Self-Access Centre - French

Welcome to the Self-Access Centre materials database. Here you can find out about the French materials available in the SAC.

If you are interested in studying French at UCL, please click here.

The SAC is here to provide you with opportunities to study French outside class time. You may feel extra study is necessary in order to achieve the exam score you want, or you may just enjoy studying French. Either way, the SAC could be useful for you.

If you have a very clear idea of what you need to study in French, use the Resources menu above to look for the study topics which are of importance to you. If you need advice and guidance on what to study, you should talk to your class tutor, who will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and make recommendations on what to study.

We have a wide range of resources to help you study French on your own. In the Self-Access Centre you can find course books, dictionaries, but also, reading, grammar and vocabulary books. You can also browse through magazines and newspapers in French, watch online TV or listen to radio stations. There are links to BBC Languages programmes, which will allow you to learn French by watching interactive videos. You can also watch French films, TV documentaries, or course videos. You can also practice your French by doing the online exercises.

A bit about the language

French (français) is a Romance language globally spoken by about 110 million people (native speakers). Around 190 million people speak French as a second language, and an additional 200 million speak it as an acquired foreign language. French speaking communities are present in 57 countries and territories. Most native speakers of the language live in France. The rest live essentially in Canada (particularly Quebec, but with speakers and dialects across Canada, especially in Ontario and New Brunswick), Belgium, (particularly Wallonia and Brussels), Switzerland (Cantons: Geneva, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Jura and also Fribourg, Valais, Bern), French-speaking Africa (31 countries, including Cameroon, Gabon, Côte d'Ivoire), Luxembourg, Monaco, and certain parts of the U.S.  states of Louisiana and Maine. Most second-language speakers of French live in Francophone Africa, arguably exceeding the number of native speakers.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the Francophone country with the largest population.

It is an official language in 28 countries, most of which form what is called, in French, La Francophonie, the community of French-speaking nations. It is an official language of all United Nations agencies and a large number of international organizations. According to the European Union, 26% of the people in 27 member states speak French, of which 65 million (12%) are native speakers and 14% claim to speak it either as a second language or as a foreign language, which makes it the third most spoken second language in the Union, after English (2nd rank) and German (1st rank). In addition, prior to the mid 20th century, French served as the pre-eminent language of diplomacy among European and colonial powers as well as a lingua franca among the educated classes of Europe.

As a result of France's extensive colonial ambitions between the 17th and 20th centuries, French was introduced to America, Africa, Polynesia, and the Caribbean.

Geographic distribution

  • The Francophone World
    States where it is mother tongue
    States where it is official language
    States where it is second language
    Regions where it is a minority language



According to the Constitution of France, French has been the official language since 1992. France mandates the use of French in official government publications, public education except in specific cases (though these dispositions are often ignored) and legal contracts; advertisements must bear a translation of foreign words. In addition to French, there are also a variety of regional languages and dialects. France has signed the European Charter for Regional Languages, but has not ratified it.


French is one of the four official languages of Switzerland (along with German, Italian and Romansh) and is spoken in the part of Switzerland called Romandie. French is the native language of about 20% of the Swiss population. Most of Swiss French is mutually compatible with the standard French spoken in France, but it is often used with small differences.


In Belgium, French is the official language of Wallonia (excluding the East Cantons, which are German-speaking) and one of the two official languages —along with Dutch— of the Brussels-Capital Region where it is spoken by the majority of the population, though often not as their primary language. French and German are not official languages, nor recognized minority languages in the Flemish Region, although along borders with the Walloon and Brussels-Capital regions, there are a dozen municipalities with language facilities for French speakers. A mirror situation exists for the Walloon Region with respect to the Dutch and German languages. In total, native French speakers make up about 40% of the country's population, while the remaining 60% speak Dutch as a first language. Of the latter, 59% claim to speak French as a second language - about three quarters of the Belgian population can speak French.

  • Knowledge of French in the EU member states and aspiring states

Monaco and Andorra

Although Monégasque is the national language of the Principality of Monaco, French is the only official language, and French nationals make up some 47% of the population. Catalan is the only official language of Andorra; however, French is commonly used because of the proximity to France. French nationals make up 7% of the population.


French is also an official language, along with Italian, in the small region of Aosta Valley, Italy, although most people speak Franco-Provençal and use French just to write. That is because the international recognition of Franco-Provençal as a separated language was quite recent.


French is one of three official languages of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, alongside German and Luxembourgish, the natively spoken language of Luxembourg. Luxembourg's education system is trilingual: the first years of primary school are in Luxembourgish, before changing to German; while in secondary school, the language of instruction changes to French.

The United Kingdom and the Channel Islands

French is a large minority language and immigrant language in the UK, with over 300,000 French-born people in the UK. It is also the most popular foreign language. French is understood by 23% of the UK population. A large portion of words of the English language (originating in Great Britain) are of French root or origin. This is partly due to the Norman Invasion, which led to Norman French becoming the language of administration for a period in history and the use of French by sections of the aristocracy and upper classes.

French is an official language in Jersey and Guernsey, the two bailiwicks collectively referred to as the Channel Islands, although they are separate entities. Both use French to some degree, mostly in an administrative or ceremonial capacity.


French is the second most common language in Canada, after English, and both are official languages at the federal level. French is the sole official language in the province of Quebec, being the mother tongue for some 6.8 million people, or almost 80% (2006 Census) of the Province. Quebec is also home to the city of Montreal, which is the second largest French speaking city, by number of first language speakers. New Brunswick, where about a third of the population is francophone, is the only officially bilingual province. Pockets of French speakers exist in all other provinces. About 30% of the country can speak French as either a first or second language. Due to the increased bilingual school programs in English Canada, the portion of Canadians proficient in French has risen significantly in the past two decades, and is still rising. French is an official language of Haiti, although it is mostly spoken by the upper class, while Haitian Creole (a French-based creole language) is more widely spoken as a mother tongue.

French is also the official language in France's overseas territories of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Barthélemy, St. Martin and Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. French is the fourth most-spoken language in the United States, after English, Spanish and Chinese, and the second most-spoken in the states of Louisiana, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. Louisiana is home to many distinct dialects, of which Cajun French has the largest number of speakers. In Brazil, the language was used by the small community of French immigrants and expatriates in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today the Karipuna indigenous community (nearly 30,000 people) of Amapá in North Brazil speaks a French creole.

  • Francophone Africa


A majority of the world's French-speaking population lives in Africa. According to the 2007 report by the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, an estimated 115 million African people spread across 31 Francophone African countries can speak French as either a first or a second language. French is mostly a second language in Africa, but it has become a first language in some areas, such as the region of Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire and in Libreville, Gabon. It is not possible to speak of a single form of African French, but rather of diverse forms of African French which have developed because of the contact with many indigenous African languages. In the territories of the Indian Ocean, the French language is often spoken alongside French-derived creole languages, the major exception being Madagascar. There, Malagasy is spoken alongside French.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the region where the French language is most likely to expand, because of the expansion of education and rapid demographic growth. It is also where the language has evolved the most in recent years. Some vernacular forms of French in Africa can be difficult to understand for French speakers from other countries, but written forms of the language are very closely related to those of the rest of the French-speaking world.

French is an official language in many African countries, most of them former French or Belgian colonies: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Seychelles and Togo. In addition, French is an administrative language and commonly used, though not on an official basis, in Mauritius and Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. In Algeria, various reforms have been implemented in recent decades to improve the status of Arabic in relation to French, especially in education.


French is the official language in Lebanon, along with Arabic. It is considered an official language by the Lebanese people and is used on bank notes (along with Arabic) and on official buildings. French is widely used by the Lebanese, especially for administrative purposes, and is taught in many schools as a primary language along with Arabic. Like in Lebanon, French was official in Syria until 1943; although now the language is not official, it is still spoken by educated groups, both elite and middle-class. There is also a significant number of second-language French-speakers in Israel who trace their origins to the Jewish communities of North Africa and Romania. Also, there has been considerable immigration of native French speakers from France in recent years.

Southeast Asia

French is an administrative language in Laos and Cambodia, although its influence has waned in recent years. In colonial Vietnam, the elites spoke French, and many who worked for the French spoke a French creole.

French has official status in the Indian Union Territory of Pondicherry, along with the regional languages Tamil and Telugu. Some students of Tamil Nadu opt for French as their second or third language. French is commonly taught as a third language in secondary schools in most cities of Maharashtra, including Mumbai (Bombay), as part of the preparation for secondary and higher secondary school certificate examinations. French is also taught in schools in Chandannagar (a former French colony in West Bengal).


French is an official language of the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu where almost half  of the population can speak French. In the French territory of New Caledonia, 97% of the population can speak, read and write French, whereas this percentage in French Polynesia is 95%. In the French territory of Wallis and Futuna, 78% of the population can speak, read and write French.


Dialects of the French language are spoken in France and around the world. The francophones of France, generally, use Metropolitan French (spoken in Paris and considered standard) although some also use regional dialects or varieties such as Meridional French. In Europe, outside of France, there are Belgian French, Swiss French, and in Italy Aostan French. In Canada, the two main dialects of French are Quebec French and Acadian French. In Lebanon, French was an official language until 1941 and the main dialect spoken there is Lebanese French or Levantine French.

La francophonie

  • La Francophonie flag

Francophonie is an international organization of polities and governments with French as the mother or customary language, wherein a significant proportion of people are francophones (French speakers) or where there is a notable affiliation with the French language or culture.

Formally known as the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) the organization comprises 56 member states and governments, 3 associate members, and 14 observers. Francophonie may also refer, particularly in French, to the global community of French-speaking peoples,  comprising a network of private and public organizations promoting special ties among all Francophones. In a majority of member states, French is not the predominant native language. The prerequisite for admission to the Francophonie is not the degree of French usage in the member countries, but a prevalent presence of French culture and language in the member country's identity, usually stemming from France's colonial ambitions with other nations in its history.

French geographer Onésime Reclus coined the word Francophonie in 1880 to refer to the community of people and countries using the French language. The modern organization was created in 1970. Its motto is égalité, complémentarité, solidarité ("equality, complementarity, and solidarity"), alluding to France's motto. Started as a small club of northern French-speaking countries, the Francophonie has since evolved into a global organization whose numerous branches cooperate with its member states in the fields of culture, science, economy, justice, and peace.

Source: adapted from www.wikipedia.org