Language Frustrations

10 Frustrating Things About Learning French

Before reading this please find yourself a salt shaker, and take a pinch.

We are not saying that these struggles are exclusive to the French language, nor that these should keep you from learning it. We at The Foreign Language Collective try to be there for you in your language learning process, and that means we also share your frustrations.

1. The amount of irregular verbs

I mean seriously, what’s the point in having grammar rules for all the verbs if every verb is an exception to that rule?

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2. You don’t say the ‘s’ at the end of the word

As a student of Spanish as well, I find this very hard. In Spanish you pronounce every letter and syllable, in French, no…

So ils and il sound exactly the same, not confusing at all!

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3. The subjunctive

Need I say anymore?

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4. Past historic

You have a tense that’s only used in books? Why?

When you think you’ve finally mastered all the tenses, and you pick up a book to practise your reading, and you can’t understand a thing. What’s happening? Je fus / nous donnâmes Ahhh!!!

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5. Masculine and feminine words

A table (une table) is feminine, and so is a chair, (une chaise) but an armchair (un fauteuil) is masculine. How does that make sense? How can you remember which ones are feminine and which ones are masculine?

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6. La liason

La liason is when you stick two words together when your speaking. For instance: ils ont = ilzont. Not to be confused with ils sont. It normally happens when the first word ends in an ‘s’ and the second one begins with a vowel. Suffice to say pronunciation isn’t my strong point!

7. You don’t say the end of the word at all

Don’t say the s, use the liason and oh, did I forget to mention, don’t bother with the end of that word, it’s not important. I sometimes wonder how the French understand each other!

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8. Because of that every word sounds completely different to the way it’s written

Due to the lovely pronunciation (which French does sound lovely), as a learner of French, spelling can become a nightmare. When your French friend teaches you a new word and you know how to say it but no idea how to spell it. The words: toi, trois and toit (you, three and roof) are all pronounced exactly the same way.

over it no GIF by The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

9. If that wasn’t enough you have Verlan, a type of slang where all the words are backwards!

I struggle enough speaking French normally but then there’s a whole range of slang where the words are backwards. Bonjour becomes jourbon, bizarre is zarbi. So, once you learn to speak forwards, you have to learn to speak backwards.

10. Speaking

French is a beautiful language, and when spoken very well (by a native) it sounds lovely. As a learner of this language, it can be difficult to keep motivated when you say something, and French speakers look at you like you’re strangling a cat and destroying their language, but at the end of the day it’s worth it!

And if you don’t make mistakes, you’ll never learn!

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What other frustrations could you add to this list?

This guest post was written by Abigail Nobes

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11 Comments

  • Reply Jon Marc December 20, 2017 at 7:18 pm

    Trois is not pronounced the same as toit and toi.

  • Reply Clemencd December 20, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    Toi trois ans toit are not pronounced the same way. Toi and toit okay but you do pronounce the r in trois.

    • Reply Guest Writer December 20, 2017 at 9:33 pm

      True, but the “R” in French is very minimal in comparison to other languages, and for foreigners learning French it can sound the same (especially when spoken fast)

      • Reply Laura December 21, 2017 at 12:41 am

        Minimal or not it is pronounced…even if you think that for foreigerns it can sound the same.

      • Reply Cam December 21, 2017 at 8:52 am

        Not when coming after a T. T is explosive and the R will « take » from it. The R in « bière » (beer) will be much softer, maybe inaudible to an untrained ear. But no-one has ever said « trois » and made it sound like « toi » without correcting it afterward.

        • Reply AmarensElise December 21, 2017 at 12:27 pm

          I would disagree, the way in which the mouth moves is virtually the same and only a slight tremble of the tongue is added. For native speakers this will of course be audible, but for language learners this may not be as easy to pick up, especially when spoken fast.

  • Reply Diane December 21, 2017 at 6:51 am

    So much truth here. Some of the things on your list get easier with time, though, like speaking. But #4? Never needed it in everyday life. Sharing on FB!

  • Reply Moi December 21, 2017 at 6:57 am

    Liaison, not liason.

    • Reply AmarensElise December 21, 2017 at 12:26 pm

      Good one, it was changed by the English auto-correct.

  • Reply frenglish January 3, 2018 at 11:29 pm

    Speaking about pronunciation and writing, English is soooo much worst than French. At least when you read a word in French, you know how to pronunce it! Funny and quite interesting anyway 🙂

    • Reply AmarensElise January 3, 2018 at 11:31 pm

      Though English can be tricky, I am not sure the French pronunciation is as easy as you think (at least not for those who are learning it)

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