ISO Code: fra
Native name: français
Family: Indo-European
Est. L1 speakers: 76,000,000
Est. L2 speakers: 153,486,000
Est. total speakers: 229,486,000
(Co-)official in:
  1. European Union
  2. United Nations
  3. World Trade Organization


Though it has lost a lot of ground to English over the past century or so, French continues to be one of the international languages par excellence, used as an official or co-official language in countless international and supra-national organizations – most importantly the United Nations and the European Union. In diplomatic circles, therefore, knowledge of French is still very much de rigueur.

In addition to the points of pure prestige, speaking French will enable you – at least in theory – to study, work, live, or do business in well over a dozen countries, most importantly France (the world's seventh economy), Belgium, and Québec (Canada).

The Lowdown

French, which belongs to the Romance language group of the Indo-European family, is spoken in many countries. The language has two genders (masculine, feminine), a rather elaborate system of verbal tenses, but no cases. Certain pronunciation quirks aside, French is generally considered to be one of the easiest languages to learn for native English speakers.

Studying French

Where French Is Spoken


French Notes

Well-Known L2 (Non-Native) Speakers

  • Art, Sports, and Entertainment: Oliver Stone (director), Serena Williams (athlete), Hugh Grant (actor), Johnny Depp (actor), Marlon Brando (actor), Brad Cooper (actor), Jodie Foster (actress), Gwyneth Paltrow (actress), Anthony Bourdain (chef, TV personality), Diane Kruger (actress), Audrie Hepburn (actress), Emma Thompson (actress), Kirk Douglas (actor), John Malkovich (actor), Salvador Dalì (artist), Elle Macpherson (model), Elton John (musician), Pablo Picasso (artist), Peggy Guggenheim (socialite)
  • Literature: Ernest Hemingway (writer), A.J. Liebling (journalist, writer), Adam Gopnik (journalist, writer), Gertrude Stein (writer), Vladimir Nabokov (writer)
  • Politics: Tony Blair, Mitt Romney, Stephen Harper, John Kerry
  • Science: Eve Marder (neuroscientist)

News, Essays & Blog Posts (1 / 1)

Couver quelque chose
By: Naked Translations   Published: 06/Apr/2018
Languages: French

I wasn’t feeling well on Tuesday, but thankfully there is a French expression that allowed me to verbalise exactly my state of being. »