Essay on Differences between English and French Languages



During the colonial period, the colonial dominance was common in developing economies. The colonial government did not only influenced democratic power, but also culture and language. For instance, countries colonized by French ended up using French as the official language.  Similar situation was witnessed as the Britain colonies adopted English as the national language (Armstrong & Pooley, 2010). However, the two languages differ significantly in tense, accent, culture, pronunciation, and other language attributes. French alongside Italian and Spanish languages are believed to be of Indo-European origin. On the other hand, English is associated with the common wealth nations and the Great Britain. The two languages greatly have influence on each other with the French language strong influence over the British English as early as 11 century. Following the influence the two languages have had on each other, it noted that these two world most popular languages share in common grammatical features. Besides, French and English contain many cognates. However, minor differences may be notice between these world leading languages.

The relationship between French and English is further founded on the influence of German language. These two languages are strongly related with the German.  It is known that French is common among the Latinos with little influence of both German and English. On the other hand, English is believed to be a German language with strong French and Latin influence (Reich & Pornbacher, 1992). It is this correlation between these two languages that prompts further investigation.  Thus, we cannot deny the existence of similarity between English and French. The most notable similarities are in alphabetical letters, and true cognates. More importantly, however, research findings have established that the differences between these languages are more, major, and minor.

Alphabetically, these two languages have the same number of letters (twenty six.  However, in addition to the twenty six alphabetical, the letters in French language are having diacritics: é (acute acent), â ê î ô û (circumflex), è à ù (grave accent), ë ï ü (diaeresis), and ç (cedilla). This poses lot of problems to new learners whenever the instructor spells out certain words. For instance, it is a common mistake for the beginners to write j or I even when the teacher meant g or e. this is the major problem faced by learners especially the English speaking learner taking their lessons in French (Nikolov, 2009).  On the other hand, French speaking or born students encounter numerous challenges in learning English language. These students have to meet a new language, which to them is very challenging and deemed harder than theirs.

In phonology, the differences in sound systems between the two languages cause a lot of effective speech development and comprehension problem to learners (especially French learners. The spelling errors are frequent among the French students taking their studies in English language because of frequent lack of proper link between in pronunciation of English compared to how the English words are spelt. The typical problem with pronunciation is due to inability of the learners to correctly articulate English vowel sounds with minimal pairs like sheep/ ship, leave /live, full / fool, among other vowels. This common because students (learners) of French native have their tongue tips to use to speaking English. Besides, these learners often incur problems when they encounter words with the letters such as th (/θ/ /ð/), like think, clothes, and them. Another notable difference between these two languages is the error of omission common among the French (Rourke, 2011). The French usually omit the sound /h/ especially at the beginning of each word with such letters.  The sound /h/ exist nowhere in French language, thus, leading to common problem with all the words that starts with h. for example, English speaking French learners ignore the beginning sound in words like have you heard about happy?, but instead reads 'Ave you “eard about 'arry?”. In trying to solve the problem, they end up making more mistakes by overemphasizing on /h/ in words such as honour, hour, just to mention a few.

Since word stress in French is customary, French learners usually encounter challenges with the erratic stress patterns over emphasized in English words. Therefore French learner may be reluctant to participate in the widespread vowel reductions of unstressed English syllables. For instance, the native English speakers swallow first syllable in the word tomorrow (t'morrow), while a stereotypical staccato French speaking learner with have a problem in swallowing the same syllable. Therefore, it notable that English speakers are fluent both in pronunciation and articulation (Broadfoot, 2000).

Grammatically (tense and verb), both English and French considerably overlaps. For example, the two languages have auxiliaries, active and passive voice, participles, present/past/future tenses. However, there are minor differences between these two languages that cause interference in English production. The typical problem with the French learners is the inaccurate choice of tense. Despite external similarities in verb and grammar, French learners occasionally use different tenses to convey certain meaning that does English (Hanna & Nooy, 2009). For example, the French would use the following sentences in their communication:

  • I have played soccer yesterday.
  • I do my assignment. I cannot play now.
  • I live in Munich since last year.

Since French lack the auxiliary do, French learners are at danger of having problems when asking questions. For instance, it is a common practice among them to simply pose a statement with question intonation: She is rich?. Alternatively, they interchange subject and verb: How frequent see you him?

Though French and English share the basics in word syntax (Subject-Verb-Object), there are other variations in the ordering and pairing of sentences which looks complex than the common “I bought a brand car” type. A few of these complicated sentences with common errors are:

·         I play sometimes tennis.

  • I will too much eat!

Articles written in French may look similar to English articles but are never identical. In particular, French pronouns are associated with the noun under description; while possessive adjectives are consistent with the words (nouns) they qualify (Ganeri, 2012). In case of interference or alteration, such mistakes as, he is nurse, the French is harder than the English, do you love my bag. He was very expensive are unavoidable.

In vocabulary, it is believed that a good proportion of words in these two language have a common origin in the Latin. Besides, these words are mutually comprehensible especially with respect to technical and academic words and not with the commonly used vocabularies. Of concern however is the concomitant issue that arises with falsehood. Finally, it is noted that false cognates is common when using English and French. For instance, similar words may not convey the same meaning. Other areas of concern are differences in punctuation and spacing, pronunciation, silent letters, and spelling non-equivalence (Goulandris & Snowling, 2003).   



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