FAQ

FAQ: I understand that French is a very difficult language to learn. Is this true?

A: It is certainly true that French is more difficult to learn than, for example, Afrikaans.
But it is about as difficult as learning English.
One big advantage that English speakers have is that something like 40% of English words have a French origin. French words have been working their way into the English language ever since the Norman conquest.

Take the following paragraphs from the Daily Dispatch of the 4th of July 2013:

Ban called Mandela “one of the giants of the 20th century” at a New York reception for the 50th anniversary of the Organization of African Unity which played a leading international role in fighting apartheid in South Africa.

“I know our thoughts and prayers are with Nelson Mandela, his family and loved ones, all South Africans and people across the world who have been inspired by his remarkable life and example,” Ban said.

All the words in red derive from French or its Latin predecessor.

English word French word Meaning
Giants Géants Giants
Century Cent One hundred
Reception Reception Reception
Anniversary Anniversaire Birthday, anniversary
Organization Organisation Organization
Unity Unité Unity
International International/Internationale International
Role Rôle Role
Prayers Prières Prayers
Family Famille Family
Ones Un One
People Peuple People
Inspired Inspiré Inspired, breathed in
Remarkable Remarquable Remarkable

Winston Churchill was well aware of the different powers of words of Anglo-Saxon origin as against those of French origin (did you know that besides being a wartime leader he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953?).  He used these differences to great effect in his famous phrase about “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets..”  Every word was of Anglo-Saxon origin, except the very last one: “…. but we shall never  surrender!”  In using this, he gave the whole speech a completely different emotive twist.