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Is French similar to Spanish/Italian/German?

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In France, only 40% of the students who have decided to continue studying Spanish at the University are able to get the Spanish degree at the first attempt. cry gif If Spanish were similar to French, the pourcentage would be much higher !!


Because FRENCH PEOPLE DON’T UNDERSTAND A WORD OF SPANISH and because SPANISH PEOPLE DON’T UNDERSTAND A WORD OF FRENCH, we cannot say that French and Spanish are similar. French people also don’t understand anything in Italian and German.

It’s true that many people (especially outside Europe) believe that these languages are similar just because they are Indo-European languages… they also often mention the proximity of these countries to assert that their languages “must be similar”… well, I am a French citizen and I can tell you that I don’t understand a word of German, even though France and Germany are sharing a common border! I also do not understand Hindi, which is also an Indo-European language!

It’s quite funny to observe French people trying to communicate with Spanish people: they try to speak in English !

It’s IMPOSSIBLE for a French person to follow a conversation in SPANISH if this person can’t speak Spanish fluently. Even at an intermediate level, a French person will rapidly get lost. If you get stuck with a word, your brain will automatically stop on that word to try to find the meaning…and by the time you find it, the Spanish people would have already spoken 5 sentences!

Spanish is a difficult language for several reasons:

  • Spanish people speak extremely fast. They don’t like making efforts and won’t slow down even if you don’t understand.
  • There is an ARABIC influence in the Spanish language (which is not there in French). This is because Spain was INVADED by the Arabs during the Middle Ages, in 711 to be precised. The Arabs were able to lead the country for more than 700 YEARS (till 1492) ! As a consequence, they were able to impose their LANGUAGE, their culture, their architecture (still very much present in south Spain), their knowledge and their techniques in agriculture.

Even today, there are more than 4000 words in the Spanish language that directly come from Arabic and about 8000 words that come from Arabic but that have been slightly modified with time (one or two letters have been removed or added). In French, there is no Arabic influence (except for a few words). The Arabs did try to invade France but were rapidly defeated in Poitiers (in 732) by the men of Charles Martel.

It’s true that some words in French look like Spanish because they start with the same letters (which makes it easier to remember them). However, many of them are deceptive and actually don’t mean the same thing! Here are a few examples:

– “destiny” in English becomes “destinée” in French. In Spanish “destino” doesn’t mean destiny ! “El destino” means a “job”!

– “Competence” in English becomes “competence” in French. In Spanish “competencia” means the “competition”.

There are also many basic words that are completely different:

– “a banana” (English), “une banane” (French), “un plátano” (Spanish)
– “a carrot” (English), “une carotte” (French), “una zanahoria” (Spanish)
– “a peach” (English), “une pêche” (French), “un melocotón” (Spanish) (this is an Arabic word)
– “a plum” (English), “une prune” (French), “una ciruela” (Spanish)
– “a pineapple” (English), “un ananas” (French), “una piña” (Spanish)

A bit of grammar...

As you can see, it’s not so easy! However, it will be easier for a French person to learn Spanish than for an English speaker. This is because French and Spanish have both a very complicated grammar. They both have the concept of “GENDER“, which doesn’t exist in English. This means that every single object in this world is either MASCULINE or FEMININE ! For example, in French your watch is feminine, just like a spider! But the gender in French doesn’t always match the gender in Spanish. For example, a “banana” is FEMININE in French but MASCULINE in Spanish! This means that when French students are learning Spanish, they have to learn the words by heart as well as their gender, without confusing with the gender in French. Because a word can be either masculine or feminine, this means that the ADJECTIVES will also have to be put in the masculine/feminine form.

Some Spanish people on the Internet are happy to write that they have learnt French in just a few months… but they can hardly speak any French (basic sentences with spelling and grammatical mistakes). French is a very difficult language to learn and being fluent in French can take many years.

According to me, one is fluent in a language only if he/she can speak that language as a native speaker, that is without hesitation and any mistakes.

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