No matter what level of French you are, there are common French mistakes that everyone from beginners to the more advanced students make.
But have no fear! Learning a language is one of the most challenging endeavors, but it is also one of the most rewarding. Many people start speaking French because they dream of visiting Paris, and have fallen in love with the beautiful sounding language. But beyond visits to France, learning a new language such as French has been proven to improve your memory and cognitive ability and can be a huge advantage when applying for jobs. Not to mention, it opens up your world to a huge range of cultural and historical resources in the French language.
Certainly, the French language is considered to be one of the most difficult to learn, especially for anglophones, but before you give up read this article. We hope to convince you that with a little persistence you'll be mastering the French language in no time!
Before you start French lessons, download a new language app, or dust off those French grammar books, you'll want to know what mistakes beginners make when learning French.
The French language for a number of reasons. From difficulties in pronunciation, learning expressions and letter sounds that do not exist in the English language, and learning male and female pronouns, there are a number of aspects that English students find challenging when learning French.
It's just that the French language is fraught with difficulty, from letter sounds that do not exist in our native tongue to unconventional arrangements of vowels and consonants.
What are common spelling mistakes in French?
Spelling in any language can be difficult to master. Do you remember attending spelling bees in grade school?
However accurate spelling in French is absolutely essential for students at any level. One of the main issues with spelling in French is that there are a considerably higher number of homonyms in the French language. Homonyms are words that may sound similar but that may be written differently. There are also a number of accents that are not present in the English language, such as the accent grave and the cedilla.
This means that there is a greater chance of misspellings in the French language. Find yourself some effective French lessons here.
How to Spell Homonyms
Homophones, which fall under the wider category of homonyms, are defined as words that sound the same but are spelled differently.
For example: sain, sein, saint seing, ceins, and ceint are all pronounced the same, but are all spelled differently.
Unfortunately for those learning French, the French language is full of these kinds of words.
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In French, the placement and correct use of accents is extremely important. For example, in French, the accent aigu (é) or the forward-slash accent, is only featured on the letter E.
One of the best tips for remembering which accent to use and how to place diacritical marks correctly is to study word etymology.
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Silent Letters in French
Another reason that the French language can be so difficult to learn is because some letters are 'silent' or not pronounced.
We can find similar cases in the English language. For example the silent 'K' in the words knee, knife and knowledge.
In French, there are also a number of words that are not pronounced in the same way that they are spelled. This means that French is not not a phonetic language, whereas in English roughly two-thirds of the vocubularly is phonetic.
Here are a couple useful reminders for French pronunciation:
- An S at the end of most words is silent
- For example: nous, vous
- An E at the end of most French words is silent
- that is with the exception of words with an accent
- An H is always silent
- It is often treated as a consonant or a vowel
- An X at the end of most words is silent
- for example: choux, chateaux, prix
Note that there are exceptions to every rule. For example, for the word 'six', the 'x' is pronounced.
Bear in mind that when you encounter any spelling rule exceptions, there is generally a good reason behind it.
How Can you Avoid Spelling Errors in French?
So now that you've seen the most common errors, how can you best minimise your risk of making the same mistakes?
1. Just as you did when you were first learning English in school, the best way to learn correct spelling is through practice! Read as many French books as you can, practice doing spelling grammar and spelling exercises. The more you practice, the better you'll get at remembering correct spelling.
2. Don't cheat by using a spell checker. Although this is useful when writing formal emails, you'll be less likely to commit the correct spelling to your memory.
3. Make use of a dictionary. Whether you opt for an electronic or online dictionary or a paperback one, a dictionary is a great way to learn correct spelling and also expand your vocabulary.
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Common French Grammar Mistakes
On top of the difficult spelling and pronunciation, beginners also make a number of grammar errors when learning French.
Probably the most common error is making the correct gender agreement in the French language. This is just not something that we are used to doing in the English language so it can be particularly difficult for anglophones learning French.
In the French language, all words are assigned either a masculine or feminine gender depending on specific word characteristics. This means that the article of the word must reflect the noun's gender in addition to the verb ending or adjective used to describe the noun.
In French, definite articles include le, la, and les and partitive articles are de, de la, and des. However remember that the correct use of articles in French depends on the gender of the noun. This means that it's essential to know what the noun's gender is in order to avoid making gender agreement mistakes in French.
In French, the most commonly used verbs are être and avoir ( to be and to have). However, their usage is not always the same in English as it would be in French.
It is helpful to remember that environmental conditions such as the weather, temperature and precipitation are written as 'it makes' rather than 'it has' or 'it is'.
For example, in English we would say 'It is windy'. But in French we say 'Il fait du vent'.
If you learn and understand these basic rules and exceptions, then you'll be much less likely to make grammar mistakes.
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French Pronunication Mistakes
As mentioned earlier, French is not a very phonetic language, so it can be difficult to correctly pronounce words unless you've heard them before. Certain sounds may be particularly difficult as you may find that your mouth is not used to moving in the correct way (such as the French U sound).
Your French teacher will be able to help you learn to practice the correct sound.
Another challenge for many students learning the French language is the French R sound.
Instead of rolling the r as you would in the Spanish language, the French R sound is made in the throat.
Check out these tips to help you with your French pronunciation.
Difficult Words to Pronounce in French
According to a number of surveys, the word grenouille or frog is one of the most difficult to say. The best way to master the pronunciation of difficult words such as these is to break the word down into syllables: grr-noo-yeuh.
However the most difficult word as voted by native French speakers themselves, is the French word for locksmith. Serrurerie contains four of those difficult to master Rs,as well as the difficult to pronounce U, right in the middle of them!
For more tricky French words to pronounce you may enjoy this article.
What are Exceptions to the Rules in the French Language?
As you learn the French language, you'll learn some of the most common language and grammar rules. However, you'll also learn that there are number of exceptions to these rules that you'll be required to learn by heart!
If your goal is to become fluent in French, then it is important to become aware of and learn these rules and where they apply- be it in grammar, spelling and verb conjugation.
Learn more about French grammar exceptions.
Such as... you ask?
Gender Agreement Rules in French
In French, one of the most important rules is that the sentence's article must agree with its noun, which must also agree with its verb endings and adjectives. Note that you may mix masculine and feminine nouns within the same sentence, but it's important to remember that the masculine prevails.
Un acteur doué; une belle actrice – a talented actor and a beautiful actress. Now, let's put them in a single sentence:
Des acteurs doués et beaux – the article has been changed to its plural form, and only the masculine form prevails.
Although it can be challenging and full of exceptions, grammar and pronunciation specificities, this is all part of the challenge of learning a new language!
Although it can seem daunting at the beginning, once you ge the hang of it, it can be one of the most rewarding experiences that you will ever encounter!
Hopefully, you've been able to get an initial look at some of the most common mistakes in French and how to avoid them! Now it's time to get learning!
Bonne chance or Good luck!
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