A Quick Look at the French Language

For native English speakers, French can seem like a difficult language to learn.  After all, they sound very different and, of course, have different linguistic roots.  But that is really just the tip of the proverbial ice berg when it comes to understand what makes French so tough to learn as a Robotel second language.

FRENCH AND ENGLISH HAVE SHARED ROOTS

This is probably the biggest obstacle for native English speakers trying to learn French.  You see, English is a Germanic language and French is a Romance language; but even with these divergent roots, they still share a common alphabet.  In fact, English shares more alphabet characters with French than with any of the other Romance languages (Spanish, Italian, etc). Investigating their roots more closely, we find that English and French both belong to the Indo-European language family, which is a group of languages that evolved following the rise of William the Conqueror, in England.

COMPLEX PRONUNCIATION

French words tend to be soft because they are vowel-heavy.  English words, on the other hand, tend to sound and feel a bit more sturdy (thanks to their Germanic roots, perhaps).  But what really sets these two languages apart is that English pronunciation can be very confusing. For example, in English we can have:

  • Quit vs suit
  • Tough vs though
  • Laugh vs taught vs taut vs thought

Obviously, there are many more of these types of comparisons in English.  Remarkably, you will not find these in the French language (so, perhaps, English is harder to learn for a French speaker).

WORD GENDERS

English speakers do not typically learn about word genders.  Indeed, in elementary school, grammar is not quite a nuanced subject as it is in primary schools in other countries.  In French, for example, word genders have definite influence over word endings of adjectives as well as the articles used before the noun. Here are some rules to remember when determining the gender of a French word:

  • A noun which indicates an animal that is only a male will always have a masculine article identifier:  a bull is always “le taureau”
  • A noun which indicates an animal that is only female will always have a feminine article identifier:  a mare is always “la jument”
  • Places which end in ‘-e’ are feminine
  • Places which do not end in ‘-e’ are masculine
  • Masculine words typically end in –eau, -er, -ment, -ou
  • Feminine words typically end in –ee, -sion, -son, -tion