The average Portuguese person could understand Spanish
5 ways Spanish and French are similar
Spanish and French are two of the most popular languages in the world. The former is spoken in countries such as Spain, Mexico and Argentina, while the latter has official status in countries such as France, Canada and Belgium. It is estimated that Spanish is spoken by a total of 570 million people and French by around 220 million.
But Spanish and French are not only among the most widely spoken languages in the world, they also have common roots and are counted among the Romance languages. They are also two of the three most popular second foreign languages offered in schools in Europe and the US, which means that students often have to choose between the two.
But that was not all the similarities between these two languages. Let's look at a few of the main characteristics that are considered similar in Spanish and French, and explain why mastering one language can make learning the other easier.
One of the most important similarities between Spanish and French deals with the roots of these two languages. In fact, both are descended from Vulgar Latin, sometimes known as slang Latin, which was the form of Latin spoken by the lower classes of the Roman Empire, such as merchants and soldiers.
When the Roman Empire collapsed, numerous variations of Latin emerged, which were associated with specific local areas. Both French and Spanish developed as languages in their own right between the sixth and ninth centuries, and both spread to other parts of the world, mainly through French, Belgian and Spanish colonialism.
2. The alphabet
While it may be obvious to some, one of the crucial similarities between Spanish and French is the fact that they both use the same 26 letters of the Latin alphabet. This is a significant affinity because it means they both use the same writing system, which makes learning the written language easy.
Although the letters of the alphabet are used to make different words and sounds, switching from writing Spanish words to writing French and vice versa is much easier than in many other languages. For example, a French speaker who wants to learn Mandarin or Arabic would have to learn a completely new writing system.
3. Lexical similarity
Within the field of linguistics, lexical similarity refers to the similarities in words between two languages. This is determined by a series of standardized word lists of the two languages concerned and by the number of matches in terms of form and meaning.
Lexical similarity is expressed as a percentage, with a value of 85 percent and beyond generally suggesting an extremely close relationship, as in sister languages or dialectical variations. For example, Spanish and Catalan are said to have 85 percent lexical similarity, while Spanish and Portuguese have a value of 89 percent.
If you compare the Spanish and French languages in this way, they are said to have a lexical similarity of 75 percent. An example that illustrates the affinity of the words in these two languages are the words for “country”. In Spanish it is “país” and in French it is “pays”.
However, it should be noted that lexical similarity does not necessarily lead to mutual intelligibility or the ability to actually understand someone who speaks the other language. In fact, studies show that the average Spanish speaker, despite the high lexical similarity, has difficulty understanding much of what a French speaker is saying.
4. Grammatical properties
Another important similarity that can be observed between the Spanish and French languages is the number of common grammatical properties. You can tell from simple things like sentence structure, but both languages also have the following specific grammatical features in common:
- Gender specific nouns
- Formal and informal words of address, such as the German “Sie” or “Du”
- Verbal conjugation
- Two versions of the past tense
These similarities make it much easier to switch from one language to the other. In general, someone who has learned either Spanish or French will find it fairly easy to learn each other's grammatical rules.
5. The use of accented characters
Furthermore, both the written form of Spanish and French contain accented characters over certain letters, which indicate changes in emphasis. Although this is more associated with French, two of these accented characters also appear in Spanish - the accent aigu and the umlaut.
The accent aigu can be seen in Spanish words like “sí” (“ja”) and “está” (“is”) and in French words like “éducation” (“education”) and “université” (“university”). Umlauts, on the other hand, appear on Spanish words such as “Pingüino” (“penguin”) and “Vergüenza” (“shame”) and on French words such as “naïve” (“naive”) and “maïs” (“corn”).
Learn Spanish or French with Lingoda
Whether you already speak Spanish and want to learn French, already speak French and want to learn Spanish, or do not speak either language yet, the Lingoda Online Language School can help you. We offer courses in both languages and can help you work on your speaking, reading, writing and listening skills, which will give you a well-rounded education.
All of our courses are taught by fully qualified native speakers of the language in question, and students have the option of studying in virtual class groups or through private lessons. Our courses also give students complete flexibility, which means you can tailor your study plan to suit your lifestyle.
Lingoda's Spanish and French courses are structured in accordance with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and students can obtain official language certificates that are internationally recognized. These can serve as evidence of your current language level for employers and other institutions.
Click here to find out more about our Spanish courses and here to get more information about our French courses.
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