French is easier than most people think.
But there are some common hurdles.
You might have already encountered some of these challenges in your French course and found it difficult.
In this article, I’ll outline four of the trickiest things about learning the French language, and how to get past them as an English speaker.
Is French hard to learn?
Four common things that you might have found difficult when learning French are gender agreement, pronunciation, verb conjugation and silent letters.
But how challenging are each of these aspects really?
Read on and I’ll cover each one in detail.
French nouns and adjectives (gender agreement)
If you’re learning French as a complete novice, one of the first things you’ll encounter early on is that all nouns (that’s objects, things and people) are assigned a gender in French.
Unlike in English, where all nouns can be identified with a neutral article “the” or “a” or “an”, in French we must remember that nouns must be identified with either le or la, un or une.
What’s more, the adjectives we use to describe each French noun must match the gender of the noun. Let’s look at a quick example.
If you wanted to say “the pretty girl” in French, you’d need to remember that “girl” is a feminine noun in French that must be assigned a feminine adjective. Here’s how to say it in French:
La jolie fille.
The pretty girl.
These basic principles of learning the French language might make you answer “yes” when wondering “is French hard to learn?”.
You might think that to a native French speaker, you’ll give yourself away as a novice if you’re using the wrong adjective to describe a masculine or feminine noun.
Tips for learning gender and adjective agreement in French
But, wait! It doesn’t have to be so tricky!
Did you know that the majority of the French adjectives can be easily modified to create their feminine version?
Take the adjective joli, all we have to do if we want to create the feminine adjective (used to describe feminine nouns) is to add an -e to the end of it.
Now, if you want to know the secret of learning the gender of each noun, and which article to use, we recommend that you learn the gender of the noun alongside the noun itself from the very beginning.
Never learn a noun without its article.
If you look it up in a translator, translate the entire word with its article. If you look it up in a dictionary, jot down whether it’s masculine or feminine.
For instance, instead of maison, always learn la maison. Instead of fille, try to memorise la fille. It will make adding adjectives to your sentences much easier and will help you clear one of the first hurdles when wondering whether French is hard to learn.
English words of French origin and pronunciation
The second thing to watch out for when thinking “is French hard to learn” is the pronunciation of words.
The French accent, as many people claim, can be challenging and might frighten you a little bit as a native English speaker.
Guess what, though?
There are so many English words of French origin that will make this easier!
The English language has borrowed up to 40%, perhaps 45% of French words. This means that approximately 80,000 English words already exist in the French language.
Some of the most common French words that have been adopted into the English language include:
The fact is, since so many beautiful French words have been assimilated into the English language, this will make recognising them in their written form so much easier!
You’ll definitely have no problems when reading the nouns of the French language with a little bit of practice.
What you might find a bit challenging is the pronunciation.
This might give us a slightly different answer to the question “is French hard to learn?”
Because, even though there are so many English words of French origin, they are all pronounced in a completely different way. And one of the most challenging things about French is the French accent.
French pronunciation tips
Working on French pronunciation from the very beginning is crucial.
Words might seem to blend or blur together so it’s important that you try to listen to French audios and listen to how French natives pronounce each word.
Break it down into the individual sounds and unique vowel sounds that make up each word and then try to imitate them.
Always listen to audios and French films that suit your level of expertise. There’s no point in listening to intermediate-level audios if you’re an absolute beginner.
And if you’re starting at level zero, listening to French audios or French podcasts with French subtitles can help you immerse yourself into the language.
French verbs: Conjugations and verb forms
The third factor that you’ll encounter when learning French as a beginner, which might make you think that French is hard to learn, are the tricky verb conjugations!
We’re going to step in straight away and say that French verb conjugations can be hard to learn, especially when writing in French, because in spoken French you’ll find this easier.
So, again, if you’re wondering if French is hard to learn, verb conjugation is one of those things that will take getting used to when writing, but not so much in speaking.
Let’s use the verb “to walk” or marcher to see why.
When we conjugate the verb marcher in French, this is what we get:
|French Pronoun||Verb Conjugation Marcher|
Okay, when we listen to the pronunciation of four of these conjugated verbs—the je, tu, il/elle and ils/elles conjugations - they all sound so similar that it’s very difficult to notice the difference!
Run them through a translator and listen. You’ll notice they all sound like the first conjugation marche.
Since there are several verbs like this one, where the pronunciation of these verbs sound similar, you can kind of…sort of get away with making errors when speaking!
Just put the pronoun before your verb and you French speakers might not notice if you’ve made an error.
But you should try to learn the subtle differences between the pronunciation of these verbs, so listen to audios and model your pronunciation on French native speakers.
Tips for French verb conjugation
When you’re writing in French, though, it’s a different story. You’re going to need to practice the verb conjugations until you’re confident.
Putting in the work in this respect is quite important, and you can do this with flashcards.
Get your hands on a stack of blank flashcards and on one side you’ll need to write the six verb conjugations of a verb of your choice.
On the other side of each card, you’ll need to write the English form of those French verbs.
As you start to practice with your stack of flashcards, you’ll begin to remember what these conjugations translate to.
You can then start using them in exercises where you’ll need to fill in the missing conjugated verb.
So, is French hard to learn in terms of the conjugations? The answer is…only a little bit. Don’t let it discourage you!
A little bit of work on a regular basis can help you master French verb conjugation, so don’t worry too much about it!
Silent letters and pronunciation: What to watch out for
Here’s the final factor to consider with French difficulty: those challenging silent letters.
Just how difficult are they when learning how to speak French as a beginner?
The fact is that French isn’t phonetic. This means that, unfortunately, we can’t easily sound words out as we might be able to with the Spanish or Italian language.
In French, we have a few letters that are classed as silent letters. These types of letters are not pronounced in certain circumstances.
These silent letters can be grouped into different types to help you.
Tips for French silent letters
Silent letters have their own rules that can help you learn French more easily and practice pronouncing—or not pronouncing silent letters.
Here are two of the rules to keep in mind when learning.
- Consonants that are found at the end of a word are normally not pronounced.
However there are a few exceptions to this rule. The letters r, q, l, f, c and b are all pronounced when you see them at the end of certain words.
So, in the word avec, the final letter c is pronounced. It’s ah-vekk, and not ah-veh.
- E and h are not pronounced when they are found at the beginning of words.
Sometimes when they’re at the end of a word. Take the word hôtel, or héros, in both of these cases, we don’t pronounce the letter h that comes at the beginning of each word.
We would say oh-tel to pronounce hôtel and eh-rho to pronounce héros.
How to make learning French easier
If you want to learn French, here are four general tips to keep in mind.
Think about why you want to learn French and use this as motivation
Having the right motivation is vital to long-term success with French.
You might be moving to a French speaking country and need to speak French within two years. You might be moving with a partner and want to speak with their family.
Keep this motivator in your sights and think about it when things get difficult.
Create a personal progress plan to mark off your achievements
Goals are critical when learning French.
If you want to learn a certain number of words during a week, give yourself a target. Make sure the target isn’t too impossible to achieve. For instance, if you want to learn how to conjugate 25 verbs in French, break this down into achievable goals.
Then revisit those verbs or the words you have learned and revise them.
Put what you learn into practice in real-life scenarios
Reading, writing, listening and speaking are the four key areas of learning French.
Try to read a certain amount of French, practice your writing, listen to French music, dialogues, or podcasts that are appropriate for your level, and of course, speak with French natives (use italki).
Real-life practice will help you remember what you’ve learned.
Practice your weaker skills daily
You might be less confident at speaking than you are at writing.
Listening might be a huge struggle due to the French accent. You might not be confident at reading in French. Whatever your weaker areas are, make sure that you practice these areas and vary the tasks you use to perfect them.
This will keep you entertained while you learn French.
French is easy
French is as hard as you make it.
With the right amount of work and motivation, you’ll find that you progress faster than you expected.
Every learner has their own individual weaknesses to work on to improve, but with consistency, you can master the French language.
Using high quality French language resources is vital, so check out the linked list as a starting point.
What’s your advice on learning French as an English speaker?
Grab the link to this article
The FSI scale ranks French as a “category I language”, considered “more similar to English” compared to categories III and IV “hard” or “super-hard languages”. According to the FSI, French is one of the easiest languages to learn for a native English speaker.Why is French easy for English speakers? ›
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.Is French 101 hard? ›
In their language difficulty ranking, the Foreign Service Institute puts French in the top ten easiest languages to learn for English-speakers, alongside notoriously easy languages such as Spanish and Italian.Is French a level hard? ›
In terms of A-Levels, Modern Languages are considered among some of the most difficult. In fact, in 2019, The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation in the UK (Ofqual) formally acknowledged that French, German and Spanish A-levels are 'of above average difficulty.What is the hardest part of 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.
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.Why is French 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".Does French get easier? ›
French vocab only gets easier
But French is one of those languages that starts out quite hard, but then gets easier. Especially if you speak English already. Many of the basic words in French are quite different to English: apple is pomme, car is voiture, mother is mère and so on.
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.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.
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.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.Why is French so hard to understand? ›
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.How can I get an A in a-level French? ›
- Learn your grammar. People often find learning grammar boring but having a good understanding of grammar will help you achieve your A* in A-level French. ...
- Practice speaking French. ...
- Immerse yourself in the culture. ...
- Study French consistently. ...
- Use A-level French exemplars.
If you are an English speaker, learning French requires 575-600 hours of study (or 23-24 weeks full- time). It is the same for other European Romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish etc) and the Germanic ones (Danish, Swedish, Dutch/Afrikaans Norwegian – not German).How can I understand French better? ›
- Watch French TV. nyul / 123RF. ...
- Watch Youtube videos. ...
- Watch French movies and series. ...
- Watch French videos with subtitles with FluentU and yabla. ...
- Watch Ohlala Hollywood Speaks French. ...
- Learn French with Lingq. ...
- Find a conversation partner. ...
- Listen to French podcasts.
French is the international language of cooking, fashion, theatre, the visual arts, dance and architecture. A knowledge of French offers access to great works of literature in the original French, as well as films and songs.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.Is French faster than English? ›
One 2011 study from the Université de Lyon looked at 7 languages, which reported the order as Japanese (7.84 syllables per second), Spanish (7.82), French (7.18), Italian (6.99), English (6.19), German (5.97) and Mandarin (5.18).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.
Many people who move to France do so without being able to speak any French. Although it might be acceptable for certain professions, most expats will find that their having more fun as they pick up the language. Generally, people develop their language skills out of necessity.Do French people fast? ›
3. Accidental intermittent fasting. Because the French do not snack in the evening you would find that they accidentally practice intermittent fasting. They probably fast for 13 hours in terms of the time spent between dinner and breakfast the next day which is often referred to as a circadian fast.Do English people talk fast? ›
You might be surprised to discover that English is one of the slowest languages. English speakers are entitled to feel that certain other languages are delivered at incredible speed because, in comparison to English, they are.What language should I study? ›
If you want to learn a language that is widely spoken throughout the world, you may want to opt for English, French, or Spanish, which are spoken on all continents.How fast can I learn 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.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 are 10 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.
If you are mesmerized by the French culture, then you should choose the French language. You would be better able to appreciate the art, architecture, cinema, and food. But if you are a fan of engineering, analytical thinking, and scientific theories then you should choose German.How many countries speak French? ›
How many French speaking countries are there in the world? Formally, 29 countries use French as the national or official language. Additionally, France has 11 Overseas Territories, which are administrative subdivisions of France outside of the mainland.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.
Portuguese, Spanish, French and Italian are the main Latin languages you should look to teach your child. Although German is not a widely spoken language, it is important to know it on a European level. 101 million speak it as their native language, including in countries such as Austria and Switzerland.Which language is most spoken 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)
- Open yourself up to the world. ...
- Date a French girl or guy. ...
- Travel to a French speaking country with confidence. ...
- Earn $75,000 more. ...
- Open doors to international job opportunities. ...
- Learn other Romance languages easily. ...
- Become more interesting. ...
- Improve top education prospects.
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.What is the easiest language for an English person to learn? ›
Easiest (about 600 hours of study)
Of these, Spanish and Italian are the easiest for native English speakers to learn, followed by Portuguese and finally French.
For Spanish and French, their lexical similarity is about 75%. In comparison, Spanish and English have a lexical similarity of only 30-50%, and French and English of only 40-50%. That's because not only are the Spanish and French languages neighbors, but from the same family of romance languages.Is it better to learn Spanish or French? ›
Spanish will unlock most of Latin America to you (and Spain, obviously), whereas French will give you an in to many African countries, plus France, Belgium, Canada and Haiti. If you're learning to boost your career prospects, Spanish and French are both very useful business languages to know.Why is French so beautiful? ›
FRENCH – MOST BEAUTIFUL SPOKEN LANGUAGE
With its unpronounceable “r”, its nasal vowel sounds “en”, “in”, “un” and melodious intonation, it sounds extremely musical to the non-native ear. And let's not forget the strong cultural context which lends French the status of the most beautiful spoken language in the world.
The melodic rhythm of the French language is enough to melt hearts all over the world, which is why it is known as the language of love and romance. Even non-romantic words like “Pamplemousse” which literally means 'dragonfly,' can cause a flutter in the heart.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.
According to the study, the FSI recommends spending 600 to 750 hours over 24 to 30 weeks in order to reach a B2 or C1 level in French.What level is A-Level French? ›
'A' level learners, at B2 level, therefore, know about1920 words of French on average. The figures reveal that vocabulary size is an excellent predictor of the grade that 'A' level students obtain. Other studies suggest that these figures are probably typical of most schools and learners throughout Britain.Can you do French A-Level in one year? ›
It's possible to study an A-level course both full-time and part-time. Normally students would study for two years, but with Oxbridge, you can also fast-track your course to complete it in one year.How many words do you need to be fluent in French? ›
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!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.How much French can I learn in 6 months? ›
While this may sound like a lot, knowing the most common 1,000 words will be more than enough to be conversational in French. Better yet, in a six-month period (or in 180 days), you can master 1,000 French words by learning about six words a day.How long does it take to learn French if you speak English? ›
If you are an English speaker, learning French requires 575-600 hours of study (or 23-24 weeks full- time). It is the same for other European Romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish etc) and the Germanic ones (Danish, Swedish, Dutch/Afrikaans Norwegian – not German).What is the hardest language to learn for an English speaker? ›
1. Mandarin Chinese. Interestingly, the hardest language to learn is also the most widely spoken native language in the world. Mandarin Chinese is challenging for a number of reasons.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.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!
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!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.What is the easiest way to learn French? ›
- 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.
- 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. ...
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.
This pick should come as no surprise. Spanish has always been a go-to language for English speakers to learn due to its practicality and wide reach. Well, it's also one of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers.How can I learn French by myself? ›
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.
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.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.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.
A language for the international job market
The ability to speak French and English is an advantage on the international job market. A knowledge of French opens the doors of French companies in France and other French-speaking parts of the world.