FRENCH AND ENGLISH SHARE 40% OF THEIR VOCABULARY

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At the American Institute for English Proficiency (which has two branches in the Philippines), you can study to build your English vocabulary.  English borrows heavily from other languages.  The language which English has borrowed the most from is French.  In fact, it is quite possible that the English language shares at least 40% of the same vocabulary with the French language. (Some of these come directly from French, but others come from French, which in turn come from Latin.)

This is primarily because England and France are close neighbors.  In fact, in 1066, England became ruled by a people from Northern France called the Normans.  Thus their language influenced the English language heavily.

More recently, French was actually the primary international language from about the 17th to 20th centuries.  Thus, it was widely studied and used in many English-speaking countries before their language replaced it in the 1900s.

It is useful to know which English words come from French because this can help one to learn to pronounce these words, which may seem to have very strange spelling.  Here are some examples:

  • A violent overthrow of a government and its replacement with another is called a coup d’etat (pronounced “koo-day-TAH”).
  • A meeting time/meeting place is designated as a rendezvous (“RON-day-voo”).
  • A synonym for boyfriend is beau (“BO”).
  • Those little appetizers at fancy parties are called hors d’oeuvres (“or-DERV”).
  • A word or phrase that is overused, unoriginal, or unfunny is called a cliche (“klee-SHAY”).
  • Material or garbage left out on the road or leftover from an accident is debris (“duh-BREE”).
  • An apprentice who works under a mentor is called a protege (“pro-tuh-ZHAY”).
  • An act that is considered socially unacceptable is a faux pas (“fo-PAH”)
  • A lengthy scolding or rant is called a harangue (“huh-RANG”).
  • It is useful to keep in mind that often if an English word comes from French and is spelled with a ch, the pronunciation will sound like the one in shore, and not chore. For example: chef, chauffeur, chandelier.
  • Similarly, if the word is spelled with a que, it will sound like the one in “kick”, and not “quick”.  For example:  bouquet, etiquette, torque.

These are just a few examples of the many, many French words that have found their way into English. Try using these French words in practicing your English!  And if you want to learn more English vocabulary, enroll at the American Institute for English Proficiency in Makati and Quezon City, Philippines!

  • carey besinga

    I am thrilled when learning that many awkward-sounding words in English which came from foreign languages like French. And I am usually sighing, “ah, now that makes sense!”

  • Icey Justalero

    Wow, this article was very educational! I didn’t know some of the things mentioned here, like French being the primary international language from around the 17th to 20th century.

  • seona jung

    It is interesting to know new words in french and English because some of them sound alike.

  • Liz Orale Aiep

    Learning languages is a wonderful thing. By learning one after the other, it builds your knowledge and curiosity by just trying to understand where the words come from and how similar they sound like with other foreign words. Thus, I’ve also become a lover of history and all it’s stories; when you connect them, it all makes sense and it just fascinates me. Cheers! 😀

    • I know you speak French very well. You have the knack for learning languages. I have always wanted to learn French, but for some reason, I took Spanish in high school.

      • Liz Orale Aiep

        Thanks, Chris. Friends are one the greatest influence in my life. It’s amazing how learning languages could tell so many stories behind their sounds and meanings. Now that you’re back in the U.S., I’m sure you’ll get to practice more of your Spanish. 🙂

  • Vinz San Juan

    Amazing! I thought some of the words above were purely originated from English language. Now, I know

  • Julia Borisenko

    I enjoyed reading this article. It’s very interesting and informative.