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Is French hard to learn?

The short answer is yes. Any second language can be difficult to learn, especially if you start learning it after your teenage years.  However, the outcome and the journey can be entertaining and rewarding if done correctly.

French is a beautiful but complicated language, especially for English speakers. There are a number of things that you might find confusing in your journey to learn French. For example, there are words that look similar in English and French but mean different; concepts that don’t exist in English; and even the pronunciation of very basic words.

The difficulties you might face while learning French as a beginner

1)  False friends or false cognates (Faux amis)

 Those words that seem similar in French and English are known as false friends. During the Norman invasion in 11 century English and French were strongly influenced, this led to the creation of many cognates. There are approximately 1700 cognates. Some have the same meaning as in English while others don’t. For example

  1. Ancien and ancient: – Ancien can mean ancient in some cases but generally it means ‘former’, such as ‘un ancien soldat’ means a former soldier and not a soldier from medieval ages. 
  2. Blessé and blessed: Blesser, in French means to wound. So ‘un enfant blessé’ is not a child you would expect to worship but one that needs to be attended as he is injured.
  3. Envie and envy: While the verb envier van be used in the sense of ‘to envy’, the noun ‘envie’ means ‘to wish or desire’. For example if you say ‘ J’ai envie de toi’ it won’t mean ‘I envy you’ but ‘I want you’. 

2)  French Gender

French gender is something that can confuse any beginner, you might wonder why ‘ventilateur’ (fan) is masculine and ‘chaise’ (chair) is feminine, at last you will conclude that the genders were chosen randomly by the linguists. It can be a bit difficult for English speakers because here we don’t have a gender of everyday used products, but in French everything has a gender like in hindi. 

We can deal with this problem by learning new words along with a singular indefinite article, un or une, since definite articles might be confusing with the words starting with a vowel (l’) and plural is same for both masculine and feminine (les). So if you learn a word along with the indefinite article it will help you in remembering its gender for example, une chaise, un téléphone etc.

Here are some tips to learn the genders of the nouns.

3) French Spellings 

French spellings can be a bit confusing to apprehend because of unpronounced letters, lots of homophones and rules of pronunciation. For example –er, –ez and é represent the same sound /e/. One of the more interesting example is of the written language is the conjugation of third person plural in which –ent is silent, whereas in other words like appartement it is pronounced. 

There are some ways to deal with French spellings; firstly you should familiarize yourself with the different aspects of French words and phonetics. Secondly remember that even if each letter of a French word is not be pronounced, letters normally do have some kind of function, whether this means being part of a group of letters that represent a single phoneme or indicating that the preceding letter should be pronounced, as is the case with an e following a consonant.

4) Pronunciation

For many people who people who start learning French, pronunciation is one of the most difficult part to overcome. The silent letters, new sounds, liaison etc make French learning a bit tricky. Like English French is not the same as it is spoken. Let’s see some of the main pronunciation difficulties 

1) The French ‘R’:-

French ‘R’ might be one of the most difficult sounds in the language. A lot of people struggle with producing this guttural sound as it uses the back of the throat. 

2) Nasal Sounds 

Nasal sounds are produced by pushing air from mouth and nose. A simple sentence to remember and practice the nasal sounds is ‘ Un bon vin blanc’(a good white wine).

3) Silent Letters 

French has a lot of silent letters for example some words like e,s,t etc are not pronounced generally in French. For example if you pronounce ‘loup’ the final P is silent. However not all final letters are silent, so you just need to remember them.

4) Liaison 

Liaison is pretty simple if you understand its basic principle and practice it a lot. .It involves taking the final consonant of one word and adding it to the first syllable of the second word when : the first word ends in a final consonant (pronounced orally) and the following word starts with a vowel. For example onze oiseaux –> /õ zwa zo/. 

5) French tenses

There are a lot of tenses in french, which means you have more conjugations to remember and you might get confused between different variations of the one tense, For example a lot of people get confused between passé composé vs. imparfait which are the types of past tense. The same problem might also arise in  futur antérieur vs. futur simple. 

To overcome this problem you need to analyze every tense and find out how and where it is used, once you understand its basic concept it will become easier for you.

Conclusion 

Each language has its own complications but they can always be overcome with proper amount of practice and hard work. One should not shy away from these problems but try to face them no matter how frustrating it might get. Ever problem has its solution, and there are a lot of ways to find it. So you should work on it and find a way that works the best for you. 

Is French difficult to learn?

If you are keen to learn French, and find it difficult to learn, try out our upcoming French class for beginners. You will pe pleasantly surprised how much you can learn in about 2 months of our beginners French language course.