Monday, November 20, 2017

Bon anniversaire français!

It was right around this time last year that I decided to learn French. So after several courses I'm at level B1, which is Intermediate. Tres bien!

Here is all about the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL) scale of language fluency.

This page provides reasons for why it's easier to learn English than it is to learn French. Of course the real test would be for someone who speaks a language outside of the Indo-European language family - something like Korean - to try to learn both and then decide. Although of course once they learned one of them, learning the other would be easier than starting from scratch since English and French do have some things in common, especially the multi-syllable words.

But the chart below lays it out better than I've seen before. 

French English (with commentary by me)
accentsin many wordsonly in foreign words (easier!)
agreementyesno (much easier!)
articlesmore commonless common (easier!)
capitalizationless commonmore common (not easier to learn - but easier to read and at least we don't go totally nuts with capitalization like German)
conjugationsdifferent for each grammatical persondifferent only for third person singular (so freaking much easier!)
contractionsrequiredoptional and informal (please note - "optional!")
genderfor all nouns and most pronounsonly for personal pronouns (SO much easier!)
liaisonsyesno (if we decide not to pronounce a letter in a word we stick with that for all occasions - EASIER!)
negationtwo wordsone word (half as difficult)
prepositionscertain verbs require prepositionsmany phrasal verbs (a draw)
rhythmstress at the end of each rhythmic groupstressed syllable in each word, plus stress on important word (OK this one is harder)
Roman numeralsmore common, often ordinal less common, rarely ordinal (easier)

This chart demonstrates conclusively that there are just more things to learn in French. Of the 13 language features listed English takes the easier route in nine cases. Only one feature is more difficult in English, and that's syllable stressing. Which means it only counts in spoken language, not written.

I mean look at this:
  • No accents to learn in English. 
  •  No gender except for personal nouns - in other words no gender for objects like tables and pens. And no "agreement" - agreement means that you have to make sure the articles (the, a) and adjectives you use with your noun have the same gender as the noun. So if you write a feminine word like leg, which is "jambe" all articles and adjectives must be feminine (they "agree" which gender the noun has) so it would be la longue jambe and not le long jambe
  •  And then there are conjugations. 
Here's how you conjugate "to walk": 
  • I walk 
  • You walk 
  • He/she/it walks (this is third person singular) 
  • We walk 
  •  You walk 
  • They walk 

So you have to remember only two different variations on walk. Just stick an S on the end.

 Here is how you conjugate the French word for to walk, marcher
  •  Je marche 
  • Tu marches 
  • Il/elle/on marche
  • Nous marchons
  • Vous marchez
  • Ils/Elles marchent

That's right, there are five variations. And that's just for a "regular" ER ending verb. There are different rules for words that end in IR, other rules for words the end in RE and no rules at all for irregular verbs.

And that's just for present tense. They also have a tense called "imparfait" which means something happened on an ongoing basis in the past. So you can't say "I used to walk all the time." You have to change the word for "walk" itself. So the present tense in French for "I walk all the time" is "Je march toujours." But for "I walked all the time" you say "Je marchais toujours." And yes, of course they have five conjugations for the imparfait form of marcher, since you asked: marchais, marchait, marchions, marchiez, marchaient.

French also has conjugations for future tense, which we do not have at all in English. So if you want to indicate that you will walk in the future you say "I will walk" or "I am going to walk." The word "walk" doesn't get conjugated.

You could say "Je vais marcher" which means I go to walk. The word "to go" in French is the English speaker's best friend. Just say "Je vais" plus the verb and you can do anything in the future, sing, dance, eat, drink, whatever. Je vais chanter, danser, manger, boire. (Yes "boire" is an RE verb and you absolutely cannot guess how it is conjugated. Go here for details.)

Of course you also have to conjugate the word "to go" but at least you already learned that when you learned how to conjugate present tense, and that was hard enough. "To go" is "aller" so guess how they conjugate it? Like this!
  • je vais
  • tu vas
  • il va
  • nous allons
  • vous allez
  • ils vont
This word has six conjugations and only two of them look close to "aller" just to fuck with you. And of course aller has its own million ways to be conjugated in other tenses, but we'll let that alone for now.

So you could get by with "Je vais" but you can't be sure that those damn francophones are going to stick with that form, so you have to learn the future tense conjugations for "to walk"
  • Je marcherais 
  • Tu marcherais 
  • Il/Elle/On marcherait 
  • Nous marcherons 
  • Vous marcherez 
  • Ils/Elles marcheront 
It will take you from level A1 to level B1 (six 30-hour courses in case you're wondering) just to learn all the indicative conjugations. And then they tell you about the "mood" conjugations - the subjonctif. The concept of conjugating "moods"  does not even exist in English. You can read all about it here.

That's it for now but I will be complaining about French plenty more on this blog in the future.

Je vais me plaindre à l'avenir.
Je me plaindrai à l'avenir.

(Plaindre is a "reflex verb" which the chart above fails to mention. One more goddam thing.)