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Why Learn French?

France and the French World

French versus Spanish: the Truth


Works Cited

French or Spanish ?

The majority of students attending United States high schools choose to study over Spanish over French for one of two reasons: a) because they believe it is easier or b) because they believe it will be more useful to them. In reality however, these assumptions can be wrong in many cases.

Which is easier?

French spelling and pronunciation, along with the variety accents, confuse most learners. The non-phonetic spellings of French are daunting and scare many from the language. Spanish is generally spelled and pronounced more phonetically. Despite this, many patterns exist in French and memorization of spelling is quite a simple task.

Others contend that commonly used past tenses are simpler in Spanish, because no auxiliary verb is necessary. But in French passé composé, the most common past tense used, the only auxiliary verb necessary is avoir, a common irregular translated as “to have.” For several distinct instances, the even-more common verb of être, to be, is used. Therefore, French’s passé composé really is no more difficult than Spanish’s common past tense.

Negation in French has to parts, ne…pas, both of which are necessary in formal French to negate a verb. In Spanish, the word no is enough to form a negative sentence. In colloquial French, however, the pas part of the phrase is commonly used without the ne. Also, the addition of one word in written and formal French does not require additional effort or confusion.

Spanish, being an inclusive language, does not require the use of subject pronouns with each verb, creating much difficulty if one does not know their conjugations fully in distinguishing the subject of a sentence. In French, the pronoun is not dropped. Therefore, it is more distinguishable.

For example:

Tengo una mochila. If you forget that tengo is first person, singular, then you don’t know who has a backpack. In French, J’ai un sac-à-dos, clearly indicates that it is the first person singular pronoun, je, who owns the backpack.

The above ideas only discuss beginner grammar in the two languages, and do not begin to detail the complexities of more advanced Spanish grammar. As one reaches more advanced topics, Spanish becomes increasingly more difficult (Lawless)

Which is more useful?

Most Spanish learners contend that their language will be more useful to them with the growing Hispanic population of the United States. Truly, however, most will never reach proficiency or fluency, and a basic knowledge of French can be far more beneficial (see Why Learn French?).

Most think that knowledge of Spanish will give them an advantage in finding a job. French does too, but can do much more for an applicant. Even those who do continue their language education to points of proficiency and fluency will never reach the fluency of an educated native speaker. When applying for a widely-applied for job, applicants will likely be competing with one or more native Spanish speakers, potentially with the same credentials otherwise. Their knowledge of Spanish would thus give them little to no advantage over such an applicant. There are far fewer native speakers of French of the United States than of Spanish, thus not creating such a situation for job applicants.

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