Adapt2me

  • English
  • Français
  • Category
  • Archives

Important Differences Between French & English

There are some differences between French and English that can be challenging to learn.

out site  The most obvious are English phonetic sounds that use different muscles than those used to speak French.  This is the case, even though those two languages share several grammatical features and cognates.

Phonology

There are sounds used by Anglophones that can cause a Francophone some anxiety and enunciation problems that can lead to a lack of understanding and spelling errors.  A typical pronunciation problem is the inability to correctly articulate the vowel sounds in minimal pairs such as; to/two//too, live/leave, prey/pray, ship/sheep, full/fool, there/their/they’re – these words are called ‘Homophones’.  Too often homophones and homonyms are confused depending on whom you ask.  

Then, there are the homographs, which are words that have the same spelling but mean totally different things and can have different pronunciation.  Lead the metal and lead the action of being in front is an example; bass the low sound and bass the fish is another.

Alphabet

Although both languages have 26 letters in their alphabet, the French language has some letters with diacritics (these are words with accents).  These accents are meant to point to the different enunciation of that vowel.  Another common mistake, which I often make, is to confuse J for G, and E for I when someone is spelling out a word.

Another typical problem for a Francophone, which is often used to imitate and mock a Francophone, is the inability to pronounce the H sound in some words – that’s because French speakers do not use their tongue in the same manner as English speakers so that ‘heard’ becomes ‘eard’ and ‘Harry’ becomes ‘arry’ and ‘the’ becomes ‘de’.

Grammar – Verb/Tense

French and English verb grammar have several areas of overlap. For example, both languages have auxiliaries, participles, active/passive voice, past/present/future tenses. However, there are some differences that can cause interference in the production of English.

A typical problem is the wrong choice of tense. Despite the external similarities of verb grammar, there are frequent occasions when French uses a different tense than English to convey a particular meaning.

Some common examples are the following faulty sentences:

  • I have played hockey yesterday.  [I played hockey yesterday]
  • I can’t play now. I do my homework.  [I can’t play now. I am doing my homework.]
  • I live in Montréal since last year.  [I have lived in Montreal since last year.]
  • I will tell you as soon as I will know.  [I will tell you as soon as I know.]

buy it Because French does not use the auxiliary ‘do’, learners may have problems in asking questions. For example, they may simply make a statement and use question intonation: He is handsome? Or they may invert subject and verb: How often see you her?

Grammar – Other

Although English and French share the same basic Subject-Verb-Object syntax, there are numerous variations in the word order of sentences that are more complicated than the simple ‘I bought a new car’ type.

Here are a few common errors:

  • I play sometimes games.  [I sometimes play games.]
  • I have too much eat!  [I had too much to eat!]
  • Do you know what is the time?  [Do you know what time it is?]

The biggest difference is related to gender assignment to nouns that always stumps non-Francophones.  Whether a chair is feminine (la chaise) or masculine, and if feminine, then why is a couch masculine (le sofa)?  Or if a street is feminine (la rue), then why is the highway masculine (l’autoroute)?

Vocabulary

A large number of words in the two languages have the same Latin root and are mutually comprehensible – although this applies more to academic/technical words than to everyday vocabulary. The concomitant problem, however, is the significant number of false connections. Here are just a few examples. The French word is listed first, followed by the correct English equivalent: cave / cellar; sensible / sensitive; ignorer / not know.

Two excellent web sources for phonological information are:

  • Non-native pronunciations of English on Answers.com.
  • The Speech Accent Archive

Talk to your Adapt2me tutor about homophones and make it a game to come up with a list of your own.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please fill all required fields

*