Origins of the French Language and Where It’s Spoken

French Language

Find out more about the language of love, where it came from and where it’s spoken in the world today.

The French language is beautiful to listen to, and it’s known as the ‘language of love’ worldwide.

You might be surprised to know that it’s widely spoken across the world in modern times. But what about its origins? Where did this stunning language come from in the beginning? Let’s take a closer look:

The Origins Of The French Language

The French language came from the Latin language spoken in Northern Gaul. It was also, in part, influenced by the language of Northern Roman Gaul, and certain German languages. It is known as a Romance language, a group of languages that descended from Latin.

With written French, it’s thought that the first French document dates around 840, and is called The Strasbourg Oaths. It has been disputed that the oaths are Latin that have been adjusted for political purposes. Others suggest that it doesn’t read well as French because it was a scribe’s interpretation of how French was spoken at the time.

Various written pieces were then noted through history, showing a wide variation of dialects. A key dialect, both written and spoken, was Francien, which in the 12th and 13th century became widespread and well known. It tended to be made up of North-central dialects and other features of that area, which meant that other Northern dialects then had more prestige by association.

Francien eventually became the official written and spoken language of France after overtaking Latin and other dialects. It was eventually considered, in the 1500’s, as standard French with more local dialects discouraged. Over time, by the 17th and 18th centuries certain dialects that were previously appreciated were truly ridiculed and the French language became honed, streamlined and polished.

Although French dialects do exist today they are mainly in more rural areas of the country. The resulting written and spoken language has Latin and Germanic influences. It has been specified to the central Francien dialect that became mainstream and polished overtime.

Where Is French Spoken?

French is the official language in over 20 countries including (and not limited to):

  • Vanuatu
  • Togo
  • Switzerland
  • Seychelles
  • Senegal
  • Rwanda
  • Niger
  • Monaco
  • Mali
  • Madagascar
  • Luxembourg
  • Haiti
  • France
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Djibouti
  • Republic Of Congo
  • Ivory Coast
  • Chad
  • Canada
  • Cameroon
  • Burundi
  • Burkina Faso
  • Benin
  • Belgium

French is also the procedural language for the European Union.

Around 275 million people around the world speak the language of French. There are also people who speak some French, and some who speak different French dialects and creoles, which are a mixture of European and non-European languages. Because there are so many learning French as well, the number of people speaking French worldwide could potentially rise to 850 million within the next few decades.  Accordingly, it’s no surprise that French voice over artists is in such high demand!