French in a Nutshell

Origins of French

The journey of French started at the beginning of the millennia when the Roman Empire conquered the Gauls, so Latin slowly began melting into what will become modern day French.

The Gauls started speaking what is later called “Lingua Franca” meaning “a common language used to facilitate trade between speakers of two different languages”.

After the fall of the Roman Empire and the Franks and Alemanni invasion of what is now modern-day France, their Gallo-Romance fusion version of the local language started being used in the everyday life of people – in the family, between friends, in agriculture, etc.

It didn’t take long before its popularity infiltrated the previously only Latin-spoke areas such as religion, politics and law.

It wasn’t until 14th century though, when Paris, being the largest city, distinctively more developed than the rest of Northern France, was the one who propelled the Gallo-Romance to be accepted as the national standard of French.

In due course, French slowly became a symbol of prestige, as it was regarded as the language of learning and science.

In the 16th century Parisian French was referred to as “King’s language” (La langue du Roi) and was distinctively associated with the bourgeoisie and the aristocratic circles.

Ironically, in the 17th century this high-class version of French got transferred all the way across the ocean – to the new lands of Canada, while on the old continent it got replaced by the provincial dialects (the “patois”) following the transformational effects of the French Revolution of 1789.

French around the world

While we’re still on the West Coast…it’s curious to note that the first Francophone settlers of Canada were having really hard time explaining to their families what was their daily job, as all of the technical inventions of the time were named in English.

This language barrier provoked a certain flexibility, without too much creativity, so until the present day we still have the “French” words un moniteur, le progress, le directeur, etc.

The struggle was real for the French to preserve their language identity in a largely Anglophone land, so the utterly peculiar translation of KFC was born in Quebec: “Poulet Frit Kentucky”.


Another state in dispute was the far East province of Canada – New Brunswick (Nouveau Brunswick) which took up until 40 years ago to adopt a law which officially places French and English on the same plane.

So, it wasn’t uncommon to hear in a chat between friends “I hope que je ne te bother pas…”.

We can only hope that in the other 42 states world-wide where French is spoken, the linguistic fusion was homogenic enough to be meld in simply “Voilà!”.

FFF (Fun French Facts)

Let’s face it – French might be one of the Western European languages with the most complicated and unintuitive pronunciation, of course second after Icelandic, which propelled to the top of this chart with the 2010 eruption of… wait for it… Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

Before you burn out from pronunciation mishaps, we will let you cool down in clear eaux (waters) – all four letters are pronounced as a single “o” [ɔː] !

Similar example is houx (= holly tree), which, regardless of its syllable, gets pronounced faster than the briefest kiss under the holly tree – as a mere “u” [ʊ].

Of course, a low hanging fruit would be to learn the phonetic combination of many letters in examples similar to the ones above, but a whole different plane is to pronounce 4 different words in the exact same way, beautifully compiled in the famous sentence “The green worm goes towards the green glass.” = Le ver vert va vers le verre vert.

If you disregard the meaning of the sentences, you can easily experiment with your own mix of French tongue nodes: Les jeunes gens te gênent avec les jaunes genres. (Young people bother you with the yellow types.)


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