The Museum of Knowledge team is often asked whether there is a difference between learning one language over another. Do the same skills apply? Which language is easier to learn, French or German? The ease of learning one language over another is dependent on various factors.
A student who has already studied a language other that their Mother tongue is much more likely to be able to adapt to a new language. Therefore a student who has learnt French may find learning German fairly accessible. To compare each language, French and German in isolation of each other in terms of difficulty, some of the most experienced linguists would attest that German is more difficult due to the German accent and pronunciation as well as complex German grammar rules.
Differences in grammar rules may make German more difficult to learn compared with French, but this is mostly because Germanic languages have differing rules that do not apply to the most widely spoken Latin based languages such as French (150 million worldwide speakers), Italian, (60 million worldwide speakers), Portuguese (250 million worldwide speakers) and Spanish (470 million worldwide speakers). Latin languages are also referred to as Romance languages and originally evolved from Vulgar Latin spoken in the Mediterranean regions during the Roman Empire between the sixth and ninth centuries. For these reasons there is great synergy and similarity between the various Latin languages especially in terms of sentence structure and grammatical rules.
Germanic languages include German, Dutch and Afrikaans derived from Dutch. Germanic languages from the Northern Germanic region include Swedish, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Danish that are all considered on the whole to be more difficult to learn that Latin based or Romance languages. Why is German more difficult to learn than French?
One of the key differences between German and French is the usage of three genders in German (masculine, feminine and neuter) as opposed to the two genders (male and female) used in French. Some students may find the usage of three genders in German difficult to understand especially because correct deployment is not predictable. Every plural created from a noun differs in German with many irregular neuters and masculine nouns. Once again, those language learners accustomed to learning Latin languages such as French may find this aspect of gender composition difficult to absorb.
In conclusion, the perceived difficulty of German compared to French is based on the fact that German prose requires an alternative learning technique that does not apply when students undertake to learn French. Openness to new learning techniques and composition structures is the most important criteria for those who wish to learn German.