Today, French is the sixth most widely spoken language in the world with 220 million speakers in more than 29 countries. As the language spreads across continents, it often exists alongside other languages in multilingual contexts, thus creating variants. The geographic variations of the French language have become increasingly important for international businesses, who rely on translation service providers to communicate accurately and effectively in each region.
For example, consider Africa. A diamond in the rough, Africa is expected to develop into a mining hub for coming generations. Unlike in the Middle East, Africa’s natural resources have remained unexploited until recently. Linguistically, it does not have any uniformity due to the diverse native populations and the imperialistic trends of the 18th century: Africa is home to 3,000 languages. Fortunately, one of the most widely spoken languages across the continent is French. Even better, it is predicted that by 2025, 80 percent of the world’s French speakers will be native to Africa.
French on an International Scale
French is the official language of many international organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and various other United Nations councils. The city of Strasbourg, France, is the seat of the European Parliament, placing French in the higher ranks of the official languages of the European Union. It is also the working language of major non-profit organizations such as the Red Cross and Amnesty International. Its importance in international affairs and diplomacy is unquestionable.
French also holds an important place in the sporting world. Two of the largest sporting organizations in the world declared French as their official language: the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) – but the language’s presence in sports goes deeper. The Francophone Games, inaugurated in 1989, is a sporting event held every four years between French-speaking countries. Finally, the most highly anticipated race of the year, the Tour de France, is not only held in France but is sponsored by a French speaking media group, Amaury Sport Organisation.
The language’s influence is mirrored by its wide geographic distribution. But variations of French exist within France as well as globally. The standard form of French is called Metropolitan French, which is spoken in Paris, while the most common regional dialect is Meridional French, spoken in south of France. Outside France but within Europe, four variations of French are spoken: Belgian French, Swiss French, Jersey Legal and Aostan French in Italy.
However, French is present on almost every continent.
In North America, French is spoken in Canada and in the United States.In Canada, it’s one of the two official languages. Canada’s province of Quebec is a strong advocate of the French language, which has developed into what is known as Canadian French, a variant that spills over to the northern regions of Maine and New Hampshire where it has developed additional local variations. As part of the French colonization of the Americas, a variation of French known as Cajun is spoken throughout the state of Louisiana and the Caribbean. Possibly the most known variation of French is Haitian Creole, the official language of Haiti.
Variations of French exist in Asia and Africa. Once French colonies, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam all have their unique forms of French. Africa is home to the largest number of French speakers, and the Maghreb states of Mauritania, Algeria, Morocco, Libya and Tunisia employ the language in an official basis.
Implications for Business
Although overshadowed by the growth of Mandarin and English, the French language continues to play a significant and global role. The many variations of French may intimidate the average person; however, with the right international translation service provider, it will never be a barrier to business. Make sure your translation service provider is aware of the global differences of the target language.