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The French and English languages share many linguistic similitudes, despite having such different origins. French comes from the Indo-European family of languages and forms part of the Romance languages along with other languages such as Spanish, Italian, Romanian, Catalan amongst many others. On the other hand, England having been invaded by Germanic Tribes in the early 5th century,  the Germanic language, ‘Angles’ was strongly imposed.  Therefore, one wonders about the close connection shared between these two languages of different motherlands.

This phenomenon came about during the time of the Norman invasion of Britain in the 11th century. This is when the French language became the medium of communication of the higher classes. Thus many French words were absorbed by the English vocabulary.  As a result of that, the two languages share many grammatical similarities. It also characterises their difference. Some of these are;

1. Alphabet:

The French alphabet contains 26 letters like its English counterpart.  However, this also includes letters with diacritics: é (acute acent) è à ù (grave accent), ç (cedilla), â ê î ô û (circumflex), ë ï ü (diaeresis).

2. Phonology:

A common error made by a French native speaker while speaking English is the omission of the /h/ sound found at the beginning of many English words.  For instance, ‘As ‘arry ‘eard about ‘er  (Has Harry heard about her?)

Another typical pronunciation problem is the inability to correctly articulate the vowel sounds in word pairs such as ship / sheep, live / leave, full / fool. Because the French are not used to using the tip of their tongue in speech, beginners often have problems with words containing the letters th, such as then, think and clothes.

3.  Grammar – Verb/Tense:

French and English verb grammar are very similar in nature. Both languages, for example, have auxiliaries, participles, active/passive voice, past/present/future tenses. However, there are some differences that can cause problems to a French person speaking English.

A typical dilemma encountered is the wrong choice of tense.  Some examples are:

  • I live in London since last year.
  • I will tell you as soon as I will know.

Some words of English and French which share common roots are:

En:Domestic
Fr:Domestique

En:Letter
Fr:lettre

En:Million
Fr:million

En:Mode
Fr:Mode

En:solid
Fr:solide

En:interesting
Fr:intéressante

En:Public
Fr:publique

If you would like to find out more about our professional translation services or French translation specifically, then please get in touch.

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