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French is the official language of France (according to Article 2 of the French Constitution). The French government does not regulate the use of language in publications by individuals, but the use of French is required by law in the case of workplace and commercial communications.
The official authority on the French language is L'Académie française. L'Académie française was originally established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister to King Louis XIII. L'Académie française was abolished during the French Revolution in 1793, but then reestablished by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1803. L'Académie française publishes an official dictionary on the French language, although it should be noted that its rulings are advisory, rather than legally binding.
Because of France's history, the French language is also widely spoken in other countries too. The French language was spread by French colonial empire that existed from the 17th century onwards, as well as also by its use as a lingua franca and language of culture and diplomacy among the educated classes of Europe during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. As a result, it has been established that somewhere between 300 million and 500 million people can speak French either as their first language or as a second language. Countries where French is spoken are known as "Francophone", and there is even an international organization (Organisation internationale de la Francophonie) to encourage and support the use of the French language.
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