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Differences Between English and French
By:Daniel C Howard

French is one of the most spoken languages throughout the world. Not only is it the official language of France, it is also used in Switzerland, Belgium, Canada and Vanuatu among others. With more than 100 million native speakers and 200 million more studying the language around the globe, one would think it is a fairly simple language to learn. But this can't be farther from the truth. On the contrary, French is considered relatively difficult to study, especially if you do not speak any of the other Romance languages. For English-speaking individuals, in what ways is French really different?

Difference in Roots

As one of the Romance languages, French belongs to the Indo-European language family and is closely related to Italian and Spanish. English, meanwhile, belongs to the Germanic language family and traces its roots to the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England. It belongs to the same language family as Afrikaans, Flemish, Dutch and modern-day Low German.

Difference in Alphabet

The English alphabet has 26 letters. The French alphabet has these same 26 letters and more. It includes letters with diacritics that express acute accent (é), grave accent (è ù), cedilla (ç), circumflex (â ê î ô û) and diaeresis (ë ï ü).

Difference in Grammar

Though both the English and French languages make use of participles, auxiliaries, tenses (past, present and future) and active/passive voice, there are some differences that may result to difficulties in learning French. One of the main differences which may cause problems in learning French is the appropriate use of tenses. There are instances when the tense used is dissimilar to English. Furthermore, French makes use of subjunctive verbs to convey doubt or possibility.

French also does not have the equivalent of "do." Verb conjugation in French is quite tricky at times, most especially when using imparfait du subjonctif forms. Both French and English follow the subject-verb-object sentence structure; however, there are many variations in the word order in French. Similarly, the use of articles may be comparable in the two languages, but they are not the same. And like other Romance languages, French nouns have gender: masculine and feminine. The possessive adjectives should concur with the gender of the noun they are describing while the pronouns depend on the gender of the noun they are connected with.

Difference in Pronunciation

French pronunciation is not very hard. But there are some difficulties such as the strange nasal sounds apparent with their vowels, such as in mince, bain, aucun, d'un, pont, paon and others; the sound of French r or j the sound of u, and rt at the end of the word (as in bord, port, mort).

Difference in Vocabulary Since many words in the French and English vocabulary evolved from Latin, they are mutually comprehensible. What needs to be focused on in French vocabulary is the gender of nouns. Though French and English languages have major differences, this should not discourage you from learning French. Since French is closely associated with Portuguese, Spanish and Italian, it is easier to learn French if you already know how to speak any one of these Romance languages.

I am a language teacher living in Asia. I have over a decade of experience teaching all ages a variety of subjects. For free French info and lessons, please visit my blog here.

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