Whether you want to read Les Misérables or prepare for an upcoming trip across the Atlantic, there’s no downside to learning French. Not only will this romance language open up the doors of classic literature and global travel, you’ll also be able to negotiate a higher income as bilingualism will almost always make you a more appealing job candidate.
But here’s the thing. You’re busy, and you don’t have hours on end to spend learning the ins and outs of another language. You want to get straight to the point and the best way to do that is starting off with a tangible goal. Why not make it an easy one?
By committing yourself to learning simple words from day one, you’ll be able to bypass the bore of grammar books and immerse yourself in French ASAP. That’s an objective we can get behind, which is why we’ve put together this list of 30 easy French words you should learn. Commençons!
A Quick Note on Efficiency
Think back to when you first toyed with the idea of learning French. What did that look like to you? Maybe you were searching the International section of the library for a good novel, or doodling around your vocab lists with dreams of the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre.
To ensure that your imagination is leading you in the right direction, let us provide a few guiding recommendations so that you can avoid making one of the seven huge mistakes people make when getting fluent:
- Listen first, THEN read: it may seem counterintuitive, but your quickest path to language retention is through auditory exposure. Save Les Mis for another time.
- Acquiring is better than memorizing: regurgitation is not the goal here. Language acquisition happens through immersion, which a vocab list just can’t do. So after you’ve studied these easy French words, try putting them to use in real life conversations.
- Beware of les faux amis: AKA false cognates, which are French words that sound like English words, but actually differ in meaning. The chances of this blunder occurring dramatically lower when learning with and from a native-speaking tutor.
All Roads Lead to…Latin?
Any time that you’re toying around with the idea of studying a romance language, it’s never a bad idea to get a basic understanding of Latin. While it is classified as a dead language, Latin still has an effect on languages like Portuguese, Italian and, of course, French.
In an article titled “New language, new soul: The role of Latin in learning the Romance languages,” author Artur Viana posits that “the relationship between languages of the same family makes it easy to quickly acquire vocabulary across languages by applying these systematic rules.”
For example, as the article shows, words in Latin that ended in -ct- typically show up in French with the evolved ending of -it-. This is how the Latin nocte became the French nuit.
So whether you’re an aspiring multilinguist or etymologist, always capitalize on the lessons that the history of languages can teach you.
Are There Even English-French Cognates?
One of the many factors that will influence a person’s choice when it comes to which language to study is feasibility. For many English speakers, Spanish can be enticing not only because it’s so conspicuous but also because it can sound really familiar. Think carro, persona, tigre.
Like we mentioned above, these words that have a similar look and meaning in two different languages are called cognates. It’s a little harder for the average English speaker to recall French cognates, which can make the task seem more daunting than it actually is.
Luckily, it is definitely not the case that no English-French cognates exist. We can thank Latin for this, which has even influenced English, a West Germanic language. There are even some basic rules to help you determine which words may be cognates, which you can check out here.
Remember this one thing though: the best way to figure out some familiar vocab is through active communication. Sharpen your listening skills and check out our carefully crafted list of the best Netflix shows for learning French.
30 Easy French Words to Learn
Okay, let’s dig in. Here are 30 easy French words to learn.
Animal – animal
Blue – bleu
Cat – chat
Dictionary – dictionnaire
Experience – expérience
Female – Femelle
Good morning – bonjour
Guy – garçon
Hello – salut
Home – habitation
Independence – indépendance
Joy – joie
Kangaroo – kangourou
Lion – lion
Miss – Mademoiselle
No – non
Orange – orange
Patience – la patience
Question – question
Rebel – rebelle
Sandwich – sandwich
Thank you – merci
Turtle – tortue
United States – États Unis
Valentine – valentin
Wind – vent
Xylophone – xylophone
Yes – oui
You’re welcome – de rien
Zebra – zèbre
With these 30 French words, you now have an approachable foundation to start from. But as you know, these words aren’t simply for memorizing; they’re for putting to use and honing your skills more and more with each conversation. Just because the translation for “sandwich” looks identical, it doesn’t mean that it is pronounced the same. And that’s precisely the thing you can learn only through prioritizing listening first.
True acquisition comes from immersion and guidance, and our trusted TruFluency French teachers are ready to help you take that next step.
Getting started with your own coach is easy. Take a trial class today, and see firsthand the joie of learning French!