French is a distortion of the spoken Latin language of the Roman Empire, as are languages such as Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian, Sardinian and Catalan. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl, languages historically spoken in northern France and Belgium which have largely been supplanted by French today. The development of French was also influenced by the native Celtic languages of Roman Gaul and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole.
It is an official language in 29 countries, most of which form what is called, in French, la francophonie, the community of French-speaking countries. It is an official language of all United Nations agencies and a large number of international organizations. According to the European Union, 129 million, or twenty-six percent of the Union's total population, speak French, of whom 72 million are native speakers (65 million in France, 4.5 million in Belgium, plus 2.5 million in Switzerland which is not part of the EU) and 69 million are second-language or foreign language speakers, thus making French the third language in the European Union that people state they are most able to speak, after English and German. Twenty-percent of non-Francophone Europeans know how to speak French, totaling roughly 145.6 million people in Europe alone.