Sophie Pennec and Richard Marcoux

present the Association Internationale des Démographes de Langue Française (AIDELF; International Association of French-Language Demographers) and some new statistics on the French-speaking world on the “French language day".

AIDELF general secretary and treasurer Sophie Pennec is a demographer and senior researcher at INED. AIDELF committee member Richard Marcoux is a senior professor of sociology at the Université Laval in Canada and director of the Observatoire démographique et statistique de l’espace francophone (ODSEF; Francophone Demographic and Statistical Observatory).

(Interview conducted in March 2020)

What are AIDELF’s activities?

AIDELF was created in 1977 and brings together demographers and specialists from various disciplines whose research has a strong demographic component or orientation. With nearly 300 members across approximately sixty countries, the Association works to transmit French-language research and learning, to promote demography and its applications, and to diffuse knowledge about population. It supports the use of the French language in international conventions, scientific conferences, and publishing (via the publication of scientific books and journals).

AIDELF has always received considerable institutional and financial support from INED, which provides office space for the Association’s secretariat in its building and financial assistance for AIDELF management costs and conference organization.

AIDELF regularly organizes international conferences in French on important current topics or issues in the field of population study. In 2018, a conference on aging entitled “Comment vieillissons-nous?” was held in Louvain-la-Neuve. The next conference, “Démographie et crises,” is scheduled for Spring 2021 in Athens. As has been the practice at previous conferences, approximately twenty young researchers and researchers from the global South, all/the latter group funded by AIDELF, will deliver papers in Athens this May.

AIDELF belongs to a network of associations and statistical institutes that regularly work in partnership. For example, AIDELF organized a roundtable discussion at a conference of the Association Internationale des Sociologues de Langue Française (AISLF; International Association of French-speaking Sociologists) and AISLF researchers presented papers at AIDELF’s 2018 conference. AIDELF also works closely with the Observatoire démographique et statistique de l’espace francophone or ODSEF.

What is ODSEF? And how is the “espace francophone” defined?

ODSEF was created in 2009 and is located at the Université Laval in Québec City. Its mission is to diffuse and promote data from population censuses in French-speaking countries and to study language-related demographic dynamics and the place of French in the world.

According to the definition established by the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), any person able to express himself or herself in French is “Francophone.” On this basis and using data from approximately one hundred countries, ODSEF establishes and publishes every four years an estimate of the number of Francophones in the world. For 2020 the figure is 308 million. Of that number, and following a stricter definition, 242 million are said to “live in French”: these are individuals who speak French with each other on a daily basis or who reside for the most part in a country where French has the status of an official language. Ten years ago, their number stood at 199 million. According to our observations, the core of the French-speaking world has shifted, as 91% of that increase of 43 million francophones is accounted for by inhabitants of Africa/Africans, this in turn due both to demographic growth on the African continent and to investments in education in the relevant African countries, where teaching is in French.

What we call the espace francophone (Francophone space) is constantly changing, becoming increasingly multilingual, as reflected by the composition of the AIDELF committee itself: French is not the native language of some of its members. This is an enriching environment for the French language, which is undergoing changes—a clear indication that the French-speaking world is a diverse, plural one. It is estimated that the number of Francophones in the broader sense will continue to rise in the coming years, reaching between 500 and 800 million by 2070.