Although we like to focus on the positive here at Live Lingua, sometimes it helps to identify some of the more common language mistakes when it comes to learning a new language. In this blog post, let’s take a few moments to unpack some of the most common mistakes in the French language, especially for new language learners.
Common Mistake #1: Gender
In many languages besides English, nouns are given either a masculine or feminine gender. Although there are certain enders that indicate masculine or feminine, there are also many exceptions to this rule. While intuition will take you far, some good old memorization never hurts! From the beginning of your French studies, focus on learning your articles. Over time, French language gender will become second nature.
Common Mistake #2: Looking for -ing in the French language
For many English learners, there are multiple ways to discuss the present tense. You can say, “I see the postman” or “I am looking at the postman”. In the French language, the only present tense offered is the simple present. If you try to make the -ing form of English verbs work in French, you will only face frustration!
Common Mistake #3: The French Verb “To Be”
The French verb for “to be” is être. For example, Je suis content or “I am happy.” However, there are other verbs in French that have a similar meaning and are often confused. Sometimes, based on the word and situation, you must use the word avoir (to have) or faire (to do) to translate “to be.” For example, J’ai 30 ans or “I am 30 years old.” The literal translation would be, “I have 30 years” but in this case, the verb avoir steps for an irregular, idomatic use of “to be”.
Common Mistake #4: Forgetting contractions
Just like English, French uses contractions. Je t’aime, or “I love you” is one of the more common phrases where a contraction is used. Luckily, French contractions are relatively easy to learn and follow rather consistent rules for usage. Once you know the rules, you are set!
Common Mistake #5: French accents
Beyond irregular verbs and gender, by far one of the most common mistakes in the French language for English learners is knowing where to place French accent marks. French accent marks include: aigu ´, grave `, circonflexe ˆ , tréma ¨, and cédille ¸, found only on the letter c. The important thing to remember about French accents is that they do more than make a word look pretty: they give hints and clues as to the correct pronunciation. For example, a cédille changes the hard sound “c” to a soft sound. Pay attention to your accent marks and use them to help you learn the correct pronunciation.
When learning a language, it is always helpful to know your struggles and spend additional time overcoming mental blocks. Whether it’s one of the five listed above or another small issue that you face when learning the French language, do not despair! Keep going and you will become proficient in no time!