French is one of the Romance languages, with approximately 77 million native speakers (mostly in France) and almost 200 million second-language speakers (mostly in Africa). It has also exerted great influence on many languages, including English (see Origins of English words), as well as spawned a number of widely-spoken creoles like Haitian Creole.

French is one of the most innovative of the Romance languages, with many of the changes being due to influence from Germanic tribes. Some of the features that make French differ from other Romance languages include the following:

  • obligatory subject pronouns
  • verb-subject inversion to form questions
  • far less inflection in the spoken language (although because the orthography is very conservative, much of it persists in writing)
  • many, many more vowel phonemes (up to 17 depending on the dialect)
  • a relatively large proportion of the vocabulary being of Germanic origin (~15%)