French or German

Yumping Yiminee   Tuesday, July 01, 2003, 06:06 GMT
After reading some of your posts about the French language, and then about Clark wanting to take German, I would like to know which language any of you think is easier for someone who speaks English as a native language.

So is German or French easier for an English speaker?

P.S. There was not really a moral for my "English World" story. I thought it was an interesting concept that reminds me of something that is possible in books like A Brave New World and 1984.
Clark   Tuesday, July 01, 2003, 06:10 GMT
I would say French is easier than German. But maybe I will tell you a different story when I have taken a semester of German.

In German, one has to worry about three genders, whereas French there are only two.

In German, there are four case declensions, whereas in French there are none.

French has a hard pronunciation where as German is a bit easier (well, at least in my opinion).

What about you, Yumping Yi...? What languages have you learned or do you speak?
Yumping Yiminee   Tuesday, July 01, 2003, 06:11 GMT
I only speak a "de" English, herr mann.
hmm   Tuesday, July 01, 2003, 09:14 GMT
I'm a native english speaker, have learnt german to a semi-fluent level and also some french.

Grammatically, French is definitely easier. It has a syntax much more similar to English than German does, and no case system to worry about.

Phonetically German is easier, both to spell and pronounce.

When it comes to vocabulary its a tough choice. I find with German that the everyday language is reasonably easy and many words are similar to english ones, but the formal language can be quite difficult with gigantic word constructions and huge big adjective clauses (or whatever they're called).

However with French theres also many words that have similar words in English, especially in the formal style. They look the same written down but when it comes to pronouncing them this is another story.

I would say for the english learner:

easier < harder

Pronunciation: german<spanish<french
reading/writing : german<spanish<french
grammar: french<spanish<german

overall: spanish < french << german <<<<< mandarin

I chucked spanish in there because I've learnt a bit of that too.
Lana   Tuesday, July 01, 2003, 13:44 GMT
I read an article yesterday that said Mandarin speakers use more of their brain, both left and right hemispheres, than speakers of European languages (left hemisphere only). They said it is because of the tones.
Peter   Tuesday, July 01, 2003, 13:51 GMT
I tried learning Chinese once and put a lot of effort into learning the tones (running before I could walk). I found it so stressful that I didn't go any further. It really hurt my brain.
to hmm   Tuesday, July 01, 2003, 18:33 GMT
Well, of course it's only very subjective but I don't think Chinese is a problem : As for the characters, well, I'm learning Japanese and though the number of kanji you have to master actively is much smaller, the combination of two reading systems (on and kun) as well as the mixture of two syllabic writings (katakana and hiragama) make it more difficult than Mandarin - as for grammar - well, Mandarin almost has no grammar. The pronunciation is indeed very hard. Only Mongolian comes close to it in terms of difficulty.
I'm German and I agree with some points but not all:
First, the case system is a minor problem since you just have to learn the different forms .There are not so many exceptions.
Secondly, you're right with the genders: it's not only full of exceptions but quite often very illogical : Mut (courage, valour) is masculine : der Mut
but the derivative Schwermut (melancholy) is feminine : die Schwermut or Scheu (die Scheu) but Abscheu (der Abscheu).
Thirdly, as far as pronunciation is concerned one can say that German is very, very phonetical (esp. in contrast to English!!!! or even Gaelic) - but French is even more phonetical; the fact that the sound [o:] can occur as "au, eau, eaux, o, o(with circumflex),... is nothing special - just rules.
But French is very easy to pronounce - just as the English "th" everybody except those who suffer from some damage of their speech apparatus can pronounce French. Nevertheless, it is almost impossible to ever get rid of one's accent.
There are some German sounds which native speakers of English and also French seem to be incapable to produce - maybe I've encountered the lazy ones only :-) . These are the different "umlaute" which just sound weird if pronounced improperly (no problem for the French). Besides, there is the uvular "r" and "ch" as in Bach (no problem for French) and others.
But the spelling is very difficult as it is very pedantic : You have to pay attention to capitals : e.g. der Dienstagabend, an einem Dienstagabend, but Dienstag abend, dienstags abends ( Tuesday night, on a Tuesday night...). Germans make lots and lots of mistakes. This is the most difficult part about German along with punctuation. German has the most complex punctuation rules of all languages why they decided to reform this which created an even greater chaos.
So, generally, German is much more difficult than French, but since you're English, you'll soon learn that both languages are similar and thus, in the end, German will certainly be easier for you.
Clark   Tuesday, July 01, 2003, 19:08 GMT
Well, here is my short but sweet input; again.

Spanish is probably a little easier than French because of phonetics. And, because there is a logic to the language (el gato poco > los gatos pocos; the plural makes each word have an "s" which seems very logical for me).

However, on the whole, I think that French is grammatically easier, especially for English-speakers.

As for Gaelic, it is phonetic. Not as ponetic as SPanish or German, but a lot more phonetic than English.
to to hmm   Wednesday, July 02, 2003, 03:33 GMT
>I'm German and I agree with some points but not all:
>First, the case system is a minor problem since you just have to learn the different forms.There are not so many exceptions.

Minor problem? It may seem minor if you're German!
Its easy to say 'learn the forms' but to remember a case when you're speaking is actually quite difficult (at least in the beginning, especially when you've grown up speaking a language that doesn't use them. The difference is, you use a particular case because it sounds right, a foreign speaker has to very quickly think what the correct form is, for example when attempting to say this english sentence in german:

"The man gave the book to a pretty woman."

-Lets analyse the case of 'woman'. It'll be in a german sentence which will be based on something like this:

[D* Mann] hat [d* Buch] [e* huebsch* Frau] gegeben.

Right, now obviously woman is a feminine noun, so thats already solved the gender mystery. Now I have to analyse the verb 'to give', now I know that the german verb 'geben' can take a direct object with an indirect object. Woman is obviously an indirect object therefore in this case, woman is in the dative case.
Now after using the built in case/gender table in my head I can say that for a feminine noun in the dative case, the indefinite article must be 'einer'.

Does this sound easy? Well its not quite over yet.
We also have that adjective 'pretty' which in german I'll use huebsch (possibly spelt wrong). Its sitting there in the dative case by a feminine noun, because it is preceded by 'a' it requires a strong declension. After looking up thestrong declension of adjectives table we get the ending -en. Now we can change huebsch to huebschen. So in english this case of 'a pretty woman' = 'einer huebschen Frau'

Does it still seem easy, well in the 2 seconds you have to say this sentence you also need to work out what case 'the man' and 'the book' are in, until you finally manage to get the resultant sentence, something like:

Der Mann hat das Buch einer huebschen Frau gegeben.


It does become automatic after speaking german for a year or so, but in the beginning, this language is a complete nightmare.
Clark   Wednesday, July 02, 2003, 08:22 GMT
Does anyone know of any French websites offering basic French grammar?

I would like to get back to the basics, and really improve upon my grammar.
Kabam   Wednesday, July 02, 2003, 12:27 GMT
Yes Clark. I have some interesting links for you:

Un forum de discussion pour les francophones :

300 exercices de grammaire et de conjugaison française :

Apprendre le français avec Radio France International (avec notement des exercices d'écoute)

Le magazine interactif pour pratiquer le français (avec beaucoup d'exercices)

Le français avec TV5 (avec notement  > Dictionnaire de la langue française > Dictionnaire des synonymes > Conjugaisons > Dictionnaire français/anglais > Dictionnaire anglais/français)

Orthonet. Un dictionnaire qui corrige ton orthographe (orthographe = spelling)

Le site des peuples premiers (c'est pas vraiment sur le Français mais c'est quand même une occasion de le pratiquer en parlant d'un sujet qui - je crois - t'intéresse)

Oh, and a last useful tip, Clark: when you're not too sure whether a way of putting the thing is correct or not, key it on Google. I do the same in English. If, for exemple, I want to know if I should say ("what are you speaking about?" or "what are you speaking of?", I key them on google (between quotation sign, or else Google won't search the exact expression) and I see which search get some matching pages.
Kabam   Wednesday, July 02, 2003, 12:31 GMT
"what are you speaking of?" matches more page than "what are you speaking about?", but both seem to be correct. Is that true?
Kabam   Wednesday, July 02, 2003, 12:35 GMT
Sorry ...more pages...
Clark   Wednesday, July 02, 2003, 19:28 GMT
J'ai lu ces sites. Il y en a seul une que j'aime (ou "qui j'aime). C'est "Bonjour de France." Il m'aide beaucoup.

Je voudrais trouver des autres sites de web pour les anglophones qui veulent a apprendre (qui veulent _?_ apprendre) le français (ou seulement "français).

Je ne m'inquiete pas de parler comme les parisiens, je voudrais savoir bien les regles de grammaire.

J'essaie très fort a parler et a écrire meilleure.

Now the same thing in English:

I read these sites. There is only one of them that I like. "It is "Bonjour de France." It helps me a lot.

I would like to find some other sites for English-speakers who want to learn French.

I am not worried about speaking French like the Parisians, but I would like to know the grammar rules well.

I am trying very hard to speak and write better.

Danke schon zu alle dem helfe mir mit mei Franzusisch!
Chantal   Wednesday, July 02, 2003, 20:53 GMT

To the best of my knowledge as a learner, I would say 'what are you speaking about ?'

You speak 'of' or 'about' something, you talk or say something about them :
She spoke about her plans for the future.
The area has been spoken of as a possible site for the new airport.
The witness spoke of a great ball of flame.

You also speak 'of'something (formal register) :to indicate something, to suggest something : her behaviour speaks of suffering bravely borne.