous place to visit; the island is affordable, safe and best of all unique. Travelers who are prepared to explore just a little will be able to discover the real island and enjoy some truly exotic experiences to compare to the many legends that originate in Madagascar. It is also an island of amazing wildlife.
2. The Seychelles
The French appropriated and settled in the Seychelles in the latter part of the18th century and even though they retained control for little more than 40 years, one of the long standing legacies of this period is that the population of these beautiful islands, still speak French. Throughout history, the Seychelles has retained its multi-ethnic roots and ever since the islands were initially discovered, they have been a delicious melting pot of different races, religions and traditions from all over the world. Even with the advent of large scale tourism, the diverse cultural and ethnic influences combined with racial harmony are the foundation of this tranquil yet vibrant nation and a real treat for visitors.
Despite China being Vietnam’s closest and most influential neighbor, for a very brief period toward the end of the 18th century, France gained a foothold in the area and Vietnam became part of French Indochina, thus ultimately making it a French speaking country. A short lived western style education system was developed and this was how the French language was introduced to the country. Vietnam is a beautiful and rich tapestry of forests, mountains and deltas that are all inhabited by exotic flora, fauna, rivers, caves, and heavenly beaches and waterfalls An open minded and curious visitor will find a feast of history and culture in Vietnam.
As Switzerland borders France, it isn’t surprising that its population speaks French; it is one of the official languages of Switzerland and in the areas of Switzerland that do speak French, it is exactly the same language that is spoken in France. This little country must have a distinct identity crisis as it has four official languages – French, German, Italian and Romansh. The areas closest geographically to France, Germany and Italy are very similar to those countries that to visitors it hardly seems if the borders exist. Switzerland is well known as a summer and winter sports paradise, it is where people first skied for fun and the famous place names like St. Moritz and Gstaad still evoke all the romance and drama of the cosmopolitan high life enjoyed in a more glamorous period of history.
French is just one of the official languages of Cameroon and is a result of its colonial past. Although both English and French are taught in schools and the government strives for the country to be bilingual, the reality is that although most Cameroonians speak French or English, very few speak both. Cameroon is one of the most politically and economically stable countries in Africa and is a microcosm of everything African. Not only is Cameroon a French speaking country, but it has everything that a traveler could possibly want, including one of the most diverse cultures of any country in the world.
French is the official language of Monaco as a result of geography and the role that France has always played in its history. The Principality of Monaco lies between France and the Mediterranean and this seductive territory is completely surrounded by the French area of Alpes-Maritimes and so it is no surprise that the population speaks French. Of course, even if Americans don’t know where Monaco is, they will associate it with the actress Grace Kelly who married Rainier, the Crown Prince in 1956.
Unsurprisingly, French is one of the official languages of France’s closest neighbor, Belgium. The 2 countries meet on France’s north east boundary and Belgium’s south west border. It is the inhabitants of Belgium that live between this border and Brussels who speak French; it is also commonly spoken in the capital. Belgium is often the butt of jokes in that there is nothing remarkable about the country – such as name a famous Belgian – but it is actually a beautiful place with gorgeous medieval towns such as Bruges and Ghent. Of course, it is also the land of chocolate and beer.
The fact that Canada is one of the many French speaking countries actually surprising many people. However, Canada is known the world over for being bilingual and it is another country where French is spoken as a result of colonization in days gone by. Canadian French has several versions and more than 20% of the overall population speaks French as their mother tongue, despite it only being the official language in one province. Canada is huge in every way, it is the 2nd largest country in the world and everything about it is big’ from the hulking ice glaciers to the mammoth mountains and immense skies. The native wildlife tends toward large as well, polar bears, moose and grizzly bears all live in Canada.
That is just a short introduction to La Francophonie and 8 French speaking countries. Not surprisingly, many of the other member countries in the organization are in West Africa with a history of French colonial rule; they make up many of the French speaking countries. It might surprise you to know that moves are underway to have India join La Francophonie. The large territory of Pondicherry was once controlled by France. What are some of your favorite French speaking countries, and what do you know about them?
Top Photo Credit: fdecomite