<!–:en–>Going French part 1<!–:–>

Dear [FRIEND],

As this piece is longer than the ones that I usually write, I have divided it into 8 parts.

First of all I am going to provide a little history about the language and try to explain why there are so many words in English that, when you first meet them, seem to have the same meaning.

If, like me, you live on an island, you always have a longing to live on a continent or a landmass, the sort of area where you can roam and wander at will by road to wherever you like over hundreds of miles meeting people from various countries and regions quite different from your own.

Here of course in the UK there is Scotland and there is Wales but somehow that’s not quite the same. Now the strange thing is that if I get in my car and drive 20 miles south, I’ll be in the centre of London where by and large everyone speaks English and I can without much difficulty understand what’s being said and also be understood when it’s my turn to speak.

But if I just go a mere 23 miles south from the port of Dover in the southeast corner of England, I’ll end up across the water in the north of France and language and communication take on an entirely different turn.

Over hundreds of years the French and English haven’t exactly been the best of friends. We’ve had a few wars and disagreements during that time. It all started of course when the Duke of Normandy, known as William the Conqueror, came over with a large army in 1066 from the north of France and defeated the English King, Harold. William didn’t care much for English and tried very hard to make the natives speak French with the idea of wiping out English completely.

He didn’t succeed, I’m pleased to say, but the result has been that we now have thousands of words that have  a distinctly French background and for learners of English it is  a huge problem whether to use the words with the French flavour or the Anglo Saxon flavour.

Needless to say, we are now the best of pals with the French these days, well, most of the time. And so it is that the British love to go to France for an annual holiday. And that is precisely what I did the other week.

Well that’s probably enough history as I am sure you will agree. I promise I won’t attempt any more along those lines because I want to talk about the present.

Dear [FRIEND],

If you want to discuss this article, you can do so on the forum here: Going French, Part I


27 thoughts on “<!–:en–>Going French part 1<!–:–>

  1. As a teacher of English I always tell my students about the words of French origin.
    I also tell them that the English care about the pronunciation of words such as restaurant and many others. Another thing that I tell them is that English has the possibility of adopting words from other cultures and in the best case the pronunciation of those French words sound like French.

    • I guess that in American English rather than in British English, words of French origin are in most cases pronounced more in the French manner. This applies chiefly to stresses in multisyllable words. Am I right?

  2. I hope to collect and share knowledge about English, Culture, educational in English and learn English fro many people around the world


  4. I think that not only English language has many French words. People learn to pronounce the strange word and little by little fix their own pronunciation forgetting the original word and it is used as natural language. I believe that English students have to take a decision between them and speak naturally with any one.

  5. Hello Sir, I like Your Post Going french part 1 , also I always want to learn different language, please let me know more about this.

    Gobind Sahani

  6. Hello,

    “…the result has been that we now have thousands of words that have a distinctly French background and for learners of English it is a huge problem” (Alan Townand)

    And how many words there are who have the same background but the pronunciation is different. For a native French it isn’t problem because they have to learn another pronunciation of the word but those who learned the other language earlier they had to learn the same word with two pronunciations and several times another spelling also.

    See two words.:
    pronunciation (n)(BrE) – prononciation (n)(f)(F)= la prononciation
    government (n) (BrE) – gouvernement (n)(m) (F) = le gouvernement

    It causes a big hurly-burly in our head.

    My advice that if you begin to learn English after having learnt French YOU HAVE TO USE FRENCH SPEAKING EVERY DAY and not only French reading. I didn’t do and the result is my French became passive which means I can read it than my mother tongue but when I have to speak I make lot of mistakes. I know if I could spend few months in France I could make my French again active. But I haven’t possibility so
    I read it every day. Le Monde arrives to me and I always find something to read in it.
    Kati Svaby

    • I think that is true of any language, whether it is your first or 31st. If you don’t keep using it on a daily basis, you will lose it!

  7. Dear Sir,

    Thank you for your Article “Going French Part(I), the way you write seem to be
    we are also in French, without knowing the language of French. I just want to
    know the difference between French and English, I am looking forward to receive
    your next part of this Going French.


  8. Thanks for sending me email and for your great site that is very useful for me

  9. Studied English and French during my early childhood. Growing along with time, i just love them. French has its distintive level of pronunciation similarly English has its own.

  10. As I speak frensh hepls me to understand enslish very wel because it contains many words of French origin. I think it’s a good think.

  11. Pingback: The Newsletter is back online | English-Team Blog

  12. hi ,dear Torston
    Thanks.Im sorry, I cant learn to english language maybe I,m stuiped
    Now I at home I have a lot of time but I coudnt

  13. hello dear. first I want to appreciate because of your useful web site and this last mail.I’m an English teacher since 2011 I learned more yet now.and I love to learn more about English and another foreign language such as french. please help me.

    best regard

  14. Dear Mr. Torsten

    Thank you so much for receipt of your article. I would be pleased to receive English words with French origin.
    Warm regards

  15. hello friend i am zuraif from India i would like to say that,i am not really perfect english and any other language bt i am willing to knw about English and other language i am appercaited tht i have red first part u r topic i felt tht i need this bcoz nw every where speaking english , i need support u, u cn help me dear friend ..

    thank you….

  16. We were reading some invitations, and in a formal one appeared ‘R.S.V.P’. I told learners about this French abbreviation used in English (répondez s’il vous plait). I asked and tried to elicit from them why French expressions and words are used in English, presenting other examples. After they could find out why, I narrated this same story that started in 1066, with Willian The Conqueror. I was pleased to read that again. Thank you for the piece.

  17. i have ever studied french one semester when i was at accademy of foriegn language accademy (OXPORD Indonesia ) , i think the french language is very difficult for me.

  18. Wow! could I ask about the origin of these words Pardon, and abattoir?

  19. You will be pleased to know that schools in the Philippines are presently offering electives in foreign languages with French as the top choice. Too bad that during our time we had only Spanish and Latin in college. But their rules of grammar and syntax did big help to improve my command of English. Thanks for introducing French.

  20. It’s nice to study and to teach english. I knew that english has some words from french for quite a long time. unfortunately, i can not speak french. I hope, I can study this language some day. By the way, I am teaching english materials in My campus. could you helps me with these materials ”
    1. Pre-historic of english
    2. old english and its characteristics, figures and books
    3.midle english, characteristics and figures,
    4.modern english
    5. american and british english. How can american people speak english? do you have the story? how can english language dominate the world?
    thanks, rahman,indonesia

  21. I hope in the next article or in the final article I and all the readers can read that the relationship between the English and the French for the rest of the world will be very happy, no fighting, no war and always in good communication mainly after the construction of euro tunnel from London to Paris. Is there any investor to build a tunnel from Serang in Java island to Tanjung Karang in Sumatra Island ? Could you inform me.

  22. hi dear
    thank you for your article “GOING FRENCH”. it was very useful for me. i really appreciate it. the relationship between English and French isso attractive and it’s real that there are some words with same background and different pronunciation and i need to learn them.

  23. Dear everyone,
    It is a interesting stroy. it is very popular in many places.