Is French Similar To German? (Revealed)


Languages are constantly getting compared to one another, French and German are two of the usual suspects. Comparing languages usually revolves around the features and popularity of the two languages. As such French and German are both spoken by millions, and French had Germanic influence. So, are French and German similar?

French and German have similarities in vocabulary, and have a high lexical count. However, they are not close languages, because overall they remain significantly distinct from each other. From pronunciation to grammar rules, French and German are not closely related.

Though it is certainly small, the similarities between French and German should not be discounted. German has no other real connection to languages derived from Latin, thus making French unique. As well, there is more to learn about French and German, especially regarding which is easier to learn, and what are the closest languages to them.

Is French easier to learn than German?

For anyone first considering learning a language, or even language learning veterans, the primary question nearly always asked is whether a language they wish to learn is easy or not. The problem is, every language is hard to learn in its own respect.

This is what bars most from learning a language, because all languages are in their own way difficult to learn.

Languages always take a lot of time and effort to be acquired, and some being harder than average deters people from learning them.

So, Instead of asking whether a language is easy, it is better to ask whether it is easier, especially in comparison to any other particular language. No language is necessarily easy, yet they can be less difficult when compared to other languages, and this can be due to a variety of reasons.

As such, we should then ask the question: is French or German easier to learn?

Generally for these two languages, French is considered to be easier to learn than German. French is better at casting a wide net into both the Romance and Germanic languages by having similarities in both groups. While German’s features, specifically its grammar, make it harder.

Yet, what does it really mean for one language to be easier to learn? We all know that they are easier and harder, but do we really know why we classify them as such? Well, let’s find out!

What Does It Mean For A Language To Be Easier To Learn?

We should start with learning how a language can be easier to learn, then move on to the implications if one is easier.

How Can A Language Be Easier To Learn?

Some languages are intricately more or less easy to learn for English speakers, though why do we think this?

It involves these main factors:

  • The features of a language.
  • The availability of a language.
  • The practicality of language.

All of these factors are solid enough for someone to learn a language, due to this we should explore each one a little more.

Features

This refers to the “details” of language, namely their vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and things we normally associate along those lines.

Languages like German are known as having a hard to acquire and complex grammar, and this in turn makes it harder for a lot of people.

Availability

The resources needed for learning a language are huge, whether it be books, online video courses, or a speaking partner you need to have tools available.

So, this takes out languages that could be considered “fringe” or dying, since they by nature have less speakers and resources available for those willing to learn it.

Practicality

A more subjective factor for how a language can be hard to learn is the practicality of a language: whether or not it is useful.

This really affects language learning in terms of motivation, since if a language is not usable in your situation in life, then you will probably not have the motivation to continue long enough to learn it.

The reason why this is subjective, is that some people might not care if it’s useful. And for some language learners this is most definitely true. As such it depends on a particular person’s own interests for this to be applicable.

Easiest Languages For French Speakers

If these reasons are why languages are easier to learn, then what would be the languages that French speakers find easier to learn?

  • Catalan
  • Italian
  • Spanish
  • Portuguese
  • English

Of course, these are generalities, but for the most part this is what French speakers find easier to learn.

Easiest Languages For German Speakers

Doing the same for German speakers, what do they find easier to learn?

  • English (a significant amount of Germans in Germany can speak English)
  • Dutch
  • Danish

Most languages that Germans find easier to learn are exclusively Germanic languages (this with the slight exception for French).

From The Perspective Of English Speakers…

So, let’s be honest, most of us really just care how all this affects English speakers. Simply because you are reading this article means that more than likely you speak English (Some use . This means that we should naturally find out the easiest language for English, and determine whether French or German fall into that category.

Easiest Languages For English Speakers

Using research done by the U.S. Department of State, we can find certain languages to be easier for English speakers. This conclusion is based on how long it takes to learn a language and English speakers tend to learn these faster, thus implying they are easier in some way.

The following are some of the easiest languages for English speakers:

  • Danish
  • Dutch
  • Norwegian
  • Swedish
  • Spanish
  • Portuguese
  • Italian
  • French
  • Romanian

French And English

French is considered to be one of the easiest languages for English speakers, thus for most of us this means that it would be easier to learn than German.

This does not mean that French is easy however. No language is easy because it always takes time and effort to learn. What it does mean is that it is easier compared to most other languages (like German).

That is one of the reasons why French is such a popular choice for a second language by English speakers.

German And English

Though both are Germanic languages, German is not considered easier to learn for those who speak English natively. Instead it is seen as intermediate at best, but in reality this is not accurate.

It would be better to say that German is hard for English speakers, despite their similarities, since German has concepts and complex grammar that are utterly for foreign to English today.

Related to our article in a very important way, is that from the perspective of the youth according to this study, they determined that they preferred French over German. The reasons given for this were them seeing German as harder than French, which was largely related with German’s grammar.

If looking to learn more about French, or about language learning, then check out my other articles!

What Are French And German’s Similarities?

So, French and German are not close, true, but they do have things in common. If their similarities are not related to grammar and pronunciation, then we should ask the question: what are French and German’s similarities?

French and German similarities revolve around their vocabulary, namely their lexical count. Together the both share 29% lexical similarity, thus showing that they have a considerable percentage in common. However, many of the meaning of these words are not shared.

This is what they share the most with each other, but French has much higher lexical count with Latin languages than it does with German.

What is unique in the relationship between French and German is not how much they share, instead it is that they share anything at all.

Why Do German And French Have Any Similarities At All?

So, French and German don’t have a ton in common, but what they do have seems to be kind of weird. Since German has nothing in common with nearly all Romance languages, whereas French has connections with both German and English. Leaving many to wonder why there are any similarities at all between them?

French has similarities with German and English due to the Germanic influence throughout northern Europe centuries ago. Along with having less contact with Romance languages, French was for a long time seen as an educated language, giving it more international influence.

If interested in more about this particular topic, I answered why French is so different from other Latin based languages in my article here.

What other reasons are there for French to have things in common with German? What more can we learn about it and why it is unique?

Historical Reasons…

French had many Germanic influences that made it have some similarities with languages like German and English.

Some of these influences came from the Normans, who were Scandinavians that became Frenchmen by fully adopting the French way of life (including their language). They were located in Normandy, but eventually the Normans led by William the Conqueror took over England.

So, the Normans brought Germanic influences to French, and then encountered some of their own when invading England (since English is a West-Germanic language), further swaying the French language.

This is one historical example of how Germanic could be seen to affect the French people, and in turn the French language.

Cultural Reasons…

The cultural aspect of language learning should never be discounted, and with French, it helped facilitate an environment that made it different from all those around.

For the longest time, the culture of French was seen as being educated, or a noble language. This affected it in many ways, starting with how the academic nature of French made it not change like a lot of other languages.

After a certain point, it stopped being influenced, and started to be the influencer of other languages. Any language with that kind of status will end up becoming like this, thus showing the ways culture affected the way French is today.

What Is The Closest Language To French?

If French and German are not the closest languages to each other, even though they might have similarities relating mainly to vocabulary, this begs the question: what is the closest language to French?

The closest language to French is Catalan, and the closest major language to French is Italian. Catalan is derived from Spanish and French, thus leaving it’s strong connection with French understandable. With Italian and French, they share a high lexical percentage and Latin roots.

These might be the closest languages to French, but there are still plenty of others that are just shy of that. What are some other languages that are close to French?

Closest Romance Languages To French

French has the most in common with those in the Romance languages, and out of that group, these are the closest:

  • Catalan
  • Italian
  • Spanish
  • Portuguese
  • Romanian

All of these languages have significant similarities with French, from vocabulary to grammar. This is what makes French closer to them than to other languages.

Closest Germanic Languages To French

French has some similarities with those in the Germanic languages, making them worth mentioning. Yet, in comparison to the Romance language, French has much less in common with Germanic languages.

The closest Germanic languages to French are:

  • English
  • German

The reason for this is the high borrowed content that each of these languages share with one another.

So, I said that German is not close to French (which is true), but when taking into account all of the Germanic languages, German and English are the closest to French.

What Is The Closest Language To German?

If the closest languages to French is Catalan and Italian, naturally we should then ask: what are the closest languages to German?

Dutch is the closest language to German, due to shared vocabulary and grammar. English and German also share many similarities, and this affects Dutch because it is derived from both of those languages. Thus, this is why Dutch and German share so much.

Though Dutch might be the closest to German, just like it is with French, there are plenty of other languages that are almost as close. So, what are the closest languages to German?

Closest Romance Languages To German

Out of all the Romance languages, how many have any real similarities with German?

  • French

Truly, French is one of the few languages derived from Latin that has much in common with German than a few borrowed words. Not only that, it has the highest amount of similarities out of any that do.

However small it might seem, especially when comparing French to Latin based languages, this relationship with German does put French in a unique position.

Closest Germanic Languages To German

Across the Germanic languages, these have those most in common with German:

  • English
  • Danish
  • Dutch

German has little in common with those outside the Germanic languages. Thus further establishing French’s unique relationship with German.

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

French and German have similarities, but are not close languages. They have a unique relationship because they really should not have anything in common, however the historical events and cultural aspects that French experienced made it the unique language it is today. Thus, both languages share vocabulary despite being pretty different overall.

If interested in more topics relating to language learning, or French, check out some of my other articles!

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