Top 5 things you might not know about the French language

MyFrenchLife™ - French language - sunset

If you’re anything like us, you devour everything you can about the French language. Be it the literature, the idioms, or the expressions – we just can’t get enough. Even if you’re a bonafide Francophone and Francophile, we’ve think we’ve found five facts about the French language that will still manage to surprise you…

1. Many living French authors did not initially speak French

According to Antimoon, many popular French authors – including Milan Kundera, Nancy Houston and Jonathan Littel – did not speak French as their mother tongue. If you’re an Anglophone aspiring to make it into our ‘Getting into new French fiction’ column, there may be hope for you yet…

MyFrenchLife™ - French language - Serment du Jeu de paume

2. The letter ‘W’ only appears in foreign words in the French vocabulary

That’s right, Cactus Worldwide explains that all French words including the letter ‘W’ have been borrowed from other languages (mainly English).

An example is wading, which shares the English meaning of walking through liquid, or perhaps the most famous Anglicism – week-end.

3. At the time of the French Revolution, 75% of French citizens did not speak French

One of the Revolution’s main triumphs was doing away with the range of patois spoken by the French peasants.

It is believed that dialects enabled the monarchy to keep everyone subjugated. By instigating a common language, power was given back to the people.

4. There is a town in France called Y

Located in the Somme, this is the shortest name of a town in France. According to French for Fun it is sister cities with Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch – a town in Wales with 58 letters in its name.

MyFrenchLife™ - French langauge - Y

5. French is not always seductive!

We like to think that it is always sexy to parler en français, but as Cécile Mazurier explains, in the USA, French speakers can be subject to ridicule. The country’s government seems to have made France its favourite comedic target. Bien sûr, we think they’re just jealous. After all, it isn’t the American accent that leaves people weak at the knees…

What’s your favourite obscure fact about the French language? Share your opinions in our comment box below!

Image credits:
1. Paris at sunset with the Eiffel Tower, by Chris Willis, via Fotopedia. 
2. Le Serment du Jeu de paume, by frome de lutene, via Wikimedia Commons. 
3. Commune Y, via Wikipedia.

About the Contributor

Daisy Naylor

A languages student lucky enough to be living in Paris, I love everything French -literature, film and photography in particular, as well as croissants.

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  1. Elizabeth Quinn Nov 24, 2015 at 12:37 PM - Reply

    Hi Daisy. I found out this gem of a French language fact just recently: there are three French nouns whose gender changes depending on whether they are singular or plural. I’m not making this up! They are:
    amour – mon amour est mort/les amours sont mortes
    orgue – un bel orgue/les belles orgues
    délice – un délice merveilleux/les délices merveilleuses

    • Judy MacMahon Nov 24, 2015 at 8:14 PM - Reply

      Oh Elizabeth I love these three examples of nouns changing gender – thanks so much for sharing

      • Elizabeth Quinn Nov 25, 2015 at 11:50 AM - Reply

        A pleasure Judy. I’m a word nerd AND a tragic Francophile. Loving the Prahran market meet ups.

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