French is a branch of the Indo-European languages whose origin can be traced to ancient Latin. The French language closely resembles Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian. They are collectively known as the Romance languages, a term derived from the Latin “romanica loqui”, meaning, “to speak in Roman fashion.”
During the expansion of the Roman Empire, the Latin spoken by the masses departed from the formal Latin of the elite class. Soldiers, merchants and colonists spread the common Latin to far-flung provinces under Roman rule. The colonised peoples adapted Latin to the speech patterns of their indigenous languages. As the Roman Empire crumbled, Latin diverged and congealed into distinct dialects among the different regions, evolving into the Romance languages, and among them French.
Today, variations in the French language itself exist among French speaking countries and regions. Regional differences have given rise to numerous French dialects. For example, French Canadians in Quebec speak French differently from the Francophones in Africa. In France, the Parisian dialect emerged as its national language, and is now recognised as the model for the French language. French is the official language or one of the official languages in 33 countries spanning 5 continents. There are 128 million people around the world who speak French fluently as their native or second language.
English and French may be considered language cousins, influenced by each other and by their Germanic and Latin roots. Despite these similarities, English speakers who learn French discover significant differences between the two languages.
Students learn how to speak French correctly by paying attention to French words pronounced differently from in English, particularly the vowels and the letter R. Unlike English, French words are peppered with accent symbols. To speak French impeccably, beginners should be aware that accents indicate the correct pronunciation of words and change the meaning of words with the same spelling.
Serious learners learn French grammar the right way from the start. In contrast to English, which differentiates gender for personal pronouns only, all French nouns and most pronouns have gender designations. Conjugations differ for each grammatical person in French, while in English, only the third person singular is conjugated differently. Word order patterns in French differ from English. Most French adjectives follow the word they modify. French uses inversion of the subject-verb order of words when asking questions. Students who keep basic rules in mind soon master how to speak French perfectly.
French ranks next to English as the most widely taught second language worldwide. It is estimated that 100 to 110 million people have learned or are learning to speak French in order to communicate effectively with Francophones.
Students learn French in a variety of ways. Some take a language course in school or online, or self-study with DVDs. Others learn how to speak French fluently by joining an exchange program, hiring a French tutor, or practicing conversational French with a native speaker. Some people learn French through sheer necessity and immersion when living abroad in a French speaking country.
Babbel provides well-rounded learning opportunities in a multi-media platform. Its comprehensive course system is designed for optimal learning and retention. A diverse programme of exercises drills students in grammar, conjugation, pronunciation, listening comprehension and writing activities.
Interactive mobile apps include cool features such as speech recognition, a vocabulary trainer and a review manager. The flexible approach of Babbel determines individual levels and accommodates different learning styles of students of all ages. Students learn at their own pace while sharing experiences with a virtual community through the online board and chat system. A message service keeps students in touch with a Babbel support team.
Explore Babbel’s learning system by signing up for a free, no-obligation course. With practice, you’ll learn how to speak French and sound like a born Francophone.