There’s a certain je ne sais quoi about French. Its reputation is a little more elegant, a little more mysterious than most other languages. Sometimes, it even enters the realm of myth. But we’re here today to bust some of those myths and solve some of those mysteries that surround the French language. Have you heard any of these misconceptions?
Myth: French is called a 'romance language’ because it’s so romantic.
Truth: Look, we’re not saying French isn’t romantic. We’re not here to burst your bubble. That just isn’t why it’s called a “romance language." A romance language— emphasis on the ROMAN— is just a language that shares a family with Latin, the language of the Roman Empire. Some other Romance languages are Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and (lesser-known but makes sense when you think about it) Romanian.
In fact, if you know a little of one of these languages, it’s much easier to learn the others. For example, the Latin word for love is “Amor.” That’s also “Amor” in Spanish and Portuguese, “Amour” in French, and in Italian? That’s “Amore.” Now that is what we call romantic!
Myth: French has nothing in common with English.
Truth: Okay, we may have just gone over why French may be easier to learn if you speak another Romance language. Still, what about English? After all, English is a Germanic language right? Ehhh, kinda. Let’s just say that the English language has absorbed an awful lot of Latin and French terminology over the centuries. And in reverse, French has picked up a lot of English words from pop culture, slang, and international trade.
Today, around 30% of English words are shared with or derived from French. A few words you might recognize: etiquette, coupon, restaurant, amuse, hospital … we could keep going, but that would be a major detour! (Another word we borrowed from French.) So think of it this way: you already have a head start on learning the language!
Myth: French people will be rude if you try to speak French to them.
Truth: There are rude people everywhere, so don’t take this as a promise that no French person will ever treat you poorly. You might run into someone who just dropped his croissant in a puddle or got to the métro ten seconds too late. Still, stories that French people are all snobs who expect perfect fluency from English speakers are greatly exaggerated. Lots of our Cricket eLearning students who’ve traveled to France have shared great interactions with the locals.
Part of this myth just comes down to cultural differences. Americans often think it’s polite to smile and greet each other; the French find it more polite to give people space and don’t often smile unless they mean it. French people might correct you when you speak French to them— but they don’t intend that as rudeness but a well-meant gesture to help you improve. Isn’t that what you want when you’re learning a language?
They might also switch to English when they hear you attempting French, but they’re typically either just trying to be helpful or trying to practice their own language skills! French people may not be as outwardly friendly as Americans might expect, but they’re also often helpful, hospitable, and genuine.
Myth: French is only useful in France.
Truth: This could not be further from the truth! Not only is it one of the six official languages of the UN, it’s also the official language of nearly 30 countries. Believe it or not, around half of the world’s French speakers live in Africa. And don’t forget Quebec in Canada, where French skills can really come in handy.
Due to France’s colonial past, the French language has spread widely across the globe to at least five continents. Plus, need we mention that the internet has made the world a whole lot smaller? You can communicate with French speakers around the globe from your very own desk. So even if you don’t have a trip to France booked anytime soon, you’ll find plenty of places where you can use the language.
Myth: I can’t learn French because I’m too (old, busy, unable to travel to France, etc.)
Truth: You don’t need to have any special qualifications to learn French! It’s not a superpower! Many people believe that adults have passed their window of time to learn new languages, that the only way to learn a language is through immersion in France itself, or that you need to devote hours and hours of daily time to get a handle on the language. We can see how that would scare some people away from trying, but fortunately, it’s not true at all.
The truth is that adults around the world learn and improve their language skills every day through lessons and independent study. Learning French is no more mysterious than any other skill—think of it like cooking or swimming. With a good teacher and plenty of practice, anyone can do it! You also don’t need to hold yourself to the sky-high standard of becoming totally bilingual. Even just beginner-level French can make communication and travel so much easier.
Are you ready to start your French language learning journey? We can help you get started with that! We offer individual and group lessons tailored to fit your busy schedule.