The International Francophonie Day takes place on March 20 of each year. It is a celebration under the aegis of the “Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF)” and is dedicated to the French language that unites more than 270 million francophones worldwide.

The term “Francophonie” was coined by French essayist Onésime Reclus around 1880 to describe the geographic areas in which French was spoken. A century later, in 1988, the event (International Francophonie Day) was created as a way for the 80 states and governments of the “Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie” to celebrate their diversity as well as their common French language. (You can watch here the message from the General Secretary of the Francophonie, Michaëlle Jean, for the International Day of Francophonie).

This term refers to the ensemble of people and institutions that use French as their mother tongue, language spoken for daily communication, administrative language, language of instruction or chosen language. Thereby francophonie may refer to both, the francophone country and all countries or regions members of the International Organization of the Francophonie, which are not necessarily those where French is the most frequently used or officially recognized language.

Here are some key terminology aspects and relevant definitions to take into account in connection with this term:

  • francophonie (without capital f), refers to all the peoples or groups of speakers who use French in their daily lives or their communications.
  • Francophonie (with a capital F), refers to all the governments of the countries or official bodies which have in common the use of French in their work or their trade.
  • A francophone is a person who speaks French.
  • And francophone is an adjective too (for example a francophone country).
  • The concept francophone is a not a geographical and linguistic reality exclusively but also cultural: it brings together all those who in one way or another, feel or express some belonging to the French language and francophone cultures, regardless of origin or ethnicity. This denomination could be probably the vaguest and the most fruitful at the same time.

francophonie IATE

That is also the reason why the International Francophonie Day is a great opportunity for supporting languages and boosting the learning of French, mainly through the Alliance Francaise and schools on five continents. Together with English, French was the first diplomatic language of the League of Nations after the First World War. A lot has happened since then, but nowadays French is the official language of 33 countries on five continents, and a dozen international organizations.

Therefore, this day could be marked in the calendar in many different places in the word. During this week, several countries see around this event a chance to promote the language and multiculturalism, organizing a French Language Week. It is a really good chance to get in contact with the second most commonly studied foreign language at a global scale, and also the fifth most spoken in the world with 274 million speakers representing 4% of the world population, acoording to the OIF.


Furthermore, International Francophonie Day is also a very good occasion for francophones around the world to express their solidarity and their desire to live together in their differences and diversity, sharing the values of francophonie.

Also the other way round, in the framework of this international event, French language and culture can enrich and be improved through the participation of people from different places with different cultural origins and ethnic backgrounds. According to the recent words from France’s Minister of Culture, Fleur Pellerin, ‘the French should not be afraid of foreign words”, because “people should wake up to the real world and not build unnecessary barriers to linguistic diversity’.

A terminologist for the language in question will revie your answer and decide whether to validate them. Given the implications of the process, a delay is to be expected.


Language calendar: Journée internationale de la Francophonie

Consult the world-wide program for La Semaine de la Langue Francaise

Check this map about Le monde of the Francophonie

Organisation internationale de la Francophonie


By Lidia Capitan Zamora. Journalist, web editor and social media skills.

Communication Trainee at TermCoord