I realized that many people are interested in learning a new language for a variety of reasons. Most often they want to be more qualified for certain career opportunities but they also want to improve their cultural level and be able to interact with foreigners in a more natural way. And some of the most popular languages are French and Italian. But I started to wonder if someone could save their time and actually learn French and Italian simultaneously. This led me to a lot of research and I was glad to discover the answer I needed.
So, can you learn French and Italian at the same time? The short answer is yes, of course, you can. There is not much of a difference if you learn one language or two, especially if you choose similar ones. And both French and Italian languages are Romance languages which means that they have a lot of common aspects.
But there are certain considerations that you should take into account when you want to learn these two languages together. And while this might not be a difficult task to complete, it can still be challenging if you don’t fully understand why French and Italian can be studied at the same time.
How similar is Italian and French?
As we stated before, both French and Italian are Romance languages which means they both come from Latin. And from all Romance languages, Italian is the central one since it is a direct descendant of the old Latin. They developed along the centuries to reach the structure and vocabulary they have today.
The astonishing similarity can be found at the lexical level of both languages. French and Italian share not less than 85%-90% similar and sometimes identical words. This main similarity is directly related to their common Latin origin. Also, French reached a big period of Italian influences during the Renaissance era due to poets and writers who, somehow, imposed their Italian language on the French audience. This made the French syntax even more similar to the Italian syntax, while there are still notable differences between the two.
When it comes to grammar, you will notice that many tenses are very similar. For instance, the passato prossimo tense in Italian works just like the past compose tense in French. And there are many other grammatical “coincidences” that bring these two languages together. Both Italian and French use pronouns, direct and indirect ones and the way they use them is striking close. Also, you will find that defined and undefined articles have their similarities as well.
In the past centuries, many languages evolved in order to be easier to read and understand by foreigners. They borrowed words from different languages and incorporated them into their own lexical field. However, when it comes to Italian and French, the resistance to this modernization process was stronger than the process itself, which is why the remained fairly unchanged and therefore, similar to each other.
The main differences between Italian and French
Now that we established that you can learn Italian and French together thanks to the fact that they have some similarities, it is time to look at the differences between these two languages before you start your studying process. Knowing the differences that you will encounter will help you keep a vigilant mind and avoid confusions that could slow down and even compromise your studying process.
You will notice from the very beginning that the Italian alphabet has 21 letters and the French alphabet has 26 letters. This first difference has a direct impact on certain words, making them very different in terms of phonetics and pronunciation. And speaking of pronunciation, you will notice very fact that the “r” is pronounced very different in French than it is in Italian. There are also plenty of silent consonants in French that you will not find in Italian where almost always, all letters are pronounced since it is a strong phonetic language.
When it comes to grammar, written grammar might be different than the conversational one. For instance, the pronoun that works as a subject of a sentence it is used both in writing and speaking in the French language. However, in Italian, the same subject pronoun is used all the time in writing but usually, it is skipped during a conversation since it is considered to be implied in the structure of other words. You will also discover that the direct object pronouns are always used in front of the verb when it comes to French but in Italian, it is attached as a suffix to the infinitive form of the verb.
One of the most obvious differences is the construction of a negative form. In French, you need two parts to create the negative form which is “ne” and “pas”, while in Italian you need just one part, “non”. therefore, in French, you will build the negative form as “ne verb pas” while in Italian you simply say “non-verb”. The way the negative form is built in French is quite unique and different from most of the other languages, not just Italian.
Forming plural also comes with different rules in French and Italian. If your native language is English, you will be glad to find out that the French plural form is created just like in English, by adding the letter “s” at the end of the word. However, Italian has irregular forms of plural and you will most likely have to learn them by heart.
Best tips to learn French and Italian at the same time and be successful at it!
If you decided to learn both of these languages simultaneously, there are certain aspects that will ease your job a lot and even make the entire process more enjoyable. While this is entirely possible, there’s always a simple and a hard way to do it. Guessing that you want to leave the hard way as a last resort, here are some useful tips to help you study French and Italian at the same time!
Start with the basic words and grammatical rules. You might think that this should be a given but many people are amazed by the similarities between the two languages that they decide to skip the first chapters, assuming they already know them. Start your adventure by learning the basic vocabulary in both languages, such as greetings, colors, days of the week, different conjugations of the main verbs, and so on and so forth. This will give you an excellent foundation of understanding both French and Italian, that you can continue to build on. Plus, it will show you both the similarities and the differences between these two languages right from the start.
Study the same level of both languages simultaneously. Studying French and Italian at the same time also means taking the same steps to understand both of these languages, with the same speed. Once you move a little forward when it comes to French, for instance, stop and go back to Italian until you bring it to the same level. Continue like that until you are an expert at both of them. If you get too far ahead in one language, it might be harder to bring the other one to that level and it will slow your entire studying process.
Try to find native speakers to talk to. One thing is to learn a foreign language from books, movies or any other teaching materials, and something very different is to have the chance to talk to a native speaker of that language. If you find both French and Italian native speakers and engage in conversations with them, you will notice that you learn a lot faster and you retain what you learn a lot better. This is because our brain is meant to learn a lot more from social experiences and direct interaction than from studying books. It is also a great reason to make some new friends and learn some slang expressions while you are at it!
Read books and articles in both French and Italian. This might be hard at first but after you have the basics of each language, you can speed up the learning process even more by reading different articles and even books in those languages. Nothing stops you from using a dictionary as you do that. This will help you learn more words and use them properly!
Is French more difficult than Italian or the other way around? This depends greatly on your background. If you know any other Romance language, none of these two languages will be too difficult for you since you would be familiar with the Latin structure already. However, if your native language is English, you might find it easier to learn French since it has some similarities with English such as the form of plural which is following the same English rule.
Can I study Italian and French by myself or do I need to join a class? You can definitely learn these two languages by yourself. You will need the right teaching materials, the time to study and the determination to achieve your goal. And if you want to learn them at the same time, it might even be better to do that on your own as you will be able to go at your own pace.