French (la langue française) is one of the most important Romance languages and was the main European language of communication from the late Middle Ages to the 19th century, or Lingua franca. With around 77 million native speakers (Francophones), it ranks 11th in the world, and 128 million people spoke it as a second language in 1999.
It is the official language of 29 countries on five continents and the official and administrative language of many communities and organizations, such as the European Union, the International Olympic Committee, the United Nations and the Universal Postal Union.
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