French vs German: Which Language Should You Learn?
Determine whether you should learn French or German in this detailed language guide
Whether you’re trying to decide where to dedicate your time in learning a new language, or you’re just curious about how the languages compare, there is a lot to learn about about the French and German languages. In this guide, we break down the similarities and differences between the two languages, discuss which one easier to learn and more useful, as well as other interesting info.
Similarities Between The French & German Languages
When listening to French and German speakers talk, you might think that the languages don’t sound all that similar. In fact, they sound vastly different. However, there are some notable similarities.
For one, they both belong to the Indo-European language set, and they both use the Latin alphabet.
Thus, as a fluent English speaker, then you will 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 both languages).
Additionally, 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 in different languages that sound similar, are spelled similarly, and mean the same thing.
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 each other over the centuries.
Differences Between The German & French Languages
Though there are some structural similarities, that’s about where the likeness stops. German and French have many more differences than similarities.
The foremost difference is that French is a Romance language, sharing foundational roots with Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. French sounds more nasally, and is often spoken very quickly.
It also follows the same grammatical structure as English—SVO, or subject-verb-object. For example, the toddler (S) threw (V) the apple (O). That said, French does have a very large number of irregular verbs, though, which can be tricky.
German, on the other hand, is a Germanic language (unsurprisingly). For reference, English is too.
Unlike French’s more nasal sounds, you’ll hear that in German many of the consonants are quite hard and rough sounding, with the pronunciation coming more from the throat (rather 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 is likely because French uses the same grammatical structure as English, and has fewer gendered articles.
Although German isn’t considered one of the easiest languages to learn, it isn’t one of the hardest, either. Thus, which one is easier for you to learn as an individual is more about your particular linguistic abilities.
For example, if you’re good at pronunciation and mimicking accents, 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 better bet. German beats out French for those English cognates we talked about earlier—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. Thus, the two learning curves are somewhat inverted.
If you think you may struggle out of the gate, our team recommends using the language learning apps from Pimsleur or Rosetta Stone to make the learning process easier at first. They both have good introductory courses.
Reasons To Learn French As Opposed To German
French is a very popular language the world over: it’s the official language in almost 30 countries, including three different continents (North America, Africa, and Europe). There are over 300 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, such as being able to understand and communicate about cinema, food, and fashion.
Reasons To Learn German As Opposed To French
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, Germany is the most influential economy in the European Union, so being able to speak German in a business or financial career makes plenty of sense.
Learning German 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 of each, and which one will suit your 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. With complex grammar and multiple cases and articles, German has a tendency to be difficult to pick up.
Should you learn French or German?
The answer to this question depends on many factors, including your interests, hobbies, family history, and more. However, if you’re looking for one language to learn that easier and more useful, you may want to explore French first.