Asian Countries in French

Instructor: Emily France

Emily has experience teaching English and French and has a master's degree in International Studies

In this lesson, we will be learning about the French names for various Asian countries. We will discuss the six regions of this vast continent, as well as some rules for talking about countries in French.

Introduction to Asian Countries

Paul is organizing a vacation en Asie (ahn ah-zee, in Asia) with his friend, Inès. They're trying to decide which countries to visit, but are having trouble deciding. L'Asie is home to nearly 50 pays (pay-ee, countries) and is the largest continent in terms of both size and population, so it's no wonder that Paul and Inès are having some difficulty narrowing down their travel itinerary. To help them, let's split up this vast continent into regions and discuss some French names for Asia's many countries.

The Regions of Asia

Southeast Asia

Some of the countries in Asie du Sud-Est (ah-zee doo sood-ehst, Southeast Asia) were once a part of what was known as French Indochina during the colonial period, including le Viêt-Nam (luh vee-eht-nahm, Vietnam), le Cambodge (luh kahm-bohdzh, Cambodia), and le Laos (luh lah-ohs, Laos). Although French is no longer an official language in these three countries, it is still commonly spoken there, so Paul and Inès would like to visit at least one of these countries, and maybe another of these pays in Asie du Sud-Est:

English French Pronunciation
Indonesia l'Indonésie (f) lan-doh-nay-zee
Thailand la Thaïlande lah tah-ee-lahnd
Philippines les Philippines (f) lay fee-lee-peen
Malaysia la Malaisie lah mah-lay-zee
Singapore le Singapour luh san-gah-poor

Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos were part of French Indochina

East Asia

Paul and Inès would also like to make a stop in Asie de l'Est (ah-zee duh lehst, East Asia). Paul would especially like to travel to le Japon (luh zhah-pohn, Japan) because his grandfather is japonais (zhah-poh-nay). You'll notice that countries in French are always capitalized, like they are in English, but nationalities are not. Paul would say, for instance:

Mon grand-père est japonais. (My grandfather is Japanese) versus Mon grand-père est né au Japon. (My grandfather was born in Japan.)

Here are some other countries in Asie de l'Est that Paul and Inès might consider visiting:

English French Pronunciation
China la Chine lah sheen
South Korea la Corée du Sud lah koh-ray doo sood
North Korea la Corée du Nord lah koh-ray doo nohr
Mongolia la Mongolie lah mohn-goh-lee

South Asia

Paul and Inès are also planning on making a stop in Asie du Sud (ah-zee doo sood, South Asia). Inès, in particular, wants to travel to l'Inde (land, India).

She says: Je veux voyager en Inde. (I want to travel to India.)

Paul, on the other hand, would like to go to le Bangladesh (luh bahn-glah-dehsh). He says: Je veux aller au Bangladesh. (I want to go to Bangladesh.)

As you may have noticed, nearly all country names in French are accompanied by an article and are either masculine or feminine. The preposition you use to say 'in' or 'to' a specific country changes depending on its gender. Because l'Inde is feminine, Inès says she wants to travel en Inde. Bangladesh is masculine, which is why Paul says he would like to go au Bangladesh. The French also tend to use en with country names that start with a vowel, even for masculine countries; French speakers prefer not to put two vowel sounds together for fluidity's sake.

Below is a list of some other countries in Asie du Sud Paul and Inès might travel to:

English French Pronunciation
Pakistan le Pakistan luh pah-kee-stahn
Sri Lanka le Sri Lanka sree lahn-kah
Nepal le Népal luh nay-pahl
Bhutan le Bhoutan luh boo-tahn

Ines wants to travel to India, but Paul wants to go to Bangladesh

Middle East

Many of Asia's countries lie in le Moyen Orient (luh moh-yehn oh-ree-ahn, the Middle East). Interestingly, French was once commonly spoken in a couple Middle Eastern countries, namely le Liban (luh lee-bahn, Lebanon) and la Syrie (lah see-ree, Syria), which fell under the French control following the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. Paul and Inès would like to visit le Liban, as French is still spoken there by some of the population.

There are numerous other countries in le Moyen Orient that Paul and Inès may want to include in their trip, such as the following:

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