19 Mar 2014

Millions Celebrate International Francophonie Day

Celebrations are under way all around the world this week to mark International Francophonie Day on March 20.

French speakers and non-French speakers alike from Vietnam to the Caribbean to Canada have gathered in celebration of the French language and the culture of French-speaking nations.

According to the Ethnologue Report, French was the second most commonly taught language on the planet in 1999, behind English. It was estimated that that around 77 million people spoke French as a first language, with 51 million speaking it as a second tongue.

Far reaching language

As well as France and its overseas territories, French is also the official language in 14 other countries, among them:

  • Bénin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Côte d’Ivoire
  • Gabon
  • Luxembourg
  • Mali
  • Monaco
  • Niger
  • Togo

In Dominica, students from across the Caribbean island will be attending the country’s very own French Festival. And in Charlottetown, Canada, locals will get the chance to sample a variety of dishes as they peruse a rich exhibition of visual art as part of the city’s 2014 Rendez-vous de la Francophonie.

French musician Samir Barris have been touring the Vietnamese cities of Hanoi, Hue and Ho Chi Minh City to mark International Francophonie Day. The concerts have been organised by the Wallonie-Bruxelles Delegation to Vietnam, Organisation internationale de la, the Swiss Embassy in Hanoi and the Institute for Culture Exchange with France (IDECAF).

Past celebrations have seen French film screened at the Fiji National University (FNU) and the University of the South Pacific (USP), while the National University of Modern Languages in Islamabad has marked Francophonie Festival 2014 with a cultural exhibition.

Speaking at the event, Canadian guest Denis Chouinard said there is “nothing better than spending your time celebrating a day that marks cultural, linguistics and ethnic diversity”.

International Francophonie Day commemorates the signing of the Niamey Convention in Niger on the March 20, 1970. This brought together dozens of French-speaking states under the Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique.

The body later became the International Organization of La Francophonie, which now encompasses 77 French-speaking states in total.

The term francophonie was first used by French essayist Onésime Reclus in the late 19th century to describe the geographic areas in which French was spoken. Nowadays it is commonly used to refer to all the people around the world who speak French.

A number of countries with more than one official language also count French as their own, including:

  • Belgium
  • Burundi
  • Cameroon
  • Canada
  • Channel Islands (Guernsey and Jersey)
  • Djibouti
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Madagascar
  • Rwanda
  • Switzerland


 
 

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