Because we’re so used to speaking our native language it can sure seem like any other language is so much more difficult than our own. However, this doesn’t mean that this is always the case. No matter what people say, all languages have elements of them that are easy and others that are difficult.
When it comes to the French language there are actually several reasons why we as English speakers have it easier than French speakers who are learning English.
Let’s go over some of them and how you can use them to your advantage when looking to improve your French. In putting this list together we tried to find some examples that weren’t totally obvious and that some mind find quite interesting…
Why is French Easier than English?
Stresses on Syllables – Correctly pronouncing words in any foreign language is going to be difficult, so it’s hard to say that the pronunciation in French is easier or harder than that of English.
However, there is one element of pronunciation that is arguably easier, and that is on which syllable of a word to place the emphasis.
A lot of people don’t even realize that when you pronounce a word you place more of an emphasis on one syllable than the others. To native speakers this process is completely natural, but for learners it can be quite a struggle to figure out exactly which syllable to put the stress on.
In French, however, the stress is always placed on the last syllable of the word making the whole process a no-brainer. Let’s look at some examples of both English and French words and where their stresses are placed.
ComPUter – Second Syllable
TElevision – First Syllable
VoluntEER – Third Syllable
OrdinatEUR – Last Syllable
TélévisION – Last Syllable
VolontAIRE – Last Syllable
The rules that govern when and where to put stresses in English can be complicated and hard-to-understand. In French, they literally couldn’t be easier. So the next time you find yourself struggling with French pronunciation just remember that it could be much worse.
Better People to Practice With – Here is something that a lot of people never think about. Have you ever judged the difficulty of learning a language by the quality of the people that you get to practice with?
Probably one of the most important elements of learning French (or any language) is the ability to get enough exposure to the language so that you can essentially “pick it up”. It’s exactly for this reason that people recommend going to live in a French-speaking country Here’s where the advantage comes into play for English speakers learning French.
English is often used by travelers to communicate with those in foreign countries. So much so that people (in this case the French) often speak English with non-native speakers more than they speak with natives!
The problem with this is that the majority of people who speak English as a second language make the same mistakes that any learner would make. If most of the people you are speaking with (or even just some of the people) are currently learning the same language as you, and thus making mistakes, it can be difficult to progress without making those mistakes yourself.
When you are still in the beginner stages of your studies then one of the worst things you could do is to speak French with someone who themselves doesn’t speak French that well themselves. French learners don’t have this issue as much because the only people we practice with are native speakers. This may seem insignificant to some, but it can really make an impact on your learning.
Basic Verb Tenses are Easier in French – Learning verb tenses are some of the most frustrating parts for beginning language learners. The problem with them is that, like many other elements of learning a language, they don’t often match up exactly with those of English. Fortunately for English-speakers learning French, it is easier to grasp some of these tenses. To better explain this, let’s use some examples…
J’ai mangé = I ate or I have eaten
Je fumais = I was smoking or I used to smoke
Je marche = I walk or I was walking
As you can see by the above examples each of the French tenses can be translated by multiple English tenses. As you can imagine, it can be very difficult for native-French speakers to differentiate between things like I eat or I have eaten when both of these are translated by the same sentence in French.
If you’re an English speaker then you don’t have this confusion because you already understand the differences and can just translate both by one tense in French. Because verb tenses are used constantly when speaking and writing French understanding these perfectly is incredibly important to achieving fluency. Be happy that you have this advantage.
French Has Less Vocabulary – Learning vocabulary can be hard for any aspiring language learner so the less words you have to learn the better.
Fortunately for English speakers learning French you’ll soon find that there are many English words that can all be translated by one or two French words. It’s very similar to what was discussed previously regarding some of the French verb tenses.
English speakers learning French are at an advantage because, although French is a language that has a lot of words, it doesn’t have as many as English does.
This means that a lot of French speakers struggle with learning English because they have to learn multiple definitions for word that in French only has one definition. This of course can go both ways to an extent, but if you look at the broader picture it happens more so when switching from French to English.
French Has accents – for a lot of English speakers the idea of using accents can be daunting, but trust me they can help you immensely. The reason for this is actually pretty obvious. You put accents over certain vowels so that you know how to pronounce them.
If you have absolutely no concept of how and when to use accents then there may be a little learning curve to them for you. However as soon as you get past that point then you’ll find that they’re actually very helpful.
The English language doesn’t have accents, which would be fine if all vowels were always pronounced the same. However we know that that’s not true. Just like in French, a vowel may have several different pronunciations depending on the word or even where in the word it is found.
In order to know how to pronounce things correctly in English you more or less have to memorize how a given word is pronounced. Yes, this applies in French as well to some degree, but at least you have those accents to help give you that extra edge.
Alright, let’s go over some of the reasons why French is an easier language to learn to than English. To start off, knowing which syllable to put the stress on in French is easy compared to English where it can sometimes be a guessing game.
Next, most of your opportunities to practice will be with the right people, as opposed to with people who are also learning French. Thirdly, basic verb tenses are easier in French. Knowing all of your tenses is one of the most important parts involved in holding a conversation.
English speakers have an advantage over their French counterpart because several of the tenses in English can be translated by just one tense in French. Moving on, French just simply has less words that English does.
This by no means that French is a language short on vocabulary, but if you spend enough time learning French you’ll soon discover that, like some of the verb tenses, multiple English words will be translated by just one word in French.
Finally, French has accents that are placed over vowels so that people can have a better idea of how to pronounce them. In English vowels also often have different pronunciations depending on a number of factors, however to learn them you more or less have to memorize them.
At least in French you have something small that can make what in English is a difficult task a little bit easier.
In conclusion, it really is difficult to say which language it’s easier or harder than another. The debate of which language is the hardest is something that it seems no two people ever agree on. However, when it comes to both the English and French languages these five components are, in our opinion, some reasons why French is easier than English. There are no doubt other reasons that one could come up with, but these five are our favorites.
What do you think? You agree with these five reasons? Do you have other reasons why you think French is easier to learn than English? Comment below and tell us why you agree or disagree.