If you’re interested in learning French, there are two key questions you should ask yourself:
1) Why do I want to learn French?
2) How can I learn more about French culture?
The former is important for helping you develop a learning strategy that meets your needs, while the latter will help you better appreciate the rich nature of the French language.
Once you’ve answered those questions in your own mind, the best way for beginners to learn French is to move on with a personal learning plan that works best to meet those goals.
This is a question you may have heard more than once, but it’s a bit of a misguided question. Is French hard to learn? Is walking hard to learn? Babies spend nearly two years learning how to walk, but they all succeed, right? The truth is that there is no such thing as a “hard language to learn”. Learning French is simply a matter of time and motivation. Now that said, we do not think that French is a hard language to learn at all. Why? Read on below…
If you’re reading this, then chances are you understand English. If that’s the case, then you should know that the differences between French and English are not as great as you might think. Both languages borrow heavily from Latin and Greek, and roughly 20% – 25% of French vocabulary words are shared with English. In fact, when it comes to basic sentence structure and grammar, the differences between French and English are slight when compared to other languages.
The French language evolved from the northern region of modern-day France and is a member of the Gallo-Romance family of languages. Like many modern Romance Languages, the French language evolved from dialects of Vulgar Latin following the collapse of the Roman Empire. Roughly three-quarters of the modern French language comes from Latin roots, although Greek has heavily influenced French vocabulary. Today, the French language is spoken as the official language in 29 countries and is spoken by large populations across the globe.
The history of French is as deep and old as Europe itself. Like many modern-day Romance Languages, French finds evolved from Vulgar Latin. This doesn’t mean that this form of Latin used coarse language. The term “Vulgar Latin” simply means “Common Latin”. Vulgar Latin was an amalgamation of many different proto-languages, so when the Roman Empire collapsed, local languages evolved at their own pace. This is the history of the French language, which is why there are so many common roots between French and other European languages today.
While the Roman Empire collapsed in the 5th century, it was not until around 500 years later that something akin to the modern French language began to emerge. The history of French finds its roots in the 10th century, though it wasn’t until the 15th century that people came to speak a language resembling what we’d identify as modern French.
One of the most important parts of learning a language is understanding its culture, and French is no exception. Of course, if you want to learn about French culture, you first must ask yourself an important question: how do you define French culture? Is this the culture of the country of France, or the cultures of the other 28 countries that count French as their official languages? Then again, let’s not forget countries like the United States, where French is not an official language, but there are still over 2M French speakers.
Our point about French culture notwithstanding, there are a number of French customs shared across many French-speaking cultures. For example, despite the wide variety of norms across Francophone countries, there are many characteristics of French that are nearly universal; chiefly family values and the language’s roots in romance and literature share strong roles in French customs across many different French cultures.