Typical problems for french learning English

English Learning

French is one of the Romance languages and is therefore, Latin based. However, there are many English words which have a French origin. These are the residue from the time of the Norman invasion in 1066. Prior to that, the main influence had been from the Anglo Saxons and this is why many English words are very similar to German.

The difference between the English and French alphabet is that the latter, in addition to the 26 regular letters also has letters with diacritics. These are, grave and acute accents, the circumflex and the cedilla.

There are several differences in the sound systems of the two languages, which often result in problems of comprehension and speaking. English is not a phonetic language and often there is little correspondence between English spelling and pronunciation.

Another problem, for French students, is that English has stressed syllables, which must be ultimately identified to get the pronunciation right. French has a regular stress pattern. In English, we have unpredictable stress patterns. As a result, French student learners unwittingly pronounce unstressed syllables where we tend to “swallow” them, such as, “t’day”. “t’morrow”.

A native speaker of French, who begins to learn English, will have problems with the phonological aspects of English that diverge most sharply from French, such as the two different forms of the English diphthong, “th”. The tip of the tongue is not used in French and so the French speaker tends to pronounce the voiced version of that diphthong more like a “d” and the unvoiced version more like a “t”. In other words, the French speaker will attempt to make these English sounds conform to sounds in his or her native language.

A typical error for native French speakers,is the omission of the “h” sound at the beginning of words beginning with a voiced “h” such as:

” ‘ave you ‘eard about my ‘oliday? “

and sometimes, over-compensating by pronouncing the “h” in words such as:


As far as grammar is concerned, a frequent problem is the wrong choice of tense, despite considerable areas of overlap in the verb grammar of both languages. Both have auxiliaries, participles, active/ passive voice, past, present and future tenses, and yet, there are often occasions when French uses a different tense than English, to convey a particular meaning.

“I can’t come now, I go to the shops.”

When forming a question, French speakers tend to make a statement adding question intonation or inverting subject and verb, as in French they do not have an equivalent of the auxiliary “do”.

“She is twenty?”

“How often visit you him?”

French uses the same basic syntax as English but there are many variations in the word order of sentences. Errors can occur when using adverbs, adjectives and in verb positioning.

“I swim sometimes here.”

“I have too much drunk.” “

“It was the painting the best I have done.”

“Do you know which is the way?”

In English, we do not have a gender for nouns. However, in French, pronouns are based on the gender of the noun they are associated with and possessive adjectives also agree with the nouns they qualify.The article use is similar but not identical to that used in English. As a result of these differences, French students are known to make errors such as:

“She is teacher.”

“”The Italian is easier than the German.”

“You like my dress?” “She was very expensive. “

“I went to the cinema with James and her wife.”

In French and English vocabulary,there are many words which are mutually comprehensible, although most are academic or technical rather than every day words. However, the existence of a significant number of false friends can also contribute to misunderstanding in translation, such as:

Sensible (F) Sensitive (E) / Journee (F) Journey (E) / Comme (F) Come (E)

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