The French Language

In the French language, what's one way of saying "Hello"?

And the answer: bonjour.

Photo courtesy: Emma Jacobs

There are multiple ways of greeting someone in French. "Bonjour" translates literally to "Good day," while "Bonsoir" translates to "Good evening." Another common greeting is "Salut!" which is an informal way of saying "Hi!"

French and English share a number of directly translatable phrases, as well as phrases that look and mean the same in both languages. While French is a Romance language descended from Latin with German and English influences, English is a Germanic language with Latin and French influences, thus the languages fall into many similarities. In fact, about 45% of the English vocabulary originates from the French language!

Interestingly, the two languages share many false cognates: words that look the same but have entirely different meanings. For example, while formidable in French means "great" or "terrific," it has nearly the polar opposite meaning in English, meaning instead "dreadful" or "fearsome." While library is understood as a curated source of books and information, in French it is a bookstore.

The linguistic overlaps in French and English are the result of many years of cultural exchange and the evolution of two languages of similar origin, though, some phrases so aptly describe a phenomenon that the phrase is directly adopted from the other. In English, we use déjà vu to describe the sensation of recalling a past event, which translates quite literally to "already seen." Conversely, French "le week-end" is used to describe exactly that.

To learn more about the French-English lexical similarities, check out the video below.

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