French, English, Italian, Russian or Monegasque? This thorny question was raised by an Internet user on Facebook.
With the advent of English as a global language, it is increasingly common to hear Shakespeare’s language on a Monegasque street corner. Italian has long been present in the Principality, due to the culture and history of Monaco. Russian has also found its place among the languages spoken in Monaco thanks to its strong community.
French, Italian then English?
French is still undeniably the official language of the Principality. A legacy of Monaco’s history, the 1962 Constitution clearly stipulates this. All official documents of political and legal institutions must be published in French.
Internet users mostly agree with this. For example, Sylvie states that ‘the official and most common language is French.’ Rene Serge explains: ‘In 1960, Italian and French. In 2020, English, French and Italian.’ As for “Louis Xiv”: ‘Oh no, English is not enough! The official language is French, many residents speak English, but it’s mainly in bureaucratic areas where problems arise…’
The pole position of French is unquestioned in the comments and figures support their assertions. In addition to Monegasques, for whom French is the mother tongue, French residents in Monaco are by far the majority according to the IMSEE. In 2016, there were 9,286 French residents in Monaco. Next in line are the Italians with 8,172 residents, and far behind are the British (2,795), the Swiss (1,187) and the Belgians (1,073). In total, French-speaking Monegasques and residents are by far the majority.
In the workplace, too, French is the predominant language. In 2021, again according to the IMSEE, 62.2% of workers were French. Italians represented 15.3% of workers.
On the other hand, the use of English rather than Italian may pose questions. If Italians and the Italian language are second only to French in prevalence, then the status of English as a global language overshadows the legitimacy of Italian as the Principality’s second language.
What about Monegasque?
Although the local language has been making a strong comeback recently, it is still far from being spoken by a large part of the resident population. In order to preserve the Monegasque language and prevent its gradual extinction, the language is now taught in schools and the Monegasque language competition is held every year.
The official anthem is sung in Monegasque, and as proof of the popularity and value of the local language, in 2005 Prince Albert II gave a speech in Monegasque dedicated to his people. Today, about 5,000 people speak it, a sign of a wonderful resurgence of the language that was threatened with extinction at the end of the 1970s.
The predominance of French is unquestionable given its common use in Monaco. However, due to the cosmopolitan nature of the Principality, its inhabitants often speak several languages and it is easy to make yourself understood. So whether you speak French, English, Italian or Monegasque, in Monaco you will always find someone to understand you.