"I am writing a letter."
Translation:J'écris une lettre.
Such a "translation" comes from thinking in English and translating to French one word at a time. It doesn't work that way. Since French does not have a Present Continuous tense, the Present tense may be translated to English as Simple Present or Present Continuous. I.e.,
- j'écris une lettre = I write a letter (or) I am writing a letter
In French, the expression "être en train de + infinitive" may be used to emphasize that the action of the verb is taking place at this very moment, e.g., Je suis en train d'écrire une lettre. This may only be translated to "I am writing a letter", not "I write a letter".
In French, contractions are necessary. The French don't like having to take pause while speaking, so situations that would demand a pause are always eliminated.
If you say "Je écris" out loud, your throat needs to close for a split second between the two words. This pause makes your French sound broken up, so it is avoided by contracting the two words.
The same is true for things like "Le homme". Because of that pause, you contract this to "L'homme"
Yes, that is incorrect.
Here is a list of frequent contractions: http://french.about.com/library/pronunciation/bl-contractions.htm
Basically, if you say "Je, Le, La, Que..." (and there are many others) and the next word begins with a vowel or a silent H, then they must contract to "J', L', L', Qu'... " (and so on)
"un" is for masculine nouns, and "une" for feminine ones.
Un garçon, une fille, un gâteau, une robe, un canard, un dauphin, une mouche, une femme. A boy, a girl, a cake, a dress, a duck, a dolphin, a fly, a woman. There is not much logic as to why nouns for inanimate objects or animals are masculine or feminine. You just have to learn the noun along with the gender every time. So don't just learn that the animal "fly" is "mouche", but "la mouche" instead. Nouns for professions also have male and female versions. Un écrivain, une écrivaine. A (man) writer, a (woman) writer.
Also bear in mind that many adjectives also are added an "e" at the end when the noun is feminine.
Le livre intéressant, la personne intéressante. Interesting book, interesting person.
I'm still learning the basics of French, but I believe those examples are correct.
No. There are not rather masculine than feminine or the opposite; Considers it's 50/50 approximately. There's no trick, and you shouldn't search for trick, only memorize them. You can still use your imagination as a "trick", imagine the moon being a girl by example, because the moon is "la lune" (feminine)
A francophone friend explained to me once that accent grave on the E (è) is an "open" or "higher-pitched" 'e' sound (such as the first E in 'letter'), whereas the accent aigu (é) is lower-pitched and more closed, like the sound of the second E in 'letter'. Accents on the letter A are used to discern between two words that sound the same and would write the same, the accent on the A is then used to separate between them (my vocabulary is too limited to think of any examples in French. Think if 'mass' as in 'a catholic ritual' was written as "máss" to differentiate from 'mass' as in 'a quantity of matter'). I think the same goes for I and O, though I could be wrong. Surely you can Google and find a page explaining accents (about.com has some great articles on the French language).
except in "es" and "et" that makes "è" and "é" sound by their own, the letter "e" without accent, always sound as "e" in "je" or "le", it can be another sounds unless you put an accent. So, whenever you hear an "é" or "è", you put an accent. The exception is when you have a dobled-consonnant, you don't need an accent to hear "è" or "é". Example: Lettre: there's no accent and you pronounce "lètr" because of the dobble "t" (it needs to be the same letter dobled)
The genre of nouns do not follow any rules concerning their meaning. Some nouns just are feminine, like lettre=letter, and others just are masculine, like livre=book. There happens to exist a feminine version of the letter combination livre, but that means half a kilogram, a pound.