The Francophone world is made up of people throughout the world who use French as a normal language of communication. It can also be defined as the sum total of territories where French is frequently used.
A country can be a member of the Francophone world if French is its first or second official language. It may also be a member if a significant proportion of its population is French-speaking. Today the Francophone world comprises fifty-two member countries and states. More than 500 million people live in these territories.
Living in a Francophone region does not of course mean that one necessarily speaks French. Nor does being a Francophone imply that one speaks French on a daily basis. At the present time, some 70 million people throughout the world use French as their mother tongue. For another 50 million, French is just a second language.
French enjoys the status of being a world language. This makes it a major language, but among the twelve languages most spoken around the world, it ranks only tenth. French is spoken on all five continents and taught in most countries throughout the world. It is also a standard option at large international gatherings.
The number of Francophones has been on the rise over the years, most notably in Africa, which contains the largest number of French-speaking countries. In this area of the world, many people still do not speak French fluently, even if it is the official language of their country. Since more and more people are going to school, the number of Francophones is expected to double by the year 2015.