Many other languages have shaped the English language ​​for centuries, and many English speakers in Nigeria know that Latin and German were the two most important languages. What many people do not know is how much the French language has influenced English. A lot of French words and phrases used in English grammar today in Nigeria and across the world penetrated gradually.

Initially, French words were borrowed by the nobility and were actively used in the upper strata of society in England. Later, foreign vocabulary words firmly entered the everyday life of commoners and began to be used everywhere. Due to the mentality, historical changes, and peculiarities of the English articulation, many French words that we use in English have changed.

Some French words in the English language now do not give away their true identity at all. They organically entered the British English vocabulary and were no longer perceived by Foggy Albion’s inhabitants as foreign. But this process was long and arduous. English has interacted with French for centuries. As a result of this close contact, many French words have emerged that have become entrenched in the English language.

You will get acquainted with most of these borrowed words as you learn French in Nigeria at Superprof.

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Historical similarities between French and English words

Period of Norman Conquest

In the XI century, the troops of the Duke of Normandy invaded England and subdued the country. So northern French words began to penetrate the speech of the English elite. Representatives of the top used French words in English to isolate themselves from commoners, show their loyalty to the new ruler, and communicate freely with the conquerors. During this period, most French words in the English language were closely related to the courts and the royal court.

 

In FranceIn EnglandTransfer
CharpentierCarpenterA carpenter
ExécuterExecuteExecute
CourCourtCourt
TailleurTailorTailor
GouvernementGovernmentGovernment

There is an apparent simplification in such words. The British did not take the original form. They borrow words and slightly modify them, keeping only their base.

Renaissance

In the 16th century, English aristocrats, scientists, and sailors began to explore Europe actively and travel outside their country. Their travels were reflected in the language. They came from other countries not only with new impressions but also with updated vocabulary. The sphere of art and geography was replenished with foreign words. Intensive research into France has resulted in a significant enrichment of the English language.

 

In FranceIn EnglandTransfer
BeauBeautifulBeautiful, lovely
ExplorerExploreExplore, explore
RéécrireRewriteRewrite, copy
VisiteVisitTrip, visit
MusiqueMusicMusic, notes

At this stage, the language is ambiguous. One word is used to denote several concepts at once. Outwardly, the word is not transformed as much as before.

Restoration of the Stewarts

In the 17th century, the monarchy was restored in England. Charles II Stewart became the king of the country. During this period, the English language was strongly influenced by French, particularly by the salon-noble culture. New phenomena from "another life" are penetrating the everyday life of the British. To name them, the aborigines have resorted to foreign tracing. Since everything foreign language is alien to them, such new words in their mouths acquire a slightly different sound.

 

In FranceIn EnglandTransfer
LoisirLeisureLeisure
GourmetGourmandGourmet
FéodalFeudalSerf
JardinGardenGarden
FrèreBrotherBrother

During the Stuart dynasty, many French distortions appeared in English, which reflected the aristocracy’s pastime and life and family relationships.

Age of Enlightenment

In the 18th century, there was active interaction between England and France in all areas. Technological progress, scientific advances, political events, cultural discoveries - all this affected the language. English borrowed French words to reflect new realities. The lexical fund is expanding due to the growth of the country itself. But the items that came from France were called differently in England.

 

In FranceIn EnglandTransfer
CarabineCarbineCarbine
NaturelNaturalNatural
ToiletteToiletRestroom
SoupeSoupSoup
PasseportPassportThe passport

Active ties on all fronts are developing between the countries to this day. The same phenomena in France and England are pronounced and written in different ways. In most cases, only the root of the word is preserved. As a result, English has received many French words in their distorted form over the aristocracy’s pastime and life over centuries.

Are you a Nigerian? You will learn a lot of similar French and English words during your French lessons at Superprof.

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How to recognize French roots in English

A soufflé is a baked egg-based dish originating in France in the early eighteenth century.
Soufflés are generally baked in ramekins or soufflé dishes. They are one of the finest dishes originated from France. || Source: Pinterest

From a historical point of view, it is obvious that most of the French words we use in English are in a distorted form in their meaning and are associated with luxury, food, and politics. All the delicious dishes date back to France. It was there that they were first prepared. From there, they went to England. The British borrowed from the French the recipes themselves and also the names of the dishes.

 

In FranceIn EnglandTransfer
ApéritifAperitiveSnack
Pique-niquePicnicPicnic
AlcoolAlcoholAlcohol
ProfiterolesPuffsProfiteroles
TruffeTruffleTruffle

Many words related to power and business also came to English from French. They have changed outwardly, but the meaning remains the same. In a distorted form for the French, these words are common in the colloquial environment of English.

 

In FranceIn EnglandTransfer
Aide-mémoireMemory aidNote
ContraireContraryContradictory
UniformeUniformA uniform
CommuniquéCommunicationMessage
AllocationAllowanceManual

Everything related to elitism and art is also intertwined with French vocabulary. The British took the basic terms but significantly simplified their sound. This is how the words used in the cultural environment arose.

 

In FranceIn EnglandTransfer
Art nouveauNew artNew art
CouturierCoutureCouturier
MademoiselleMlleMademoiselle
GalerieGalleryGallery
PoétiquePoeticPoetic

Sometimes the scope of a word can suggest its linguistic affiliation or where it was derived from. In such cases, it is helpful to be very good at speaking English while learning French. A lot of Nigerians speak good English anyway. Many words are similar in sound and meaning. But there are situations when the meaning of a word in English and French will have a different meaning.

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English word undoubtedly from FrenchA word could have different meanings in French and English || Source: Pinterest

Differences in the translation of English and French words

Some words changed from French to English in a different sense. Outwardly, they look almost the same. But their meaning is entirely different. You need to be extremely careful with these words, especially if you know both English and French. A learner may be easily confused.  In one language, a word can be neutral, and in another, it can have a negative connotation.

 

In FranceIn England
Négliger / NeglectNegligee / Peignoir
Gaucher / LeftyGauche / Awkward
Première / First showPremiere / Premiere
Touché / Get hurtTouch / Touch
Matinée / MorningMatinee / Daytime performance

It is essential to remember these insidious word lists and not to confuse their use in both languages. All French words used in English had their specifics. Some words came to English, changing only the form, and several concepts even modified their original content and acquired a new colour.

Knowing French's most frequently used words will help us as Nigerians, if we discuss art in English, have a business debate, or chat a little about everything with French native-speakers. The French language in English has penetrated all spheres of communication of the British and every English-speaking country world-wide. Such language distortions are actively used in direct communication. It is noteworthy that the British have adopted foreign vocabulary for themselves. They changed the pronunciation of some French words English language, giving them a natural flavour.

Find more French lessons here on Superprof.

Respond, if you please.Are you familiar with this popular abbreviation? It stands for Repondez, s'il vous plaît (Respond, if you please) || Source: Freepik

As we can see, many French words are already so deeply rooted in the English language that, when pronouncing them, we do not feel their origin. They seem to us to be quite English (for example, village). Others, on the contrary, speak for themselves with their sound (for example, an entrepreneur).

But not only individual words came to English, but whole expressions as well. By the way, many of them are present in some other European languages for the same reason - they did not find a "worthy," "refined" translation. For example, déjà vu, tete-a-tete, carte blanche, haute couture, etc. But, no matter how elegant French expressions may sound in English, you need to look for a middle ground in everything. For example, overuse of such expressions can create both bombastic and comical effects:

I'd like a soupçon of milk for my tea. - I would like some milk for my tea.

Mary, today you look extraordinaire. - Mary, you look exceptional today.

Thus, avoid the use of French words in the English language where possible. However, they are definitely able to bring variety to our language répertoire / 'repətwɑː / (set, assortment) and give it bon mot / ˌbɔːŋ'məu / ( spice ). However, please don't overdo it not to look and sound de haut en bas (arrogant)!

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Emmanuel

Content Writer and budding Python Developer. I'm adept at a myriad of niches, but my expertise shines more in the medical sciences, tech, and business. I have a Bachelor's degree in Biochemistry and I'm currently a full-time freelance writer. When I'm not working, I'm probably absorbed in some television adventure series or a good book.