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French vs German: Which Language Should You Learn?
Determine whether you should learn French or German in this detailed language guide
Choosing to learn a new language is an easy decision. It’s beneficial for career and social growth as well as a great way to keep your brain active and healthy. However, choosing which language to learn isn’t always the easiest. If you’re going back and forth between French and German, here is a breakdown of both languages as well as a comparison to help you decide which one is better for you.
Similarities Between The French And German Languages
Upon hearing French and German for the first time, you might think that they don’t sound all that similar. However, they both belong to the Indo-European language set, and they both use the Latin alphabet.
So, if you’re already a fluent English speaker, then you have a good basis for most of the French and German letters and their basic sounds (although you’ll get a few new ones thrown in for either choice).
Both French and German have gendered nouns. This means that instead of using one article for all nouns (as English does with “the”), they have separate words for ‘male’ and ‘female’ nouns (and German has a third neutral gender, too).
One of the surprising similarities between French and German is that they have a large number of cognates. Cognates are words that sound similar and mean the same thing in another language.
This could be because France and Germany share a border, so their people have shared plenty of language, trading, and social customs over the years. English has many of the same cognates, as the three languages have borrowed from and shared over the centuries.
Differences Between The German And French Languages
That’s about where the similarities stop, though. German and French have plenty of differences that might influence you to choose one over the other.
French is a Romance language, sharing foundational roots with Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. French sounds more nasal and is often spoken very quickly. It also follows the same grammatical structure as English—SVO, or subject-verb-object (i.e., The child (S) kicked V) the ball (O). It does have a very large number of irregular verbs, though, so that can be tricky.
German, on the other hand, is a Germanic language (unsurprisingly). English is, too! So, you’ll hear that in German many of the consonants are quite hard and rough sounding, with the pronunciation coming more from the throat than the nasal passages.
German is known for its complex compound words and capitalization of its four types of nouns. However, once you learn the basic rules of German, the rest flows quite simply because it’s very logical and straightforward.
Which Language Is Easier to Learn: French Or German?
French is often considered one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn. This could be because of the shared Latin alphabet and the same grammatical structure (the French language app from Pimsleur is a great way to start learning French for beginners).
Although German isn’t usually considered one of the easiest, it isn’t one of the hardest, either. Choosing whether one or the other is easier is more about your particular linguistic abilities. For example, if you’re good at accents and pronunciation, and can memorize verbs easily, then French might be a breeze.
Or, if you don’t mind a bunch of grammatical rules and you understand logic easily, then German could be your next linguistic adventure. German beats out French for those English cognates we talked about earlier, though—it shares about 40% of its vocabulary with English!
Many language learners feel that French is easier to pick up in the beginning but gets harder as you master fluency, while German is an uphill battle at first but smooths out quickly.
As such, our team recommends using language learning apps such as Pimsleur or Rosetta Stone to make the learning process easier at first.
Reasons To Learn French As Opposed To German
French is a popular language the world over: it’s the official language in almost 30 countries, including ones in North America, Africa, and Europe. There are over 2.5 million people in the world that speak French.
If you plan on going into international business, diplomacy, or European hospitality, then French is very useful to know.
If you love French for its romantic nature and its connection to highly prized tourist cities such as Paris, or if your family has French roots, then learning French could be better for you since you have an emotional connection to the language.
Learning French opens up a host of cultural doors, as well, such as being able to understand and communicate about cinema, food, and fashion.
If you see yourself spending plenty of time in central Europe and the countries surrounding Germany (e.g., Austria, Switzerland, Belgium), then German will be a handy language to know.
Although there are fewer fluent German speakers the world over, German is the most influential economy making up the European Union, so being able to speak German in a business or financial career makes plenty of sense.
Learning German as opposed to French could also benefit you if you have ancestors who were from Germany and you want to connect to your roots. If you have any people in your life who speak fluent German who can help you practice, then that’s a plus.
German culture is full of wonderful treasures, too, including contributions from literature, music, art, and science.
The choice of whether to learn German or French is a personal decision. Think about the benefits and struggles of each and which one will suit your course and desires more.
You could even take an introductory course in both languages (Duolingo and Babbel are great options that are very affordable) and see which one gives you the most excitement to push forward. The good news is that once you learn a new language, your brain is primed to learn another.
So, if you choose one and still want to come back for the other, you’ll be able to pick it up with even greater ease.
Is French or German harder to learn?
Most people think French is the easier language to learn compared to German.
Should you learn French or German?
The answer to that question depends on many factors, including your interests, hobbies, family history, and more.