French (français) is a Romance language spoken around the world, by about 77 million people as a first language (mother tongue), by 50 million as a second language, and by about another 200 million people as an acquired foreign language, with significant speakers in 54 countries.
Most native speakers of the language live in France, where the language originated. The rest live essentially in Canada (particularly Quebec), Belgium, Switzerland, Francophone Africa, Luxembourg, and Monaco.
Most second-language speakers of French live in Francophonic Africa, arguably exceeding the number of native speakers. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the Francophone country with the largest population.
French is a descendant of the Latin language of the Roman Empire, as are national languages such as Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and Romanian, and minority languages ranging from Catalan and Occitan to Neapolitan and many more. Its development was also influenced by the native Celtic languages of Roman Gaul and by the Germanic language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders.
It is an official language in 29 countries, most of which form what is called, in French, La Francophonie, the community of French-speaking nations. It is an official language of all United Nations agencies and a large number of international organizations.
According to the European Union, 129 million (26% of the 497,198,740) people in 27 member states speak French, of which 65 million (12%) are native speakers and 69 million (14%) claim to speak it either as a second language or as a foreign language, which makes it the third most spoken second language in the Union, after English and German. In addition, prior to the mid 20th century, French served as the preeminent language of diplomacy among European and colonial powers as well as a lingua franca among the educated classes of Europe.
For a list of countries where French is spoken see Category:French-speaking_countries.