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What Language Do They Speak in France?

What Language Do They Speak in France

France, often referred to as the cradle of romance languages, holds a rich linguistic heritage. While French is the predominant language, the linguistic landscape is dotted with regional dialects and languages. This article delves into the linguistic fabric of France, exploring not only the official language but also the regional dialects, and foreign languages spoken due to France’s historical ties and multicultural makeup.

Key Takeaways

Official LanguageFrench
Regional LanguagesAlsatian, Breton, Corsican, Occitan, among others
Foreign LanguagesEnglish, Arabic, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, German
Language PolicyToubon Law mandates the use of French in official settings
Language EducationCompulsory learning of a second language from primary school

Official Language: The Heart of French Identity

French is not only the official language of France but also an integral part of the national identity. It is the primary language used in government, education, and media. The Toubon Law, enacted in 1994, mandates the use of French in all official government publications, in advertising, on radio and television, as well as in contracts.

French Language Evolution

The French language has evolved over centuries, with its roots tracing back to Latin. Here’s a brief on its evolutionary journey:

  • Old French (9th to 14th century): Originated from Vulgar Latin and was influenced by Celtic and Frankish.
  • Middle French (14th to 17th century): Saw the standardization of the language, notably in its spelling and grammar.
  • Modern French (17th century onwards): Characterized by a regulated orthography and grammar.

Global Influence

French is not only confined to France but is a global language. It’s one of the official languages of international organizations like the United Nations, European Union, and the International Olympic Committee.

Regional Languages: The Echoes of History

France’s rich historical tapestry has led to the flourishing of numerous regional languages and dialects. Some of the prominent regional languages include:

Regional LanguageArea Predominantly Spoken
OccitanOccitania (Southern France)

Breton: A Celtic Legacy

Breton, a Celtic language, stands apart from other regional languages in France which are Romance languages. It underscores the diverse linguistic heritage of the region.

Foreign Languages: The Multicultural Threads

Due to its colonial past and immigration, a variety of foreign languages are spoken in France. These include:

  • English: Widely taught in schools and often used in the business domain.
  • Arabic: Spoken by a significant portion of the immigrant population.
  • Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and German: Also have a presence due to geographical proximity and historical ties.

Language Education: A Window to the World

France emphasizes bilingual education. From primary school, students are required to learn a second language, typically English, though other languages like German, Spanish, or Italian are also options.

LevelLanguage Education
Primary SchoolMandatory learning of a second language, usually English
Secondary SchoolContinuation of second language, option to learn a third


The linguistic landscape of France is a mirror to its rich history and cultural diversity. While French unites the nation, the regional and foreign languages enrich the linguistic tapestry, making France a fascinating study in the confluence of linguistic trends.