Allo, allo, where are the Francophones?

by Bernard O'Shea

Apart from France there are many places where you can practise your French and hopefully be understood by the natives. All in all, according to Wikipedia, there are 29 countries where France is listed as an official language. The most obvious ones are those that border France, such as Belgium, Switzerland and Monaco, but you can go much further afield than that.

You will also hear French spoken in Quebec and other parts of Canada, of course, although if you have ever seen any French-Canadian films you will notice that sometimes the accent and the slang can sound odd if you are not used to it. But as the French say, vive la différenceMontreal and Quebec City are high up on the list of cities I want to visit, and the English-speaking parts of Canada are not bad either! If you fancy an island holiday then Seychelles, Reunion La Réunion or  New Caledonia (Nouvelle-Calédonie) would be among the places to head for. If you are in the Caribbean, make the island of Guadeloupe a port of call. It, too, is an overseas region of France. Mauritius was once ruled by the French, so that’s another possibility.

France also had many colonies in Africa – Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia up in North Africa; Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoireand Cameroon (République du Camerounin West and Equatorial Africa, to name just a few – although how widely French is spoken in its former colonies can vary from country to country and the political attitudes towards France. Many former colonies have had to go through wars of independence. One of the best films I have seen on the French colonial wars was Intimate Enemies, (L’Ennemi intime), made in 2007. Although it dealt with events in Algeria, the African scenes were apparently filmed in Morocco, and the mountain and valley scenery was stunning. 

In South-East Asia, Vietnam and Cambodia were once part of what was known as French Indochina. Vietnam has become a trendy tourist destination nowadays and its capital, Hanoi, is known for its French colonial architecture. I have not been there but I visited Ho Chi Minh City – the photo above is one I took of the Opera House there. But in Asia, as in many parts of Africa, the French withdrawal from the colonies was often not a happy one, to put it mildly. By now, though, I should imagine that bygones have been allowed to be bygones. Oublions le passé, as the French say (Let’s forget the past).

If there is no possibility of going to any of these places, you can always give your good old local Alliance Française a go. What would we do without them?

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Travvel Sized March 22, 2013 - 1:18 am

From learning French growing up in Canada, I can definitely attest to the fact that Quebec French and France French are basically completely different languages! I’ll also be visiting Cambodia and Vietnam, so I’ll try to see if I can use my French to get anywhere!

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Bernard O'Shea March 22, 2013 - 11:04 pm

Hi there, thanks for popping in at my blog. It sounds like you have some great travels ahead, let us know if your French proves useful. Yes, Canadian can be quite different, but that is what makes languages and dialects interesting, and it’s great to hear them in the media. I’ve seen some really good French-Canadian films at film festivals and suchlike, and I always enjoy listening to African footballers conducting interviews in French too. Bon voyage!

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Travvel Sized March 23, 2013 - 11:43 am

Have you seen the film Incendies? It’s one of my favourite French Canadian films (although a bit twisted). For something a bit lighter, Têtes à Claques is a funny French Canadian TV show.

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Bernard O'Shea March 25, 2013 - 12:53 am

Hi, I haven’t seen either but I will definitely look out for them. Thanks for the recommendations. Hopefully I will be able to do a post about them soon. Cheers

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