French, the official language, is the first language of 88% of the population. Most of those who speak minority languages also speak French, as the minority languages are given no legal recognition. 3% of the population speak German dialects. Flemish is spoken by around 90,000 people in the northeast, which is 0.2% of the French population. Near the Italian border, roughly 1.7% of the population, speaks Italian.
Basque is spoken by 0.1% and mainly along the French-Spanish border.

Catalan dialects are spoken in the French Pyrenees by around 260,000 people or 0.4% of the French population.
The Celtic language, Breton, is spoken by 1.2% and mainly in the north west of France. These three languages have no official status within France.

Arabic, the third largest minority language, is spoken by around 1.7% of the population throughout the country.

French Family Values

The family is the social adhesive of the country and each member has certain duties and responsibilities.

The extended family provides both emotional and financial support.

Despite their reputation as romantics, the French have a practical approach towards marriage.

Families have few children, but parents take their role as guardians and providers very seriously.

Relationships - Public vs. Private

The French are private people and have different rules of behaviour for people within their social circle and those who are not.

Although the French are generally polite in all dealings, it is only with their close friends and family that they are free to be themselves.

Friendship brings with it a set of roles and responsibilities, including being available should you be needed. Friendship involves frequent, if not daily, contact.


The French educational system is highly centralised, organised, and ramified. It is divided into three different stages:

primary education (enseignement primaire);

secondary education (enseignement secondaire);

higher education (enseignement supérieur).

Primary and secondary education is predominantly public (private schools also exist, in particular a strong nationwide network of primary and secondary Catholic education), while higher education has both public and private elements. At the end of secondary education, students take the baccalauréat exam, which allows them to pursue higher education. The baccalauréat pass rate in 1999 was 78.3%.

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