Is English Similar To French? (Answered)


English and French are some of the most popular languages in the world, with English being the most spoken. Due to their popularity, and both being found in Europe, they are commonly compared to one another. Some even go as far as saying that one is easier to learn if you speak the other. So, is English similar to French?

English is similar to French on several fronts. However, they remain two very distinct languages overall. They both share vocabulary due to their connections to Latin. French’s grammar is similar, yet it is more regular when compared to English.

Though these languages are similar, English is not the same as French. Speakers from both languages cannot understand each other. The vocabulary of the two languages is where the most similarities are noticeable. Yet, the meaning and pronunciation with these languages do not carry over. How similar are English and French really?

Is French The Closest Language To English?

It wouldn’t be a stretch to think that since the common vocabulary and grammar rules between these two language are so apparent, that it means they’re very close. Some go as far as saying that French is the closest to English. Is any of this true? Is French the closest language to English?

Even though French and English share a lot of similarities, French is not the closest language to English. For starters, despite having many similarly written words, they do not mean the same or are pronounced the same across both languages. So, they’re not the closest languages to each other.

If English and French are not the “closest” to each other, then what are their individual closest languages?

In the instance of English, Dutch is the closest language.

English is in an entirely different language group than French. This language group is called the Germanic languages, and contains languages mainly found in northern Europe. Within these Germanic languages is where both English and Dutch are located.

With French, Italian is considered to be the closest language.

French and Italian are both Latin based languages, this means that they are derived from Latin. These Latin based languages are generally known as Romance languages. These languages mainly consist of languages found in Europe.

However, we will find that French is unique language and it will be hard to find the closest language out there.

If Dutch and Italian are considered to be English and French’s respective closest language, then the next question would be, “Why is this the case?”.

The Closest Language To English

To understand what the closest language to English is, we must first establish what it means for any language to be close to one another, much less the closest.

For any language to be close they need to have one or more of the following that are similar:

  • grammar
  • vocabulary
  • pronunciation
  • heritage

More often than not, a language that is close to another will have most of these since they are generally dependent on each other.

A language that is the closest to another also means that it embodies these attributes more than any other language. So, now that we have an idea of what it means for a language to be close, what is the closest language to English?

The closest language to English is Dutch. Both of these languages are classified as Germanic languages, thus sharing many of the same roots and similar structure. English and Dutch also have similar characteristics like vocabulary and grammar rules.

Dutch is the closest language to English, but there are plenty of other languages that are nearly as close as Dutch. What are some of these other languages that are very close to English?

Germanic Languages That Are Closest To English

German. German and English have a lot of similarities, though this may actually surprise some. For starters, they are both Germanic languages. Not only that, both are in the same sub-group within the Germanic languages known as West-Germanic. English shares a large amount of the same roots with German, mainly due to their shared foundation.

Dutch. Dutch as was previously mentioned, is the closest language to English. The biggest cause for this is the origin of Dutch, namely it being derived from the same roots as English and German. Yet, Dutch grew into an entirely unique language, and is not just a language “sandwich”.

Norwegian. Norwegian is considered one of the easiest languages for English speakers, and it very well may be true. Funnily enough, the closest language to English and the easiest language have two different answers. This means that even though English might be close to a language, it does not mean it will be easier to learn.

Latin Based Languages That Are Closest To English

The Latin based languages are those that are derived from Vulgar Latin. While the Germanic languages mainly are languages found in northern Europe, the Latin based languages that are most well known are mainly in southern Europe.

All Latin based languages are more commonly referred to as a part of the Romance languages (this has nothing to do with French being Latin based, I assure you).

French. French is close to English in numerous ways, and for numerous reasons. Like with German, English and French share many of the same roots of words. This is due to English being, though still a Germanic language, very influenced by Latin. So, English and French share many of the same Latin roots, making them close (even if they’re not the closest).

Spanish. Spanish and English are commonly compared to each other. Spanish is not the closest language to English nor the easiest to learn (It’s upper level grammar can be quite challenging). Yet, with so many loan words it is still very similar. For any English speaker, Spanish can a great second language due to it being very easy to learn and it’s prevalence.

The Closest Language To French

A problems that comes up when considering what language is closest to French, has to due with its unique sound. The pronunciation that French features makes languages that really are very close, sound like anything but.

Even the languages that on paper are extremely close (literally, since they have similarities in the written form), sound like distant relatives rather than anything with a significant connection.

In this study, from the Journal of Phonetics, it saw that even English speakers who spoke French as their second language with quite well still had trouble with the pronunciation of French.

Despite French not sounding all that close to any language, it nonetheless has strong ties to many different languages by having shared roots of words and vocabulary. If all that is the case, then what would be the closest language to French?

Italian is the closest language to French. Despite not sounding all that similar, French and Italian have high lexical similarities. Along with this, both languages are both Latin based and as such Romance languages. Thus, this leads French and Italian to be very similar.

Italian French are essentially the closest to each other, however many languages are very close to French and worth mentioning. Especially since to the average person, all of these languages might end up seeming pretty much equally close to French. So, what other languages are close to French?

Germanic Languages That Are Closest To French

The Germanic languages mainly originated in northern Europe, thus having history related to the Germanic tribes and what is now considered to be the Scandinavian countries.

This means that the old Norse Viking languages all happened to be Germanic languages, which is pretty cool to think about (even though the Vikings were pretty much bloodthirsty raiders).

English. English is close to French, despite being a West-Germanic language. For the most part, it remains the only Germanic language that is close to French. French does not have much in common with the Germanic languages, and instead is mainly impacted by Latin.

English is like French because of two main points:

  • It was influenced by Latin in significant ways
  • It shared historical events and trends like the taking over of England by the French in the 11th century

This in a way just points out how unique English is (of course, I’m not trying to diminish any other languages), since it is the only real Germanic language that is close to French, and even the other Romance languages for that matter.

Latin Based Languages That Are Closest To French

Italian. Italian and French are very close, even if some can’t tell when hearing the two languages side by side. The cause for these similarities is that they’re both Romance languages, followed by the large word roots and vocabulary that they both share. More so than pretty much any other Latin based language when compared to French.

Spanish. Though not as much as other languages, Spanish and French are close. It is said that Spanish speakers might understand a small French word here or there. This is a more subjective point to make, especially because there is no one definitive answer, but some say that Spanish and French sound a bit similar.

Catalan. Catalan is a language spoken less throughout the world, but a version of it so to speak originated in France. As such it has many noticeable similarities with the French language due to it’s origin. However, it is said that these similar features of Catalan are more related to recent events and were not always the case.

I should also mention that many other Romance languages are similar to French, but for the sake of brevity, these were the most notable languages to point out.

If looking for more things related to languages and language learning, then read some of my other articles!

Is English Closer To French Or German?

German, English, and French are all well known languages that are spoken by many. That is why it wouldn’t surprise anyone that they would be commonly compared to one another. One comparison related to our topic would be the question of: is English closer to French or German?

English is closer to German, and this is because of Old English. German and old English were very similar until the first settlers came to England. English then became isolated and different, yet still ties remain of those earlier days. With English and French, a different connection exists.

English and German are both Germanic languages, and this means more than just being apart of the same “team”. It has to due with grammar, vocabulary, and even pronunciation growing so to speak along the same paths, as such forming languages that have similarities.

This goes to show how historical events have and influencing effect on languages in general. Since English and German shared very similar upbringings, the effects are still seen today.

Why Does English And French Have Similar Words?

If English and French share words, however much that might be, then naturally we should explore some reasons why this is the case. So, why does English and French have similar words?

English and French both share words due to the influences of Latin, however the chief cause were the historical occupations of England. England has had a history of occupation from France and as such the English language has been effected both in vocabulary and structure.

As an example of occupation, look no further than William the Conqueror in the 11 century. He lead his army of the Normans and occupied England. The Normans were mainly made up descendants of Vikings and Scandinavians speaking a dialect of French (as you can see, we have our connection).

William the Conqueror ended up becoming the King of England, and this in turn would affect the nobles and aristocracy. Since he spoke French (or at least a dialect of it), the upper class and the English court spoke French long after William’s death.

The aristocracy of England commonly spoke French since they saw it as a educated language. Something similar happened across Europe and even in countries like Russia.

All this in turn meant that French was spoken in England, even if only from the high born. History is giving us point in time where English and French had direct interaction and confrontation (a very direct confrontation, mind you). That would naturally affect both languages, leaving the similarities we see today making a little more sense.

The Final Talking Point On Whether English Is Similar To French…

English and French are both similar, though they are completely different languages. They both share vocabulary, yet the meaning and pronunciations are significantly different.

In the end, English and French have both complex histories that intertwined and as such left them with some similarities (though still leaving them distinct).

For all things language learning, I have plenty of other articles to choose from.

Jackie Booe

Jackie Booe is a licensed teacher for elementary through high school in 3 states. She is a former adjunct professor at the undergraduate level and certified to teach elementary, secondary English, and English Language Learners. She was a mentor for many education interns, has taught and coordinated professional development for teachers and educators, and professionally tutored in a multitude of subjects.

Recent Posts