8 Undeniable Reasons Why French Is Hard to Learn | OptiLingo (2023)

8 Reasons Why People Struggle When Learning French

Learning French seems very hard if you’re an English speaker. But, luckily, it’s actually much easier to learn than you think. If you’re a native English speaker, you have a huge advantage in learning French. Thanks to the similarities between the two languages, you already know a lot more than you think. We’ve broken down all the reasons why French may be hard to learn, and how you can overcome them easily. You can reach French fluency fast, if you apply the right learning methods.

Is French Worth Learning?

The short answer is: absolutely. French is one of the most popular languages in the world. At nearly 80 million native speakers and 220 million speakers worldwide, it stands behind only Mandarin, Spanish, English, Arabic, and Hindi as the 6th most spoken language in the world. This means that French is a popular choice in many education programs throughout English speaking countries.

How Long Does it Take to Learn French?

Learners who worry about how hard it is to learn French often want to know how long it will take to reach French fluency. While, of course, there’s no certain answer for how long it takes to learn a language, there’s definitely some good news. French is a Category I language according to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI). This means that the average time to learn French for native English speakers is 600 hours or 28 weeks of study. That’s fairly easy compared to other languages.

8 Undeniable Reasons Why French Is Hard to Learn | OptiLingo (1)

Is French Hard to Learn?

The right answer to this is quite simple: French is NOT hard to learn, if you use the right language learning methods, and you enjoy them. Learning French becomes a fun activity, and you won’t worry about any of the difficulties of French. Of course, you need the right motivations for learning French too, and then your enthusiasm will give your language learning an extra boost.

That being said, there are a lot of differences between French and English. This means, that as a language, there are definitely harder parts to learn than others. Here are the 8 most challenging reasons why French would be hard to learn. But, don’t worry, we also included how to overcome these difficulties.

1. French Pronunciation is Challenging

The French language is widely known as being a beautiful language. But to speak the “language of love” properly, you have to be able to pronounce it correctly. And this can be a problem for English speakers. French pronunciation tends to make English speakers’ heads spin.

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The French language tends to be difficult to pronounce at first because there are simply sounds that native English speakers aren’t used to making. To begin with, French is more evenly stressed. This means that while some parts of a word are stressed, it’s not as distinct as in English. Nasal vowels, back of the throat “r”s, and silent letters make French pronunciation one of the biggest obstacles in learning French.

But, there’s one simple cure to this: practice. Practicing your pronunciation, and speaking the language from Day 1 is how you can reach fluency fast. You’ll sound like a native speaker in no time.

8 Undeniable Reasons Why French Is Hard to Learn | OptiLingo (2)

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2. There Are a Lot of French Accent Marks

While French has the same amount of vowels as English, there are a variety of accents that have different pronunciations:

  • Cedilla: Ç (Cédille)
  • Acute Accent: é (Accent Aigu)
  • Circumflex: â (Accent Circonflexe)
  • Grave Accent: à (Accent Grave)
  • Dieresis/Umlaut: ë (Accent Tréma)

This can make the words look formidable as well if you’re not familiar with them. But, the good news is, they’re not impossible to master at all. With a handy guide to French accent marks, you can learn how to use them really easily.

3. The Difficulty of French Liaison

Liaison further complicates French pronunciation. Liaison is when you pronounce the ending consonants of some words if a vowel or the letter “h” comes after it. An example would be, “les enfants” where you would pronounce the “s” because an “e” begins the next word.

However strange this may be, I promise you’ll get used to it. It’s a strange aspect of French, but once you’re fluent, you won’t even think about it.

8 Undeniable Reasons Why French Is Hard to Learn | OptiLingo (3)

4. Why is French Spelling so Hard?

If you thought the French pronunciation was complicated, spelling in French isn’t any easier. With French, you must not only remember how to spell the word when many of the letters aren’t used, but you’ll also have to remember all the accents and abbreviate articles correctly according to their gender.

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The critical point to remember here is that spelling takes practice in any language. And the more you do it, the better you become. Many people have difficulty spelling even in their native language. In English, words like conscious and rhyme are often misspelled or confused for example. This is something you’ll want to keep in mind if you can’t seem to nail the spelling of l’écureuil (squirrel). Practice makes perfect.

5. French Genders

Of course. You knew this would come sooner or later. The French language has gendered nouns. Words are either masculine or feminine in French. This means that words will have either a masculine “le” or feminine “la” article. Indefinite articles will use either the masculine “un” or feminine “une.” And if the noun is plural, then it’s “les” or “des.”

The truth is that there is no logic or pattern to which words have which gender. To remember which article goes with which word, you’ll just have to remember the article with the word. Learning the words that way will connect the two components so that you’ll see them as one complete unit.

6. Counting Logic in French vs. English

Counting in French isn’t the same as counting in English. While cruising from 1 to 60 is relatively straightforward, things turn weird at 70. This is because French uses a “vigesimal system” after 60. Instead of saying a version of “70” they say, “soixante-dix” or sixty and ten. And then at 80, it gets even stranger, “quatre-vingts” or four twenties.

This continues until you arrive at the word for 99, “quatre-vingt-dix-neuf” or four twenties, ten and nine. French counting can be frustrating at first, but the system has a kind of quirk to it that you accept as strange and even remember it easier because it’s so different.

7. Loanwords vs False Cognates in French

English and French have a lot of similarities. English has plenty of loanwords and cognates from French. These are words with similar or the same spelling, pronunciation, and meaning. This makes French much easier to learn for English native speakers. You already know a huge chunk of the vocabulary. Attention, brutality, and continent are a few examples of cognates you can trust.

But, the opposite is also true. There are a lot of false cognates in French, words that sound similar, but their meaning is totally different. Some examples of these are “libraries”, which means bookstore, or “journée”, which means day. And there are plenty more.

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8 Undeniable Reasons Why French Is Hard to Learn | OptiLingo (4)

False cognates can create confusion for French beginners. Luckily, it’s quite fun to learn about them and remember them. Just like you know the difference between “chips” and “crisps” in American and British English, you’ll start to naturally remember the false cognates in French. Meanwhile, your French vocabulary will grow a lot.

8. The Numerous Exceptions of French Grammar

And like with any language, there are exceptions to the rules. French grammar can be very complicated at first, but there are plenty of resources to help support you on your journey to learn French. You want to keep those handy because it’s always best to take the time to make sure you’re learning the language properly.

So Is French Really That Hard to Learn?

At the end of the day, the difficulty of a language depends on you. You can easily learn any language you want. The key to mastering any language is to understand what makes it difficult. Once you know that, learning any language is easy. And French is no different.

You also need the right language learning resources to learn French easier. You need a method that is fun, and gets you results. And that’s exactly what OptiLingo offers.

With OptiLingo, learning French becomes easy. This app gives you all the most common French words and phrases, so you learn exactly how the locals speak. You won’t need to worry about memorizing grammar and gender pronouns. All of that will come naturally. And OptiLingo makes you speak the language. So, you can start practicing your pronunciation from the first day. Download the app today, and discover how much easier learning French can be!

FAQs

Why is it so hard to learn French? ›

Many find French hard to learn because of the complex grammar and linguistic nuances that don't exist in English, especially for those who have never studied another European language specifically Romance languages like Spanish or Portuguese. Spoken French can also be challenging!

What is the hardest part about learning French? ›

Without a doubt, the hardest part of learning French is the pronunciation. Written French and spoken French seem worlds apart at first, since there are a number of rules that dictate when certain letters are not pronounced, or words are suddenly squashed together.

What are 10 reasons to learn French? ›

10 good reasons to learn French
  • A world language. ...
  • A language for the international job market. ...
  • The language of culture. ...
  • A language for travel. ...
  • A language for higher education. ...
  • The other language of international relations. ...
  • A language that opens up the world. ...
  • A language that is fun to learn.

Does French get harder the more you learn? ›

French vocab only gets easier

Some languages start out quite easy and then get harder as you go along. But French is one of those languages that starts out quite hard, but then gets easier. Especially if you speak English already.

Is French more difficult than English? ›

Is English Harder than French To Learn? French is not as hard to learn as it is considered by most of the people, especially when compared to English. In fact, it is a language that's much easier to achieve fluency in than you'd have ever expected. English is inconsistent when it comes to pronunciation.

What's the hardest language to learn? ›

1. Mandarin. As mentioned before, Mandarin is unanimously considered the most difficult language to master in the world! Spoken by over a billion people in the world, the language can be extremely difficult for people whose native languages use the Latin writing system.

What are the disadvantages of learning French? ›

Cons of French Language:
  • Cost of Learning: Notice that learning the French language can be expensive especially if you pick a college course or personal tuition. ...
  • Cost of Opportunity: Look! ...
  • New Literature Will Squeeze Your Soul: ...
  • Time Consuming: ...
  • People Will Be Mean To You:

How many French words do you need to know to be fluent? ›

It is estimated that you have to learn 5000 words to be fluent in French. Be selective and learn the 5000 most used words in French! Think about it. Some words are more valuable than others.

Is French worth learning? ›

French is the second most useful language in the world for business. Studying French makes you smarter. French is one of the top ten majors most likely to lead to less unemployment and higher earnings. Studying in a French-speaking region makes you more creative.

What are 10 French words? ›

Learn Some Common French Words
  • Bonjour = Hello, Good morning.
  • Au revoir = Goodbye.
  • Oui = Yes.
  • Non = No.
  • Merci = Thank you.
  • Merci beaucoup = Thank you very much.
  • Fille = Girl.
  • Garçon = Boy.

What is the easiest language to learn? ›

15 of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers - ranked
  • Frisian. Frisian is thought to be one of the languages most closely related to English, and therefore also the easiest for English-speakers to pick up. ...
  • Dutch. ...
  • Norwegian. ...
  • Spanish. ...
  • Portuguese. ...
  • Italian. ...
  • French. ...
  • Swedish.
24 Oct 2021

How long does it take to learn French? ›

How long does it take to learn French? According to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), French is a category 1 language. This means learning French takes 23 – 24 weeks (575 – 600 hours) for most English speakers. This makes French one of the easiest (and fastest) languages to learn.

Is French or German harder? ›

Nitty-gritty things like these can make getting started a bit of a challenge – but between the two, French will be a little easier, with (slightly) fewer endings to learn. That said, experts largely agree that the more German you learn, the easier it gets, while French gets more complicated the deeper you dive in.

Why do French speak so fast? ›

Faster languages have less information density, slower ones are denser. French sounds fast because native speakers constantly drop non-information-transmitting sounds. So for example, in written form it's "je ne sais pas", but orally, it's more like "j'sais pas" or "ché pas".

What is the best way to learn French? ›

10 tips to learn French fast
  1. Watch films. Watching films in French with French subtitles is one of the best ways to learn. ...
  2. Learn with songs. ...
  3. Read. ...
  4. Find a partner. ...
  5. Don't be scared to try and make mistakes. ...
  6. Listen! ...
  7. Practice. ...
  8. Sign up for an intensive course.
12 Aug 2016

What is the longest word in French language? ›

The longest French word officially recognised by the Académie française is "anticonstitutionnellement", which consists of 25 letters. It is, in other words, the longest word in the French dictionary.

How long will it take to master French? ›

French is a Category I language, so it's relatively easy to learn for native English speakers. It will take approximately 580 hours or 23 weeks of study to reach complete French fluency. Which we could break down as the following: If you study for 1 hour every day, you can learn French in 1.5 years.

Why are French letters silent? ›

Why does French have so many silent letters? The silent letters (les lettres muettes) were once pronounced in Old French. As the language evolved, the pronunciation was abandoned, but the modern words are still the same.

What is the 2nd hardest language to learn? ›

The Hardest Languages To Learn For English Speakers
  1. Mandarin Chinese. Interestingly, the hardest language to learn is also the most widely spoken native language in the world. ...
  2. Arabic. ...
  3. Polish. ...
  4. Russian. ...
  5. Turkish. ...
  6. Danish.
25 Feb 2021

What is the number 1 language in the world? ›

1. English (1,132 million speakers) Like Latin or Greek at the time, English is the universal language of today. It is the default language in international business, tourism, technology, and much more.

What is the 20 hardest language to learn? ›

The Hardest Languages in the World to Learn
  • Arabic.
  • Russian.
  • Korean.
  • Navajo.
  • Finnish.
  • Vietnamese.
  • Mongolian.
  • Hungarian.

What are the disadvantages of learning languages? ›

The Disadvantages of Learning a Foreign Language
  • Cost. Learning a foreign language can be expensive, especially if you take college courses or pay for private tutoring. ...
  • Difficulty. Learning a foreign language is challenging. ...
  • Opportunity Cost. ...
  • Usefulness.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of learning a second language? ›

  • Pro: Making connections. A notable benefit of language learning is making new connections. ...
  • Con: Losing your cultural identity. ...
  • Pro: Earning money. ...
  • Con: Not quite being yourself. ...
  • Pro: Boosting your creativity. ...
  • Con: Taking up your time. ...
  • Pro: Supercharging your brain. ...
  • Push your limits when learning a new language.
10 May 2022

Is B1 considered fluent? ›

Level B1 corresponds to independent users of the language, i.e. those who have the necessary fluency to communicate without effort with native speakers.

How many words exist in French? ›

Many French dictionaries estimate somewhere in the region of 60,000 words, but Le Grand Robert de la langue Française currently contains around 100,000 words and 350,000 definitions, covering the different uses of those words.

Which language has most words? ›

Counting the Words in the Dictionary
LanguageWords in the Dictionary
English171,476
Russian150,000
Spanish93,000
Chinese85,568
3 more rows
7 Mar 2018

Is French useful in USA? ›

Although French can be a useful language if you are traveling between Quebec and the United States, a large portion of Americans are from Latin descent. Overall French is not very useful in the United States compared to Spanish and English.

Is French or Spanish easier? ›

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of why neither French or Spanish is easier to learn. The fact of the matter is that they share many similarities, and are equally different from English, so you can learn either one as a second language with relatively the same difficulty.

What is a famous French saying? ›

Mangez bien, riez souvent, aimez beaucoup.

Literal translation: “Eat well, laugh often, love a lot.” Actual meaning: “Live life to the fullest” or carpe diem (“seize the day”). Use this positive French saying to console a friend that is having a hard time.

What is the most used French word? ›

The most commonly used words in French are: Oui (yes), non (no), merci (thank you), je (I), tu/vous (you), le/la/les (the), un, une des (a, an and some), le/la/les (it, them), et (and) and mais (but).

What is the 10 hardest language to learn? ›

Let's explore the 10 hardest languages for English speakers to learn, and the challenges they deliver:
  1. Mandarin. Mandarin is spoken by 70% of the Chinese population, and is the most spoken language in the world. ...
  2. Arabic. ...
  3. 3. Japanese. ...
  4. Hungarian. ...
  5. Korean. ...
  6. Finnish. ...
  7. Basque. ...
  8. Navajo.
16 Sept 2022

What is the 2nd easiest language to learn? ›

The top 5 easiest languages to learn, according to Busuu's experts
  • Spanish.
  • Italian.
  • French.
  • German.
  • Portuguese.
7 Jan 2022

What language is closest to English? ›

However, the closest major language to English, is Dutch. With 23 million native speakers, and an additional 5 million who speak it as a second language, Dutch is the 3rd most-widely spoken Germanic language in the world after English and German.

How many hours a day should I study French? ›

For most people, around 30 minutes of active study and 1 hour of language exposure a day is a schedule that will give you great results. It's a model that's sustainable over a long period to help you reach fluency.

Can you get a job in Paris without speaking French? ›

Not being fluent in French shouldn't be a barrier to finding a job in Paris. The city offers various job options that don't require French-speaking. It also boasts companies that actively search for English speakers only to fill their specific jobs. These jobs and companies are suitable for people new to the language.

How many hours a week should I learn French? ›

According to the Alliance Française, from learning how to say hello in French to reaching a B1 level requires 360 hours of training, whereas B2 would take about 560 hours of intensive courses (about 20 hours/week) – however, they are unable to determine the number of weeks needed to reach C1 or C2.

Is French harder than Spanish? ›

Learning Spanish or French

All in all, neither language is definitively more or less difficult than the other. Spanish is arguably somewhat easier for the first year or so of learning, in large part because beginners may struggle less with pronunciation than their French-studying colleagues.

How many people in the world speak French? ›

A total of about 97.1 million people worldwide speak French as their mother tongue. Just around 97.1 million people speak French as their mother tongue. French is also considered a world language and is therefore the official or common language in many countries. Thus, there are over 300 million speakers in daily life.

Which language is the best to learn? ›

The Most Important Languages To Learn In 2021
  1. Mandarin Chinese. With over one billion Mandarin Chinese speakers in the world, of course it tops the list of most important languages to learn in 2021. ...
  2. Spanish. ...
  3. German. ...
  4. French. ...
  5. Arabic. ...
  6. Russian. ...
  7. Portuguese. ...
  8. 8. Japanese.

What is the slowest spoken language? ›

Mandarin is the slowest recorded language with a rate as low as 5.18 syllables per second.

Which language is fastest? ›

Their results concluded that both Spanish and Japanese are the fastest languages by far, with German and Chinese sitting at the other side of the spectrum, being considered the 'linguistic snails' on an international level, however it is worth nothing that all speakers transmit the same amount of information; In other ...

Why is French easy? ›

You'll be familiar with the spelling, pronunciation and meanings of words such as café, debut, encore and petite, amongst many others. This makes French one of the easiest languages for native English speakers to begin speaking from day one.

How can I teach myself French? ›

Get to know French grammar

Study with a French grammar book. Join an online program, either an application or a learning website and make grammar fun. Enlist a tutor for grammar lessons (try to find a native) Watch online grammar videos on useful topics to bring learning to life.

How can I speak French fluently in 30 days? ›

How to Learn French in 30 Days: An Adaptable Guide for Your Personal Language Goals
  1. Step 1: Define Your French Learning Goals. ...
  2. Step 2: Build Your Personal Reference Library. ...
  3. Step 3: Bookmark Pronunciation Resources. ...
  4. Step 4: Download Apps for On-the-go Learning. ...
  5. Step 5: Create Your Study Plan.
19 Jun 2022

What should I learn first in French? ›

One of the most important things to do when you start learning French is to understand basic vocabulary, phrases, and numbers. Beginners usually start practicing words that will help them when meeting French people, ask basic questions, and introduce themselves.

How long does it take to learn French? ›

How long does it take to learn French? According to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), French is a category 1 language. This means learning French takes 23 – 24 weeks (575 – 600 hours) for most English speakers. This makes French one of the easiest (and fastest) languages to learn.

Is French harder than Spanish? ›

Learning Spanish or French

All in all, neither language is definitively more or less difficult than the other. Spanish is arguably somewhat easier for the first year or so of learning, in large part because beginners may struggle less with pronunciation than their French-studying colleagues.

Is French or German harder? ›

Nitty-gritty things like these can make getting started a bit of a challenge – but between the two, French will be a little easier, with (slightly) fewer endings to learn. That said, experts largely agree that the more German you learn, the easier it gets, while French gets more complicated the deeper you dive in.

Can I learn French in 3 months? ›

With full immersion in the French language, you can expect to be relatively fluent in three to six months. Of course, full French immersion can be tough to accomplish, considering the fact that you probably have a full-time life somewhere where French isn't the language being spoken!

What is the easiest way to learn French? ›

10 tips to learn French fast
  • Watch films. Watching films in French with French subtitles is one of the best ways to learn. ...
  • Learn with songs. ...
  • Read. ...
  • Find a partner. ...
  • Don't be scared to try and make mistakes. ...
  • Listen! ...
  • Practice. ...
  • Sign up for an intensive course.
12 Aug 2016

How many French words do you need to know to be fluent? ›

It is estimated that you have to learn 5000 words to be fluent in French. Be selective and learn the 5000 most used words in French! Think about it. Some words are more valuable than others.

What is the best way to learn French on your own? ›

Contents
  1. Actively Watch and Listen to French Content.
  2. Immerse Yourself in French by Using FluentU.
  3. Do Written French Exercises (with an Answer Guide)
  4. Make and Use French Flashcards.
  5. Take French Dictations with Songs.
  6. Use Written French to Practice Grammar Points and Vocabulary.
  7. Keep Up with the News.
1 Jun 2022

Is French worth learning? ›

French is the second most useful language in the world for business. Studying French makes you smarter. French is one of the top ten majors most likely to lead to less unemployment and higher earnings. Studying in a French-speaking region makes you more creative.

What are 10 French words? ›

Learn Some Common French Words
  • Bonjour = Hello, Good morning.
  • Au revoir = Goodbye.
  • Oui = Yes.
  • Non = No.
  • Merci = Thank you.
  • Merci beaucoup = Thank you very much.
  • Fille = Girl.
  • Garçon = Boy.

What Harder French or Italian? ›

The main difference is in pronunciation: French pronunciation is considered to be the most difficult among the Romance languages, because it has some very unusual sounds we don't have in English. The Italian “r” and the French “r” are very, very different: they are both difficult for a native-English speaker.

Is French or Spanish easier? ›

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of why neither French or Spanish is easier to learn. The fact of the matter is that they share many similarities, and are equally different from English, so you can learn either one as a second language with relatively the same difficulty.

How many people in the world speak French? ›

A total of about 97.1 million people worldwide speak French as their mother tongue. Just around 97.1 million people speak French as their mother tongue. French is also considered a world language and is therefore the official or common language in many countries. Thus, there are over 300 million speakers in daily life.

Which language is most spoken in the world? ›

The most spoken languages in the world
  • Mandarin (1,117 million speakers)
  • Hindi (615 million speakers)
  • Spanish (534 million speakers)
  • French (280 million speakers)
  • Arabic (274 million speakers)
  • Russian (258 million speakers)
  • Portuguese (234 million speakers)
  • Indonesian (198 million speakers)
2 Sept 2021

Is French grammar easy? ›

Compared to other languages, French grammar is easy to learn because it has English letters. The majority of French grammar has verbs. It is somewhat similar to English in a little way.

What is the easiest language to learn? ›

15 of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers - ranked
  • Frisian. Frisian is thought to be one of the languages most closely related to English, and therefore also the easiest for English-speakers to pick up. ...
  • Dutch. ...
  • Norwegian. ...
  • Spanish. ...
  • Portuguese. ...
  • Italian. ...
  • French. ...
  • Swedish.
24 Oct 2021

What is the French alphabet? ›

Let's start with the good news: 'l'alphabet', the French alphabet, is the same as the English alphabet. Both languages share the same letters. However, they are not all pronounced the same way. The French alphabet also has some accents, which changes their pronunciation.

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