Is English So Different From French?

Latin is the mother language of both English as well as French. While there are many similarities among the languages, there are striking differences too. For efficient translation from one language to the other, these differences must be understood clearly.

French is a part of the Romance family language along with Spanish and Italian. English surfaced a lot later than French, and was influenced by the language, when Britain was invaded by Norman in the 11th century. Let us compare the two languages on the basis of alphabets and Grammar.

Alphabet: Both English and French alphabets have the same 26 letters. But French has additional letters with diacritics that are the following – é (acute accent); è à ù (grave accent); ç (cedilla); â ê î ô û (circumflex); and ë ï ü (diaeresis). These alphabets cause problems to the French learners learning English, as when they write after hearing the words, they may write an “i” instead of an “e” and “j” in the place of “g”.

Phonetics: Now here lies the big difference, which causes confusion to the French as English pronunciation and spellings are quite different sometimes. The main problem occurs in the correct articulation of the vowel sounds. For example – ‘ship’ become ‘sheep’ and ‘full’ becomes ‘fool’. Words like ‘clothes’ and ‘them’ also become a problem to pronounce as the French speakers are unused to rolling their tongues while speaking.

Another sound that is missing from French is “h”. Consequently, ‘have’ becomes ‘ave’ and ‘Harry’ is pronounced as ‘arry’. French may find the speaking styles of the English difficult to adapt as the English speakers have the habit of ‘swallowing’ the vowel that is unstressed in the words. For instance, they may find it odd, when the English pronounce ‘tomorrow’ as t’morrow’.

Grammatical Differences: The similarities first, in the verb and tenses of English and French. Both the languages have auxiliaries, participles, active/passive voice, past/present/future tenses. But there are instances during translation that can lead to the wrong tenses being picked up. This is because, in French, different tenses are used to convey one meaning. Another problem arises due to the fact that the French language does not have the auxiliary-‘do’. That makes asking questions very difficult. This means that a simple question like “Do you have a phone?” will be translated like this- “Have you any access to a phone?”

Sentence Formations: The ‘subject-verb-object syntax’ is the same for both the languages, but there can still be complications in the word order. Some examples of faulty translations include- ‘I play sometimes tennis.’ Or ‘I have too much drunk!’ or ‘It was the book the best I have read.’

When it comes to article use in French, it is generally similar to English, but not exactly the same. French pronouns are gender based on the nouns and so are the adjectives. That is why unskilled translation from English to French may lead to mistakes such as- ‘He is cricketer.’ Or ‘This is the Mary’s flat.’ Or ‘Do you like my purse. He was very cheap.’

Vocabulary: As far as the vocabulary is concerned, being born from Latin, both the languages have many similar and compatible words. But these are more technical words rather than everyday words. Like ‘international’ is the same for both the languages, where as ‘bookstore’ is known as ‘libraire’ in French. All these differences and similarities between the languages must be kept in mind while taking up English to French translation for error free translation.

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