French is one of the most widely-spoken languages around the world: It is used as an official language in 29 countries, it's one of the languages of the United Nations and the European Union, and it ranks #5 in terms of numbers of speakers. So while the French could travel, work, and study around the world in their own language, our data shows that the French are dedicated to learning new languages.

France is one of Duolingo's largest markets—it currently ranks #9 globally—and the number of learners in France has grown 134% since 2020. These learners are as diverse as France itself, and their learning trends vary according to their age, interests, and region.

Here's what the French are studying on Duolingo and why!

France is more serious about English than its neighbors

English is by far the most popular language to study in France, and while this is true in most of the world, the French are especially committed: English ranks #1 in all 13 regions of France, and there are more English learners in France than in Spain, Italy, or Germany.

English learners in France report a desire to support their education (34%) or boost their career (22%), showing that the French see English as a crucial tool to reaching their other goals.

After English, the most commonly studied languages in France are Spanish (#2), French (#3), Italian (#4), and German (#5). This ranking has been consistent for the last several years, but the popularity of different languages varies across the country.

French is unusually popular among learners in France. This is due to Paris and the Île-de-France region and their large population of tourists, business people, and immigrants. In fact, French only ranks so highly in 3 regions: Îl-de-France, Normandy, and Nouvelle-Aquitaine. 

The number of people studying French in France decreased early in the global pandemic, with French dropping to its lowest level in the country in April 2020. French rebounded in the following years and reached its highest point in July 2022.

In most other regions, Italian is the third most-studied language. The only exception is Grand Est, where German pulls ahead of Italian and French for third place.

The French study languages for practical reasons

Among the French, the most popular reasons for studying a language are to support their education (26%) and to prepare for travel (17%). Of those selecting travel as their primary motivation, the most commonly studied languages are English, Spanish, and Italian.

Graph of the motivations of new learners in France in 2023. Along the vertical y-axis is the percentage of learners, going from 0% at the bottom to 30% at the tip. Along the horizontal x-axis are 7 motivation categories: support my education, prepare for travel, boost my career, connect with people, spend time productively, just for fun, and other. Each motivation category is represented by a green bar, and they start high and gradually decrease in size, so "support my education" has the largest bar (around 27%) and "just for fun" has the smallest bar (around 8%). However, the bar furthest on the right, for "other," is much taller, around 16%.

These concrete, specific reasons show the practicality of the French when it comes to language learning. But there is a second trend influencing the country's study habits—and it's driven by Gen Z.

In France, Gen Z breaks the language-learning mold

Young French learners are eager to study new languages: 52% of Duolingo users in France are between 13 and 29 years old. While school and career are the top reasons for learning new languages, 18% of French teenagers report a more mysterious motivation: "other." Their language-learning interests fall outside the traditional categories of school, work, and travel. Instead, young learners see language study as an opportunity to connect with their interests and hobbies, including media, music, and pop culture.

On the other hand, travel continues to be a key motivator for language learning among older adults, with a third of French learners over 60 studying to support their vacation plans.

Vive la France !

The French are committed language learners who are as serious about improving their careers and education as they are about embracing their favorite fandoms. And with Duolingo, they have the tools they need to personalize their learning journey.