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What Are the Differences Between French and Spanish?

From Jon, published on 20/02/2018 Blog > Languages > Spanish > How Are the French and Spanish Languages Similar?

If you have already taken French classes, you may find it easier to study Spanish. There are many reasons for this, but one of the main ones is the fact that French and Spanish are both Latin languages.

Learning a foreign language is not an easy exercise, but those American students who have already studied French are lucky because Spanish and French have many similarities, particularly with regard to vocabulary (Spanish words, sentence, expression) and grammar ( adverb, written expression, syntax …)

If you studied French in high school and want to learn Spanish as a professional, you can assure yourself it will make the task easier.

Spanish words can be found in French and vice versa. Understanding and learning are therefore within everyone’s reach.

In addition, Spanish is a phonetic language, that is, it is written as it is pronounced. An asset that will allow you to learn Spanish easily.

That and the high predominance of latino communities in the States is probably why 71% of American students choose Spanish as their foreign language!

Let’s take a look at the similarities between Spanish and French.

A Common Latin Culture

If you are an ex-French student and want to start learning Spanish online or contacting a private Spanish tutor, you might want to take a look at the common origins between the two languages before you start.

Why are French and Spanish (or Castilian) so similar?

The answer is simple. The two languages (as well as others: Italian or Romanian) are similar because they come from a common origin: Latin.

Let’s go back in time. It was after the fall of the Roman Empire that many variants of Latin began to emerge in Europe. More precisely, it was between the sixth and the ninth century, a period during which French and Spanish spread throughout the world via colonization.

spanish-origins “Carpe diem, Grosso modo, De facto” Latin is found in both the French and the Spanish language!

Mastering Spanish is also facilitated by the alphabet. This may seem obvious, but it is important to remember. Both languages share the same 26-letter alphabet and therefore the same writing system. A factor that makes learning Spanish faster for students.

There is a Spanish alphabet, however, which includes the famous “tilde” (ñ) that one often finds on the “n” as well as the double “ll” of “Como se llama?

Imagine learning Arabic, Russian, Chinese or Japanese–you’ll spend a lot of time learning a new alphabet and its pronunciation!

There is also a lexical similarity between the two languages. This resemblance corresponds to the formation of groups of words used in a sentence. The famous subject-verb-complement.

There are also similar grammatical features between the two Romance languages such as:

  • The use of several forms of the past tense
  • The Spanish conjugation, which is like the French conjugation
  • The “you” having multiple functions

These many similarities allow students who have previously studied French to learn to speak Spanish more easily thanks to a Spanish language school, a Spanish university degree, or a study abroad immersion trip (Spanish courses in Spain, Costa Rica, Mexico; Spanish courses in Colombia, Argentina or elsewhere in Latin America, for example).

Another point in common: the accents. Both languages use accents. The Hispanic language has 5 different accents.

All these similar criteria allow the two languages a student who has already learned some French to learn Spanish easily.

Spanish Words Used in French

American students who have been previous French learners will quickly see that they know some of the words taught to them for Spanish!

How to Learn Spanish Through Already Knowing French Words

If you know French and have taken a trip to a Spanish-speaking country, you may have been surprised by the presence of words you knew in the local vocabulary.

Spanish can be found in the French language for geographical reasons.

As you know, Spain and France share a common border and even a common region: the Basque Country! French region culturally influenced by Spain.

There are also historical reasons. Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards migrated to France throughout the twentieth century in search of better living conditions (to escape the dictatorship of Franco in particular) and work. A legacy that can still be found in the French vocabulary.

Can those Americans who speak French become bilingual in Spanish more easily?

Yes and no, the Spanish words present in French linguistics represent a tiny part of the vocabulary necessary to become bilingual in the language of Cervantes.

But it is certain that it is easier for someone who speaks French to learn Spanish than Chinese, for example.

Here is an example of Spanish words present in the “lengua francesa”:

  • La fiesta
  • Les tapas
  • La paëlla
  • Le guacamole
  • Le gaspacho
  • Le chorizo
  • Les churros
  • Le flamenco
  • Le tango
  • Le patio
  • La corrida
  • Cafétéria
  • Embargo
  • Canyon
  • Rodéo

Paella-dream How about some more paella?

This list of words is not exhaustive … To complete it further, it might be time for you to backpack through France and Spain in order to learn both Romance languages!

Is it possible to learn Spanish in 6 months?

Beware of Deceptive Cognates!

Similar words in both languages allow Americans who have studied the French language to understand and progress easily in Spanish. With a little deduction, these students can guess the meaning of a word like this for example:

  • Un accident = un accidente
  • Vendre = vender

Nevertheless, students who know French might be tempted to invent Spanish words by adding an “o” or an “a” at the end. It’s a very bad idea and does not work, unfortunately!

“A village” does not translate into “a villagio” in the language of Salvador Dali! 

There are also some pitfalls of learning the Spanish language if you already speak French. And, as in many other foreign languages, words that strangely resemble those we know do not necessarily have the same meaning at all.

Here is a list of false cognates between French and Spanish:

  • Cama in Spanish = chambre in French
  • Caramelo = un bonbon
  • Debil = fragile
  • Figura = forme

And the list goes on…

Spanish Expressions Stemming from French

On the other hand, Spanish vocabulary did learn a couple things from Molière’s language…The French-Spanish linguistic similarities work in both directions!

If you’ve studied French in high school, you will notice how closely related the two idioms are when you join a Spanish class.

room-head Do you have room in your head for a new language?

There are also French words that take on an accent when crossing the border:

  • menú
  • avión
  • camión
  • cliché

How does one learn Spanish in the United States without bathing in the culture of the Iberian Peninsula?

Speaking Spanish is one thing, but the Spanish culture is inseparable from learning the language.

Hispanic culture is more than present in the United States…Cuba in Miami, Puerto Rico in NYC, Mexico in Los Angeles–these are all great cities to learn about these exciting hispanic countries!

Why not visit one of these places today and try to meet native Spanish speakers? Conversation is a great way to get ahead in a language.

You could easily fly to any of these cities with JetBlue or Delta. There are often promotions–so look out for the cheap tickets!

plane-vacation Take a little vacation to Miami and meet some new Cuban friends!

You have definitely met a Hispano-American before. Most hispanics in the United States are very proud of their heritage and would like nothing more than to teach you a few Spanish words!

Conversation with one of these a person hailing from Cuba or Puerto Rico could help you to:

  • Learn Spanish easily
  • Progress quickly and master the subtleties of their language
  • Practice their language on a daily basis, 
  • Hear and discover things about the hispanic culture.
  • Traveling, etc.

But especially to enrich one’s vocabulary!

If you took French classes in high school and are looking to tackle Spanish for work reasons, going to one of those cities could be a solution for you! And why not find a job where you need both the language skills?

We are sure you still have a lot to learn about the hispanic culture and all its riches, so why don’t you have a look at whether you couldn’t take Spanish courses online and then plan a little trip to Spain itself to up your chances of landing that job when you come back!

Find out how to learn Spanish online!


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