Fun and strange facts about the French language

Fun and strange facts about the French language

French is a fascinating language. If you are learning French, you will have realized by now that the language of Molière is a beautifully intricate language that hides many interesting and strange facts. If you already know them, they have probably made you fall in love even deeper with this Romance language.

In case learning French is still pending on your bucket list, knowing more about the origins and the history of French language will make you get a broader understanding of the language from the start.
What are you waiting for to discover the most fun and strange facts about the French language? Lire plus bas!

1. Silent letters

Spoiler to all those just starting with French. You will discover along the way that there are many silent letters in French. That is, letters that in a certain word do not correspond to any sound when pronouncing the word. Words such as ‘forêt’, ‘tête’ and ‘hôpital’ used to be ‘forest’, ‘teste’ and ‘hospital’ (due to their Latin roots). However, the ‘s’ disappeared and was replaced by the well-known circumflex accent.

2. French was the official language in England

As surprising as it sounds. French was the official language in England since the victory of Norman forces at the battle of Hastings (1066) until the end of the XIV century. French was the language used at the English parliament up to 1363, and it was not until 1413 that members at the court of justice were allowed to used English. We can imagine then how powerful is the influence of French in the English language. In fact, many words belonging to the field of law, family, gastronomy and business trace back their origins to French.

3. It was also spoken in…Russia!

The Russian aristocracy used to speak in French during the XVIII and XIX centuries. In fact, the very well known book War and Peace, by the Russian author Lev Tolstói, has some passages written in French. The influence of the European powers and the fact that French was the dominating language at that time prompted that speaking in French was seen as a sign of good manners and sophistication.

Wooden map of Russia

4. Up to ⅓ of the English lexicon has French origins

This comes closely related to our 2nd fact: it is estimated that ⅓ of the English lexicon has French origins. Some linguists even say that around 45% of the English words come from French. What can’t be denied is that 300 years of French language presence in England had to have consequences.

5. Similar words

There are many words so similar to each other in French that it may be a bit confusing to beginners. Words such as courgette (zucchini) and fourchette (fork) only change a couple of letters but they mean something completely different!

6. French tongue twisters

Are you into tongue twisters? Tongue twisters are an excellent way to learn new vocabulary and practice your pronunciation and phonetics! Try these out!

+ Les chaussettes de l’archiduchesse sont-elles sèches? Elles sont sèches, archi-sèches
– Are the socks of the archduchess dry? They are extra dry

+ Si six scies scient six cyprès, six cent six scies scient six cent six cyprès
– If six saws saw six cypress-trees, six hundred saws saw six hundred cypress-trees

+ Tati, ton thé t’a-t-il ôté ta toux?
– Auntie, did your tea take away your cough?

+ Combien sont ces six saucissons-ci? Ces six saucissons-ci sont six sous. Six sous! C’est trop cher!
– How much are these six sausages here? These six sausages here are six pennies. Six pennies! It’s too expensive!

The French language has so many more interesting and fun facts, but we couldn’t add all of them here! If you get to learn French, you will have plenty of time to discover more and enjoy them the most

Related article: French language facts: frequent questions and answers.

Do you want to unlock all the secrets of the French language?

Take a French course