Celeste enjoys travel and to learn about different cultures. Especially how language and food define them.
An English-French Connection
French Might Be Easier to Learn Than You Think
I took French in ninth grade. It wasn’t too bad, but I was young. Don’t ask me to speak it now. I don’t remember any of it, except a curse word our teacher used often. I won’t repeat it. I guess we were a bit of a handful.
I have convinced myself that French was a complex language to learn, and since I’m older now, it would be too difficult. To prove it, I looked for a list of the top 10 most challenging languages to learn, and French didn’t appear in any of the lists. The list featured Finnish, Hungarian, and Japanese as examples. That shot my theory out the window.
When Did French First Influence English?
Anyway, what I’m saying is that we already use many French words in the English language. We typically don’t use them with the French pronunciation. However, there are a few exceptions. Déjà vu is an example where the pronunciation mainly stayed the same.
French influence on the English language originated after the Normans conquered England in 1066. The Old Normans spoke a dialect of French, which influenced the birth of the new Anglo-Norman language in England.
Today French is in the top 5 most widely spoken languages on earth. It’s the official language of 24 countries across the globe, including a large part of east Africa, France (of course), Haiti, Seychelles, Switzerland, Togo, and more.
English Words With French Origins
More than a third of the English language is formed by cognates of the French version. There are over 7000 known French words in the English language.
A cognate word or phrase is one where the meaning is the same in both languages. Sometimes the spelling is a little different. The pronunciation is almost always different, but the definition is the same or similar. Spanish and French are cognate languages too. So, if you speak Spanish, you might be speaking some French as well.
Similarities Between English, French and Spanish Words
True Cognates Between English and French
A true cognate is a word or short phrase in one language that has the same meaning and spelling in another language. The only difference between the two will be their pronunciation.
The French refer to true cognates as 'Vrais Amis.' Translated to English, it means 'true friends.' English and French share at least 1700 true cognates.
Cognate English and French Words With the Same Spelling and Definition
Read More From Owlcation
False Cognates: Similar Spelling but Different Definition
Some words in French are spelled the same or similar to English, but the definition is entirely different. These are what we call false cognates and can be confusing.
Here is an example where I assumed that the French word is a cognate of the English, but it isn't. It demonstrates some of the confusion we might encounter when learning a new language.
I love linguistics. It's as fun and fascinating as it's frustrating.
‘Avertissement! Don’t attendre on the coin with one bra extended. You might look like a con.’
Translated to English would be:
‘Warning! Don’t wait on the corner with one arm extended. You might look like an idiot.’
Right, now or at present
A bill, such as a bill at a restaurant.
A task or a duty
Anglicism in French
In this century, the tables have turned a little as the French adopted some English words and added them to their vocabulary. It happens more often in office or professional settings because there are no convenient French alternatives for some of these words. This development in the French language is upsetting French speaking purists. Some call it Anglicism in French, and others have coined the phrase, ‘English loan words.’
If you visit France and use the following English words, chances are that a French person will know exactly what you’re talking about.
- A selfie, but they might say ‘le selfie.’
- A sandwich became ‘le sandwich.’
- They will understand smartphone because it’s easier than saying ‘téléphone intelligent.’
- Networking is understood in business because to say ‘la mise en réseau is a bit of a mouthful.’
There are many more examples, and I’m sure the list is growing with our technological era.
Learning a New Language Is Not Impossible
Learning another language may not be as difficult as we imagine it to be. I might try to learn at least a few phrases again. I’m going to start with food and culture first. If you understand the food and culture of a nation, you know what is important to them. Besides, I love food. It will be a delicious motivator.
Sources and Further Reading
- 99 French Words We Use in English All the Time | Busuu Blog
The English language has inherited quite a few French cognates – which means that French words are used in English. Discover 99 examples.
- 15 French Words That You've Seen Before... in English | FluentU French
Want to easily learn some new French words and phrases? Here are 15 French words and phrases used in English—so you probably already know several!
- Common French Words Also Common in ... English!! | The Good Life France
Around 70% of French words are commonly used in English every day.
- 100+ Commonly Used French Words and Phrases in English | YourDictionary
You may be surprised by how many French words are used in English. Explore this list of some of these words and phrases that are incorporated in English.
- The top 25 French Words Used in English | Brainscape Academy
French is the 5th most widely spoken language on earth and there's a huge list of words and phrases that English speakers use that we got from French.
- Countries and Languages | Nations Online Project
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Celeste Wilson