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Is it Easy to Learn Spanish if you Speak French?

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

There is a lot that you need to know to become fluent in Spanish quickly, but if you have already taken French classes, then you may find it easier to study the language of Cervantes. 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 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 at 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 large communities of Spanish speakers that can be found in cities right throughout the world is probably why Spanish is one of the most taught languages in classrooms around the globe.

Don’t forget that Spanish is a language that is spoken by 440 million native speakers, as well as being an official language in 20 different countries. What’s more, Spanish is used by many international organisations in an official capacity such as the United Nations, the European Union, and the World Trade Organisation in their day to day activities.

The power of learning Spanish is therefore obvious. But if you are worried that it could be an insurmountable task, then fear not – your French classes from school could help you!

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

Spanish and French: A Common Latin Culture

If you are an ex-French student and want to start learning Spanish online, or with the help of 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 colonisation.

The origins of French and Spanish mean that they have some similarities “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 you can find on the “n” as well as in the sound of 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, its pronunciation, as well as how to deploy it in the construction of words and sentences!

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 use of the subjunctive mood in similar scenarios
  • The adjective often being found after the noun
  • 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, Colombia, Argentina or in almost every single other country 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.

How Similar are French and Spanish: The Common Vocabulary

English speaking students who have previously studied French will quickly see that they know some of the words taught to them in Spanish!

How to Learn Spanish Through Already Knowing French Words

If you have some knowledge of the French language 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! This means that the cross over in cultures found in parts of Spain and parts of France are almost identical, and even though the Basque country has its own unique language, this doesn’t mean that the languages of French and Spanish haven’t infiltrated on both sides of the Pyrenees.

There are historical reasons for this. 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 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, if you want to learn Spanish quickly, 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

The culture of Spain is intrinsically linked with the language Spanish cuisine should be a part of your learning experience

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!

Beware of False Friends!

Similar words in both languages allow students 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 speak some 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 always 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

This is also something that you have to be careful with when it comes to English, too. If you see the word “actual” in a Spanish text, then don’t assume it has the same meaning in English. In actual fact, the translation of this word in to English would be “current“. Likewise, “pretender” doesn’t actually mean “to pretend“. It means “to attempt

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 at school, you will notice how closely related the two languages are when you attend your first Spanish class.

Knowledge of French can give you a head start when it comes to Spanish Learning Spanish doesn’t need to necessarily be like starting with a clean slate

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

  • menú
  • avión
  • camión
  • cliché

How does one learn Spanish 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 many different parts of the world. Most cities have a Spanish speaking population who proudly promote their language and culture through different events and festivals. These are great opportunities to learn about different and exciting Hispanic countries!

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

Another way is to jump on a plane to a Spanish speaking country where you won’t need to find a Spanish speaking community; everyone around you will be the Spanish speaking community! Try to take advantage of sales on flight tickets from your local airport to take you right to the heart of the Spanish language.

Just by going on holiday to a Spanish speaking country you could learn some of the language Your Spanish speaking adventure could be a short plane ride away!

You have more than likely already met someone who has Spanish or Hispanic heritage in their family. They are often very proud of this face and would like nothing more than to teach you a few Spanish words!

Conversations with someone who speaks Spanish 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.
  • Travel, etc.

If you took French classes at school and are looking to tackle Spanish for work reasons, going to somewhere where Spanish is spoken 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!

There is no fixed answer to how long it takes to learn Spanish, but if you take advantage of all of the possibilities available to you, you will be on the road to learning the language as quick as possible.

Find out how you can learn spanish online or search the web for spanish lessons london!

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