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Living in the Languedoc:    Languages:    Francophonie

French is spoken in Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, several African countries, and a number of others around the world.  It is the mother tongue of nearly 80 million people, the eighth most spoken language in the world.  There are 160 million speakers if you include those for whom it is their second language.  There are estimated to be over 250 million people "capable of using French from time to time". 
First coined in 1880 by the geographer OnÚsime Reclus to describe the linguistic and cultural community which France was building with her colonies, the French term "francophonie" has tried to shake of its colonial connotation and now encompasses all efforts to promote the French language and the values it conveys regardless of the countries in which these are made.  Noting, or perhaps imagining, that the British Commonwealth was an influential international club, the French have in recent years sought to create a similar international club of French speaking countries, built like the Commonwealth around a core of ex-colonies. 
Francophonie (with a capital F) is the official name for the international organisation bringing together States and governments which have subscribed to its Charter.  In thirty years, La Francophonie has seen the number of its members rise from 22 to 55.  It now brings together over a quarter of the world's countries (49 full members, 2 associate members and 4 observers).  Present on five continents, with 11% of the planet's population, carrying out 15% of world trade, La Francophonie is elegised as a mosaic of peoples who, over and above their differences, nurture a common political and cultural ambition: to build States governed by the rule of law and to promote linguistic and cultural diversity. 
For more info visit any of the following websites:
French Foreign Ministry: http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr  
High Council for Francophony: http://www.hcfrancophonie.org  
Intergovernmental Agency of La Francophonie http://www.agence.francophonie.org  
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Rafting.
Francophonie