France's official language is French, which is also the official language of the Francophonie, a group of 29 French-speaking countries. People or countries that speak French are known as Francophones. Other countries' regions have significant French-speaking communities, including parts of Canada and the United States, Switzerland, Belgium, Monaco, and parts of Africa and Asia. It is also a significant part of the history of countries that were colonized by the French at some point in the past. Surprisingly, it was more widely spoken in Germany and Holland than in France until the 19th century.
About 220 million people speak the language around the world. It is one of the top five languages spoken in Europe. It has been the language of science, commerce, diplomacy, and literature for hundreds of years. It is the official language of many foreign bodies, including the United Nations, the International Olympic Committee, the World Trade Organization, NATO, and the European Union.
It is a Romance language, which refers to a group of languages. After English, it is known as the world's second most popular language. It is a subject taught in schools in almost every country on the planet. It is also the language of trials, with the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights, among others, using it. In fact, it is the only language used in the European Union's Court of Justice.
There are 26 letters in the alphabet, five diacritics, and two orthographic ligatures in the script. The pronunciation of the language has changed over time as the language has evolved. However, the spellings remain unchanged from those used in old one between the 9th and 13th centuries, creating uncertainty between the spelling and the sound. When the Strasbourg Oaths were written in 842 AD, it was the first time written French was used. Prior to this, Latin was the most widely used literary language.
Many languages have borrowed from French, including English, which has many words and phrases. In 1635, Cardinal Richelieu founded the Académie Française, which continues to lay down the rules of this language and grammar to this day. Unlike English, the meaning of a sentence in French is determined by syntax, morphology, and speech inflexion.