Is Spanish really easier than French?
It has long been said that Spanish is easier than French, with its easier grammar and easier tenses. But through my learning of both languages on Duolingo, I have found that Spanish may not be easier than French.
For one, French words are more similar to their English equivalents than Spanish words. A lot of French words have fewer syllables and are shorter than Spanish equivalents. For example, cœur vs corazón, téléphone vs telefono. Perhaps English is more affected by French than by Spanish (as indicated by how there are more words of French origin than of Spanish origin on the Scripps National Spelling Bee words list).
Second of all, I find French past tenses to be more intuitive than Spanish ones. However, this may be due to only personal tastes.
This bias may be due to the fact that I am better at French than at Spanish.
Spanish is phonetic. You can read it out loud even if you have no clue what it means. This means spelling is a breeze in Spanish.
French pronunciation and spelling, on the other hand...
Plus spoken French drops the endings of a LOT of words and this makes it really hard to get used to listening and understanding French.
I'm still struggling with French pronunciation after many years of learning French off and on. Not only do you have to know the rules for liaisons (obligatory, forbidden, or optional) and how to pronounce (or not!) the ends of words, you have to apply those rules consistently. My French spelling has improved a lot with Duo, but that can be challenging too if you don't pay attention to it. Spanish pronunciation is easy-breezy for me especially since I learned that so young.
I agree. I have trouble knowing how to pronounce words like "cueillir", or any words with "ueillir".
I would say that French is more difficult than Spanish at a beginner's level - you always need to deal with the unintuitive spelling and there are difficult grammatical concepts like the passé composé early on, but Spanish catches up when it tosses subjunctive at you. And the vocabulary is more removed from English. I would be interested in knowing how many people who consider Spanish easy never got far enough into it to need to worry about the tougher aspects, though.
The bias of being better at French is definitely a factor, though. I was better at French a year ago and thought it was much, much easier. Now I'm better at Spanish, and French is much more intimidating than it had been. If and when I can get them at the same level again, we'll see how I feel about this question.
If you go far enough, is any language at all easy to learn? I speak Portuguese, which is as close to Spanish as two languages can get, and yet Spanish keeps surprising me with unexpected grammatical constructions or word usages.
It takes a lifetime to learn a language. It seems to me you can't properly learn a foreign language unless you live in the country for several years.
Especially with the today's technology (internet). . . that notion (you have to live in the country for several years) has been disproven. Don't allow that limiting idea to deter your efforts. Many people live in another country for 10+ years and do not achieve fluency. One of the biggest reasons? They hang out with their countrymen and live in their bubble with their native language.
If all I did was consume Globo programming, hung around Brazilian friends in New York and was really, really trying to impress my friend Thiago's cousin . . . I would be fluent in Brazilian Portuguese in less than 2 years. One of the biggest keys to learning a language is motivation.
Well, I said "go far enough". I wasn't talking about fluency. Everyone knows people who speak their native language horribly and yet are, obviously, perfectly fluent.
To be able to communicate is not that difficult. You can say "me want go bathroom" and be perfectly understood. I honestly don't know if that is considered fluency or not. But I do know that speaking and writing properly takes years of study.
Very well said! It really is a matter of getting extremely motivated and putting time and effort to achive it (dedication).
A lot of the Spanish grammatical constructions they teach on Duolingo are really hard to get, or just very weird. French does not have as many "weird" constructions.
For example, you know how sometimes the noun and the verbs switch places?
Are you a native English speaker? Do you mean that the word order in Spanish doesn't follow the same rules as English? Isn't that true for French as well? Can you give some specific example of sentences that you think are weird?
In the example you gave that's the object not the noun. It's still tricky for English speakers to get used to, though.
I mean how sometimes the verb comes before the noun, and when you use "gustar" you sometimes would say "a ti te gusta".
Easy, no. But that doesn't make the learning curve of each language identical. And I really don't think French becomes harder later on in the same way that Spanish does. It's kind of uniformly tricky.
The Spanish subjunctive is about ten times trickier than the French one, and unless my French is much rustier that I'd realized, the reflexiveness seems more pronounced as well. And Spanish vocab is harder than French for English natives.
Neither grammar is particularly difficult, relatively speaking, but French sentence structure seems closer to English, which I think gives you a leg up later on. All this only applies to English natives, of course.
My only exposure to the Spanish subjunctive has been the Duo imperative/subjunctive skill. I know the Spanish imperative fairly well (ven aqui, siéntate, y silencio!), and I was rather surprised to have breezed through that skill fairly easily. Maybe if I study Spanish in earnest one day, perhaps the subjunctive will appear more complicated. On the other hand, the French past subjunctive was not the easiest.
I am a native English speaker, but had some early exposure to Spanish, so I suppose that makes it different for me.
It does take considerable time and effort to learn any language. However, I agree with the others who are telling you that living in another country to learn a language properly is not required. You have to put in the effort and engage with the language regardless of whether you live in another country or not. For more information about how to learn a language to a high proficiency without leaving your own country, you might find these polyglot blogs interesting:
"It's really about putting the language in every part of your life"
"Native like fluency is achieved by LIVING THROUGH A LANGUAGE as much as possible. For example, I’ve never lived IN an English speaking country however I’ve lived a big chunk of my life THROUGH English with friends." (Note: The caps are not mine.)
I appreciate Lucas' outlook on grammar. It makes sense and I've seen it in practice.
Yes, I like his approach too. Many of the other polyglot blogs focus on learning very quickly, whereas Luca focuses on establishing a good foundation in the language then steadily increasing competency.
His approach to grammar does seem in line with the Duo philosophy on it. My preference is to be able to discern the patterns on my own, but I confess that I do refer to grammar books at times if I get stuck or I'm not sure why I'm making mistakes. Nevertheless, starting with grammar first seems a little backwards to me.
I do the same with Spanish, but after Spanish. I'm done. I'll forgo grammar and just have fun with French. There are so many films, shows that I've seen in English/Spanish several times, I will easily enjoy/digest the French. I can rewatch Games of Thrones/Sex and the City/Sopranos etc. in French - with Spanish subtitles ;-)
I've gotten pretty far into Spanish and I still think it's relatively easy. Although, this is probably another case of personal bias because most of the things which people complain about in Spanish I already studied in Latin.
As a native English speaker there are many reasons why I think Spanish is easier, Lrtward listed some good arguments.
I don't think one would really be able to appreciate the difficulties or the ease unless they're fully engaged with both languages. It's one thing to say I'm fluent in French but I rarely use it because of my environment. It's another thing to say I work/live in a French/Spanish/English environment . . . I'll tell you which language is easier to communicate in.
Yes, we all have our biases.
I'm sure there will be more people continuously drafting articles which language is easier, which is harder, how long it will take to truly conquer this language but in the end it just sound like distracting information IF you're on your language learning journey. The Subjunctive mood is not easy but OK . . . I won't dwell on that. ¡Sigue asi!
After a point, the greatest difficulty in any foreign language is to understand speech. I don't know how difficult it is to understand Spanish, I don't have any problems with it. French on the other hand sounds incredibly difficult to my ears, especially Quebec French, and it's not for lack of exposure.
I don't know if that's true. That's anecdotal. There are some language learners whose whole approach is just listening. Making yourself very comfortable with a language watching heures de Peppa Pig en français or Dora l'Exploratrice.
If you don't like that short explorer with her monkey or don't care for cochons, find something that you can stomach for hours, days, months or years.
Well, children are really good at learning by listening alone so, sure, my assertion is not universal. Still, I think understanding speech is what most people find difficult in a foreign language. At least that is my observation.
My point was that, for most people, being able to understand what others are saying seems to be the most difficult thing about learning languages. And to my ears some languages sound "clear" (e.g. Spanish, Italian, Japanese) while others sound "foggy" (French, English, Portuguese I've been told).
I'm curious as to what others think.
I agree with you. It is distracting information and a moot point really. Why does it matter whether or not Spanish or French is easier or more difficult?
I think it comes down to how your pronounce things. Some people are better at making that French throat sound (also found in Hebrew) while others have an easier time with hard Spanish consonants (also sometimes mimicked in Arabic). For someone with no romance language experience aside from English, certain aspects of Spanish like gendering words is easier to learn because Spanish is more... consistent. Does that make sense?
I took Spanish from kindergarten through sophomore year of high school. I was so frustrated because I wasn't fluent that when I started college, I decided to take French instead. I think the lowest grade I ever got on a French assignment was a B. The foundation was so easy, but looking back that's just because of my experience with Spanish. I did so well with French that when I transferred colleges and took the placement test, I wound up skipping a level. So my two semesters placed me in an intermediate class where everyone else had taken French at least for four years, and that's also where I finally hit that language wall.
I think Spanish is easier than French for someone that's unbiased. We're all drawn to different cultures and learning a new language is much easier when you identify with cultures and/or countries that speak it, music and food, etc. If you get excited about learning any language then it will become easier! I believe that French is harder to pronounce unless you have experience with something like Hebrew, and that fact that Spanish is phonetic helps a lot of people. It's less shocking (in my experience) to suddenly tune into a Spanish conversation, whereas French shocks me because the cadence is harder to follow and that can be intimidating.
So I would say Spanish is easier for the average person, but you're not weird if you think French fits you more. :)
They are both difficult, but for different reasons. For French, the spoken language might throw you off since it's a really musical language where words flow through and the subtle differences in pronunciations, especially nasal sounds, and the different liasons might throw you off. For Spanish, this is not an issue as pronunciation is exactly as the written form. Add to that the staccato nature of the language and the words are much easier to listen to than in french.
This might make Spanish look like a much easier language to learn....but then there's the grammatical complexity , and that's where Spanish punches French in the face. Spanish is a language of emotion, and as such reflects it in its verbal conjugations. This is done using the well-known "Subjunctive"; in Spanish it has more than 20 (yes, 20) possible variations depending of the mood and the time, and learning all of these verb conjugations is time-consuming and easily intimidating to someone who is not a native. And this is not optional either; subjunctive easily makes up for more than half of the spoken language.
Compare that to French's Subjunctive where they only use subjonctif présent, subjonctif passé, subjcontif imparfait and subjcontif plus-que-parfait, one which is not even used in modern times anymore. There's not even a future subjunctive!
And I'm not even mentioning the two different verbs that exist for the verb "être" in Spanish, Ser y Estar, whose usage in the language cannot be consistently explained even by Spanish natives. There's also diminutives and augmentatives that directly modify the word in Spanish (Casa, Casota, Casita) whereas in French they only use adjectives (Maison, Grande Maison, Petite maison) much like in English. And then there's the dialects variations which are far more noticeable and striking in Spanish because of its wider usage in the world and the emotional nature of the language.
Both languages deal with gender variations of words, as well as prepositional challenges (most notably "Por" and "Para" in Spanish whose usage is irregular as well). In the written department both are fairly annoying with their usage of accent marks; in Spanish it is there to express the stress on a syllable, and in French they are there to express different vocal sounds, separation of vocal sounds when speaking and sometimes....to make words look prettier. Add all of those and you have two languages that are no doubt whatsoever much more complex to fully grasp than English.
I'd say Spanish is harder to dominate than French, but all in all, learning a new language is a lifetime event and I have no doubt that as long as you have the motivation and exposure needed, you can easily master any language in a really short amount of time.
I am wondering the same question actually, but up to me French must be harder because they don't even pronounce a word as a whole but only the first two letters at the beginning of the word and that's what upsets me. I think I will go for Spanish.
Other than the pronunciation, French and Spanish vocabulary and grammar seem to have about the same amount difficulty in my experience. Unless of course you are French, in which case French will be much easier.
Yes, there are many cognitives and similar words in French and English. However, many of those words mean something very different in French than they do in English. There are many faux amis. Even if the meanings are similar in French and English, you need to learn which word to use when. For example, partir sounds a bit like depart and quitter sounds like quit. Both mean to leave, but you can't just substitute either partir, quitter (or sortir or laisser) when you want to say the equivalent of leave. Much depends on the context. Duo has been quite helpful in this respect.
If French past tenses seem a bit easier for me to comprehend than Spanish, then I consider that to be my own fault and not the fault of the Spanish language. I've put more time into studying French past tenses.
I really don't see one as harder than the other, both Spanish and French are about the same to me. I'm also studying Turkish. As a native English speaker, Turkish is the language that takes the most concentration for me.
Honestly, I favor Spanish, but I think it depends on a lot of things. Like what other languages have you studied, what do you want to do with the language and what resources do you have access to. The hardest part of Spanish for me is the dialects, everyone says that Spanish is almost phonetically written, but I wish someone would tell my Cuban and Puertorican friends so I could understand what they're saying. Not to get started on the five words for "you." Whereas French has only two or maybe three dialects that I'm very likely to use.
Spanish spelling and pronunciation are by far easier. In every other regard I find French to be easier. I found Spanish really easy up to B1, and then found that it became astronomically harder. French on the other hand, I found very hard up to B1, and then found that it got easier and easier. I'm C1 in both.