French (franšais) is a Romance language spoken originally in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland, and today by about 300 million people around the world as a mother tongue or fluent second language, with significant populations in 54 countries.
Descended from the Latin of the Roman Empire, along with languages such as Spanish, Italian, Catalan, Romanian and Portuguese, its development was influenced by the native Celtic languages of Roman Gaul (particularly in pronunciation, and by the Germanic language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. This is one of the reasons why certain French sounds and spellings are distinctly different from those of Spanish and Italian, for example, and why Spanish and Italian sound more similar to one another than French does to either one of them.
It is an official language in 41 countries, most of which form what is called in French La Francophone, the community of French-speaking nations. French as a foreign language is the second most frequently taught language in the world after English.
It is an official or administrative language of the African Union, the European Broadcasting Union, ESA, the European Union, the Council of Europe, FIA, FIFA, ICUP, FINA, IHO, the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, the International Court of Justice, the International Olympic Committee, the International Political Science Association, the International Secretariat for Water, Interpol, NATO, the UCI, the United Nations and all its agencies (including the Universal Postal Union), the World Anti-Doping Agency, and the World Trade Organization. Along with English, it is perhaps the most used language in the European Commission.