Francophony - French Language

One of the reasons that makes France such an important actor on the international scene is its language, French, that is the only language (with English) spoken on the 5 continents.

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In the Pacific, French language get its strength from the French territories: New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis-and-Futuna as well as from an independent country, Vanuatu. Moreover, French is also taught in surrounding English speaking countries.

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New Caledonia

New Caledonia is an overseas territory of the French Republic located at about 1200km east from Australian coasts. The archipelago has a surface equal to half of Switzerland but its EEZ almost matches Quebec’s.

Caledonian population reaches 280, 000 inhabitants with around 45 % being kanak, 35 % from European origin, 8 % from Wallis-and-Futuna and the rest, 12 %, from Vietnam, Tahiti, Vanuatu or Indonesia.

French is not only the official language but also common language between the various parts of the population because of their language diversity. There are 28 kanak languages without counting the languages spoken by the other communities. Schooling being in French, almost everyone in French speaking.

New Caledonia owns 25% of nickel world stocks. After Australia and New-Zealand, this is the most developed island in the whole South Pacific.With nickel’s exploitation, New caledonia has a bright economic future. It has associations and organisations which participate to the French language radiance in this region of the world.

The Centre of International Meetings and Exchanges of the Pacific (CREIPAC), created in 1980, aims at organizing trainings for French teachers of the Pacific zone and for the Frenchyfied foreign students. The Institut de la Francophonie of the Pacific, launched in 2004, aims at restrenghthening the links betweens the region’s French speakers, especially between those of Australia, New-Zealand, Fiji Islands and Vanuatu. The Alliance Champlain, founded in 1985, wants to encourage the use of French and organizes competitions, conferences and book collection for schools in Vanuatu. Furthermore, the numeric cluster Canal Sat, with its 50 french speaking radio and TV channels, is in the whole West Pacific, from the west coast of Australia to the Fiji Islands, through the Vanuatu.

French Polynesia

French Polynesia is also an overseas territory of France composed of 5 archipelagos covering a surface equivalent to Europe’s. It has a population of around 270, 000 of 80% polynesian origin.

French is the official language but bilinguism French-Tahitian is common in everyday life. The economy is mainly based on tourisme and pearl culture.

Wallis and Futuna

Wallis and Futuna is a French territory composed of two islands split into 3 kingdoms. With 16, 000 inhabitants, the archipelago knew a strong emigration in the 1960’s to New Caledonia co much that today there are more Wallis-and-Futuna people in New caledonia than in their original islands.

Population is French speaking and schooling is 100% in French.

Vanuatu

Vanuatu, former French-British condominium of the New Hebrides, gained independence in 1980 in a political context that started a fear for French language future.

French and English are the official languages and around 40% of children are schooled in in French. The population reachin 200, 000 is mostly melanesian. As the economy is driven by tourism and breeding farms, the standard of lilving is quite low.

Young Vanuatuan are more and more numerous to pursue their studies in New Caledonian higher education schools. Moreover, there are about 5, 000 working there.

Oceania’s francophonia

French language is also present and taught in surrounding countries.

In New-Zealand, it is the first taught foreign language, before Japanese and Spanish. In Australia, French has an important place but the competition with Asian languages is strong as well. Many Australian, especially migrants from Europe, Asia or Africa, have a good level in French. Caledonians are numerous to spend their vacations in Sydney and on the Australian Gold Coast.

French is taught in Fiji Islands and Papua-New-Guinea, but on a more marginal basis. We can thank for that the Alliances Françaises, the 30 of Australia and the dozen of New-Zealand, without counting the ones implanted in the Oceanian countries just like in Fiji.

Finally, we need to underline that French has the status of official language in diverse Oceanian international organizations. It is the case in the Pacific Community, which headquarters are in Nouméa (New Caledonia), the Pacific Game and Arts Festival.

More generally, in 2014, Asia and Oceania accounted for 1% of the French speaking people of the world, 6% of the French learners (number increased by +43% in the region and by +63% in Fiji), with 18% of the Institut Français registered members and 20% of the Alliance Française learners.
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However, the number of people growing up in a French environment in the region is really small with only 0.3% of the world’s French population born and raised in French.
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Published on 24/05/2016

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