Gender is important
Gender is integral part of each noun in French and probably is important in other languages, too. I have a suggestion in this regard. The exercises have a pull down menu with translations for each word. I access these sometimes. I would suggest the inclusion of the gender when the word is an noun. Dictionaries always include the gender. Developers, thank you for considering my suggestion.
I am a U.K. English native speaker and I remember a play that was on in London's West End many years ago called "No sex please, we're British" This is how I feel with the way European languages seem to be obsessed with sex! It is not so much that inanimate objects have genders, but the sheer illogicality of the gender assigned to them. I am trying to learn German, Italian and French and there is little consistency between these languages. For example, a girl is neuter in German (Das Madchen) - sorry I have no accents on my keyboard - In German , the sun is feminine and the moon masculine; in French and Italian, the other way around. Also, it puzzles me who decides when a new word comes into the language what gender it should have. In gender-neutral England, it would be a great help to have the sex of a noun shown when it is first introduced to us.
All that grammatical gender does is it sorts nouns into categories and says, "Nouns of this gender are treated this way, and nouns of that gender are treated that way."
In English, we use the word "gender" to talk about the link between a person's sex (sometimes called "natural gender") and societal norms. That's an entirely different concept to grammatical gender.
What I'm trying to say is, yes, if you are looking for a link between a word's gender and its meaning, you will often be confused. It's true that words referring to male humans tend to be masculine and words referring to female humans tend to be feminine, but even that's not a given. And when it comes to inanimate objects or ideas, well, there's nothing about a chair that is inherently feminine in the sex/society sense. There's nothing about love that is inherently masculine.
Anyway, I would try to just forget the sex/society meaning of the word when it comes to learning French. Or if you can't, then try renaming the genders. Maybe "solar" and "lunar", or maybe "shark" and "whale". At least that gives you the benefit of having something fun to doodle on your vocab sheets. (vocab sheets, do they still have those?)
I wish you had some sort of megaphone and French learners are your listeners.
I've been trying to tell that to learners for five years. It doesn't usually work because of the terminologies: (gender, masculine, feminine), and because they first learn to associate "le" to "garçon" and "la" to "fille".
The word "gender" is very present in our anglophone world, but it always refers to humans. Since the few English words that are said to have gender also refer almost exclusively to humans, the confusion is understandable.
I remember when I first understood the idea of grammatical gender being a concept apart, as a kid learning French. It was when I learned the words "la chemise" and "le chemisier". How could a blouse, which no boy would ever wear, be masculine when a simple shirt is feminine? Perhaps not the most convincing example, but it's the one that did it for me.
If this is the case, keep saying it. This is literally the first time I've ever heard this.
You might be interested to know that in English, the "category of noun" sense of "gender" was the dominant one for hundreds of years. It's only in the last few decades that the sex/society sense has become prevalent.
Also, the French word for gender is "genre". Check out the other meanings of "genre" to start to get a sense of what associations the French have with the concept of gender.
-kind, sort, type (of a thing)
Aimez-vous ce genre de spectacle?
Do you like this kind of entertainment?
-type, style (of behavior)
Il a le genre artiste.
He's the artistic type.
Le genre Homo inclut les humains.
The genus Homo includes humans.
-genre (of movies, etc.)
L'horreur est un genre littéraire.
Horror is a literary genre.
Interesting. I do remember hearing old folks grumbling that the word 'gender' had replaced 'sex' when I was a kid. And it makes sense with other words, like 'engender.'
Can't speak for all languages, and there are inconsistencies, but at least in French and Spanish the gender is frequently related to the end of the word, the way it sounds. So when a new word comes into the language that's probably how they decide what gender it gets.
The most fun (sarcasm on) one I've experienced is that in Spanish the word "the" for female nouns is "la", and for male nouns it's "el". But they decided that words that start with a sound stupid if combined with la (for instance, "la agua"), so for those they use el even if feminine. But everything else (agreements, etc) is feminine. Gotta say I like the French system of apostrophes better. You may not immediately be able to tell if "l'eau" is masculine or feminine, but at least you're not deceived into thinking it's the opposite of what it is.
French does that too, although not with "la".
L'ami → Mon ami.
L'amie → Mon amie.
Mon meilleur ami.
Ma meilleure amie.
Part of the concept called "euphony". A bit confusing for us foreigners.
Oh wow, so it does. I learned that rule so long ago somehow it did not seem so confusing.
@GraemeJeal - Now you understand why it's so much easier for Romance-language speakers to learn English than the other way around :)) English grammar, by comparison, is a walk in the park. In Romanian you have three genders for nouns (in English you have one), adjectives are declined depending on the noun they determine (not applicable in English, since no genders), verbs are conjugated for each person.
Let's take "have" in the present tense. You have two forms "have" and "has" (and it's always third person singular that changes form). Romanian, French and Spanish have six conjugations - "am, ai, are, avem, aveti, au", "ai, as, a, avons, avez, ont" "tengo, tienes, tiene, tenemos, teneis, tienen" - and that's just for present tense. Multiply that by the number of tenses.
Spanish is even more complicated, as it has two verbs for "have" - "tener" and "haber", the latter being used as an auxiliary verb. Oh, and they have two verbs for "to be" - "ser" and "estar".
Though, truth be told, English is easy, until it becomes complicated, because of the many layers of meaning and the "false friends". Getting to near-native level is not as easy as some might think :}
English grammar has many weird oddities, I wouldn't exactly call it a walk in the park. There's so much weird stuff that native English speakers take for granted and couldn't even encapsulate in a rule. This kind of stuff makes English quite frustrating for students of the language. You'll hear them complain about stuff which you didn't even consider was an issue. There are many good articles about how weird and seemingly arbitrary English grammar is. All I'm saying is that for everything that English speakers find frustrating about French or Spanish (e.g. gender), there's something equally as frustrating in English.
"European languages seem to be obsessed with sex!" No, they don't. Just because the nouns of certain language are differentiated into different genres doesn't mean that European languages are obsessed with sex. In addition, English used to have gendered nouns. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_in_English.
A man jumps into a taxi in Paris. Fresh off the plane, and having studied French, he was very confident and when the driver asked where he wanted to go he said insistently "le tour!".
Off the taxi went, and for over an hour the driver gave him the tour of Paris, showing him all the sights. After a while the passenger got annoyed and asked when they would reach the Eiffel Tower. "Quand est-ce qu'on va arriver à la Tour d'Eiffel?" he demanded angrily.
But the driver, confused, said "mais monsieur, vous avez demandé le tour, et je vous ai donné le tour de Paris. Vous vouliez la Tour d'Eiffel".
Even though I guessed the punchline with "le tour", this was still hilarious :))) Thank you for that.
While gender may be irrelevant in many languages, (I am only studying one) this idea would be useful to 124 million Spanish learners, over 72 million French learners, over 28 million Italian learners, over 11 million Portuguese learners, and 683 thousand Romanian users. Source of learner statistics: Duolingo
This idea could be tremendously useful, even for people with an understanding of grammatical gender (i.e. people whose native language already has that), since genders vary wildly from one language to the next. So here's hoping that the developers listen to this :)
Can a Romance polyglot tell me if the genders are consistent across the Romance languages?
I speak three Romance languages, my mother tongue being one of them - genders are not consistent in any way. To make things even more confusing, some are exactly the same in all three, some are completely different. For instance, "house" is feminine in all three - "casa", "la casa", "la maison". "Garden" is feminine in Romanian, but masculine in French and Spanish. "Face" is feminine in Romanian and Spanish, but masculine in French.
Aaaaand.... as if that wasn't bad enough, let me introduce you to the "neutral gender" of the noun. Village is neutral in Romanian, but masculine in French and masculine/feminine in Spanish ("el pueblo, el poblado" or "la aldea") And with this word it seems I stumbled on yet another difficulty, that they don't even keep the gender in their own language :))) Come to think of it, the same holds true for "face", which in Spanish can either be "la cara" (feminine) or "el rostro" (masculine).
I'm afraid the only way to learn them is... to learn them by heart. There's no rhyme or reason why they are masculine or feminine, it's just the way they are.
Later edit - I just realized that "face" in French can be both masculine and feminine, too - "la face", "le visage", and in Romanian it can be both feminine and neutral "față", "chip". Good Lord, are Romance languages complicated :))))))
You're very welcome, thank you for giving me food for thought - I've never thought this closely about the differences between Romance languages before :) I just learned them as they came.
That is interesting.... I am an American ans in our english language we don't have that.
Thank you, ChrisVaugh13. That page is very helpful. I would still like the French gender in the pull down translation. The reason is I think I could learn that word's gender on the spot and practice it right away.