French and Italian: Differences, Similarities, and Reasons to Learn These Languages

Elly Kim7 min
Created: Dec 12, 2023Last updated: Dec 12, 2023
French vs Italian

Are you excited about mastering a second language but haven’t decided which one to choose? We are here to help you compare French vs Italian and explore both deeper to make the final decision. Researching the similarities and differences between the two languages is essential before learning. Let’s dive into all the peculiarities and find out some valuable tips for students. 

Italian vs French: Origins and History

Discovering the roots of any language is useful and exciting, so let’s start with this point. Both French and Italian are in the Romance group, implying they originated from Latin. Even though they share a common history, they are still spoken in different countries and have multiple dialects. Italy is located on the Roman Empire territory, while Gauls initially inhabited France. 

Visigothic, Burgundian, Alemannic, etc. were the popular Italian language dialects. At the same time, French was divided into Breton, Basque, Catalan, Occitan, and others, which are still spoken in different parts of the country. Learning the dialects is not mandatory for beginners, so the Parisian French type, which is accepted globally, is the perfect solution.

Popularity of the Two Languages

Statistics indicate that over 300 million people speak French, so it’s among the most widespread languages. It’s an official tongue in numerous countries, including France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Monaco, Canada, Madagascar, Chad, and many other states. Therefore, it’s popular on all continents; knowing French opens up multiple opportunities in front of a learner. 

At the same time, Italian has around 55 million native speakers. In addition, around 6.8 million people globally choose it as their second language. Unsurprisingly, it’s more widespread in Italy, but Switzerland, San Marino, and Vatican City residents also speak it. Italian is less common than the French language. Therefore, the latter is more beneficial for learners, as they can communicate with more people worldwide. However, it doesn’t mean there’s no reason to master Italian, as it’s still among the most popular and beautiful languages. 

You have already familiarized yourself with some general details regarding Italian and French. And it’s time to move further to explore all the languages’ differences and similarities to decide which one to study.

Mastering the Alphabet: Main Difference Between French and Italian

Even though languages have lots in common, their alphabets are the primary difference every learner will notice. French has 26 letters, which is the same as in English, making it easier for native speakers to master the second tongue. However, the Italian alphabet is different, consisting of 16 consonants and five vowels. The letters J, K, Q, W, X, and Y are absent. It might be unusual for English speakers, but the fact is the fact.

Vocabulary and Pronunciation

The two languages have numerous lexical similarities; the indicator is over 80% according to different studies. This is not surprising, considering they share common origins; French and Italian are closely related in terms of vocabulary. Take a look at some similar words: 

French WordTranscriptionItalian WordTranscriptionEnglish Translation
Manger[mɑ̃ʒˈe]Mangiare[mand͡ʒˈare]To eat
Dormir[dɔʁmˈiʁ]Dormire[dormˈire]To sleep
Perdre[pˈɛʁdʁ]Perdere[pˈɛrdere]To lose
Porte[pˈɔʁt]Porta[pˈɔrta]Door
Pain[pˈɛ̃]Pane[pˈane]Bread
Ami[amˈi]Amico[amˈiko]Friend

However, they still have numerous differences due to the impact of other languages. For instance, French was heavily influenced by English and German, which couldn’t but affect its vocabulary and pronunciation. Therefore, English speakers will find French words more familiar. 

Learners can also notice a significant contrast in the pronunciation of the two languages. In this case, Italian is simpler, as words are read the way they are written. For instance, all vowels are pronounced clearly without any reductions. This rule has no exceptions, which simplifies this aspect of language learning. 

On the other hand, French phonetics is more complicated, as students should memorize how particular letter combinations sound. For example, “eau” (water) is read like [ˈo], and the pronunciation rules never change. Learners must memorize them before mastering more vocabulary to know how to say them correctly. Listening to native speakers and practicing are the best ways to accelerate French language learning.

Stress in Words: Which Is Simpler, French or Italian

Even though French is considered more complicated than Italian, the stress in this language is easy to master. There’s only one rule learners should memorize. The last syllable is always stressed in French wordings, and there are no exceptions. Therefore, learners should remember it and get more practice. 

The rules are different in Italian, where stress usually falls on the last syllable (“signorá” [siɲˈora], translated as “lady”). However, it’s not always like that. Sometimes, the third syllable from the end is stressed (“távolo” [tˈavolo], meaning “table”). Use dictionaries to learn the right option and memorize as many words as possible to replenish your vocabulary.

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French vs. Italian Grammar

Grammar is identical in both languages, as they have the same word order and number of tenses. However, there are still some differences learners must consider: 

  1. Italians usually omit the subject pronouns (except in situations where clarity is crucial), while they are common in French.
  2. Definitive articles are more frequently used in Italian than in French.
  3. The Italian language has more conjugations.

Even though the two languages’ grammar is similar, Italian is still more straightforward. However, it doesn’t mean you should choose it and avoid French, as the decision should depend on your goals and preferences.

Tips to Learn French and Italian Languages

Mastering any language is challenging, so most learners spend years to reach proficiency. Of course, every student will be happy to accelerate the process. It doesn’t matter whether you choose Italian or French, as the above tips will be helpful to everyone:

  1. Clearly set your goals, form a lesson plan, and stick to it.
  2. Start with the basics and master topics one by one.
  3. Practice your speaking skills and try to memorize at least a few words daily.
  4. Read books, highlight new words, and find their meaning in dictionaries.
  5. Listen to podcasts and watch movies in Italian or French.
  6. Immerse into the language environment to strengthen your speaking skills.

Self-learners should develop discipline and motivate themselves to practice regularly to achieve better results. The above tips will be useful for every student, so implement them in your learning process, and you’ll notice improvements soon.

Learn French or Italian with Promova, Or Maybe Both

Mastering foreign languages independently is possible, as students can access plenty of online resources and enjoy self-learning. However, additional assistance can help you accelerate the process. The Promova platform welcomes Italian and French learners and offers guided courses with numerous benefits. Experienced tutors developed lessons with many new words and exciting quizzes daily. 

Users can join with the web version or download the Italian or French language learning app. Both options are convenient for students, as they can enjoy courses wherever they are. Promova has a free version, but users can also subscribe to Premium to get more benefits.

Conclusion

Sometimes, people ask themselves, should I learn Italian or French? It’s challenging to answer this question immediately, as despite sharing many similarities, languages are still different. Exploring the likeness and contrasts of the two tongues is essential for every student choosing what to start mastering. 

Of course, you should also consider your individual criteria, including the reason to begin learning a new language, the career prospects it will bring, and its overall usability in your life. Italian will hardly be helpful if you are planning to enter a Parisian university, while French is useless for those having job opportunities in Florence. Highlight your priorities and future goals before learning any language, and then pass to the education process. Have you already decided whether you want to learn Italian or French?

FAQ

Which resources will be helpful when mastering Italian and French?

Learners can find plenty of materials that will assist them when mastering the language. These include manuals, workbooks, tests, and tips from experienced tutors. Moreover, online dictionaries are indispensable tools for every learner, so remember to use them to memorize as many words and expressions as possible. Those mastering French can take advantage of the Collins Dictionary, while Italian students should consider WordReference.

Which is more important, French or Italian?

French is more widespread in the world since France has previously colonized multiple regions. Therefore, this language is usually more in demand for business purposes. Italian is spoken in fewer countries and only boasts around 61 million speakers. However, learners can still have numerous reasons to learn it, including job opportunities or the desire to explore Italian culture from the inside. Both languages are essential, so it’s up to the student to choose.

Is French or Italian easier to learn?

It’s difficult to provide an unambiguous answer, as it all depends on the person’s abilities and perception. However, Italian is considered slightly easier due to its simple pronunciation rules (words sound the way they are written) and fewer letters in the alphabet. On the other hand, English speakers will find numerous similarities of their native language with the French vocabulary.

Should I learn French or Italian?

The final decision depends on your goals and preferences, so it’s impossible to say which option is better. French is more widespread, as it’s spoken in dozens of countries by over 300 million people. Italian is less popular, as it boasts only 61.8 million speakers globally. Therefore, learning French will help you communicate with more people. On the other hand, Italian is the language of opera, being one of the most melodic in the world.

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