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Sapristi! Combien de dialectes? French dialects and French regions

Algiers Alsace France Haiti Provence Quebec


Map of the French-speaking world.  By aaker (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Interesting fact: Only one quarter of the world's French-speaking population lives in France.  One quarter!  So, when we refer to "French regions" we're really talking about a global network of places, peoples and cultures, each with its own unique landscapes and climate--but all connected through their shared communication in French.  

Another interesting fact: Just as English is spoken (and sometimes spelled) differently from one region to another, so the French speaking world is also very linguistically diverse. It includes French-influenced dialects that took shape outside of France in former colonies and historic settlements. One such example of this is Haitian Creole, which is the primary spoken language of Haiti.  Haitian Creole has influences of Spanish, Portuguese, Taíno and West African languages.  We have another example in North America with Québécois, a widely-used French dialect in Canada.  Acadian French and Louisiana French are two other French dialects that are still spoken in pockets within the US and Canada.  Maghreb French is a form of the language that is spoken in parts of northwest Africa, where countries like Morocco and Algeria were once under France's colonial rule.  

Inside France, regional differences range from minor variations of spoken accent or vocabulary to more developed regional dialects.  Some of the better-known examples are Breton (a Celtic language spoken in Brittany), Alsatian (a Germanic dialect spoken in Alsace) and the Oïl dialects, such as Picard or chti in the north of France.  (This last dialect is both celebrated and mocked in the 2008 movie Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis) Another well-known example is Provençal (one of the Occitan dialects, which is spoken in pockets of southern France).  Some examples of differences between official French and Provençal:

au revoir or salut : adessias  

bonne journée : bono jornada

bonne nuit : bono nue

comment ça va? : coume vai?

sapristi! : fan de chichourle! (Means something like "good heavens!")

If you want to learn more about Provençal language, culture and stories, check out our Provence book bundle.  If you are eager to practice your French reading skills, consider Le grand livre des régions: La Provence, an illustrated book about Provence in French aimed at students.  

Next time you're watching French cinema (or better yet, next time you're traveling around France!) try listening for differences in spoken accent and vocabulary. These differences add richness to each place and region.  If you're prepping for a trip to France by brushing up on your French, you may be worrying about understanding any regional dialects you may encounter.  Ne stress pas!  For almost four centuries now, the Académie française has been working to preserve and standardize official or "Metropolitan" French, so the version of French that you have been studying is likely the same one that everyone in France learns at school.  Wherever you are in France, you are sure to find plenty of people who understand it.  If not, you can always try English! 


 Map of regional dialects

Map of regional dialects in France.  By Langues_de_la_France1.gif: Taken from with permission from the copyright holder: Départements_de_France-simple.svg: SuperManu File:France map Lambert-93 with regions and departments-blank.svg: Eric Gaba (Sting - fr:Sting) derivative work: Hellotheworld [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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