Learning any new language is both challenging and fun, however, if you have already studied French it is likely that you may find it easier to learn the language of Cervantes. The main reason for this is that both French and Spanish share the same Latin roots.

When it comes to the similarities between the two languages, there are quite a few, particularly in terms of vocabulary, Spanish verb conjugation and other grammar. So if you have any French background at all, and want to learn to speak Spanish, you can be assured that the task will be easier than you expect.

While Spanish pronunciation is obviously different because it is a phonetic language, meaning it is pronounced as it is written, it is still quite remarkable how many French words can be found in Spanish and vice versa.

If you would like to learn to speak Spanish as a foreign language this should not be difficult considering that after Mandarin Chinese, Spanish is the most widely spoken language in the world!

Spanish is in fact spoken as a first language by 440 million people and is an official language in 20 different countries. Not only that, but it is also an official language for organisations such as the United Nations, World Trade Organisation and European Union.

If you are searching teach me Spanish as a foreign language, there are Spanish communities wherever you go and therefore teachers who could help you with tricky Spanish verb conjugation and other more challenging aspects of the language. The great thing is that if you have any French-speaking background, your lessons could be a lot easier!

In this article, we’ll outline some of the key similarities between the two languages.

The Common Latin Culture Between French and Spanish

If you already know French as a foreign language and now want to learn to speak Spanish, you may want to consider the commonalities before you start.

So why are Spanish (or Castilian) and French so similar?

The answer is that French, Spanish and in fact, Italian or Romanian are all derived from Latin.

How Did This All Come About?

Between the sixth and ninth centuries, after the fall of the Roman Empire, Latin variants began to emerge as French and Spanish spread around the world through colonisation.

Another reason why it should be easy to learn to speak Spanish as a foreign language, especially if you have studied French, or English, is that it is framed by the same 26 letter alphabet and writing system.

Alphabets are an important aspect of learning any foreign language and shouldn’t be underestimated. If you decided to learn Russian, Chinese, Japanese or Arabic, you would need to spend a significant amount of time first coming to grips with the alphabet alone, never mind sentence structure and pronunciation!

Also known as Romance languages, Spanish and French also have a lexical similarity. This means that there is a resemblance to how groups of words, in particular subjects and verbs, are formed in a sentence!

Other grammatical features that are similar to French and will certainly help you with your Spanish verb conjugation amongst other things include:

  • When several forms of the past tense are used.
  • When the subjunctive mood is used in similar scenarios.
  • When the adjective is found after the noun.
  • The word “you having multiple functions.
  • The use of accents.

While Spanish pronunciation is different (and actually easier because of its phonetic nature) the other similarities that Spanish shares with French will certainly help you to learn to speak Spanish quickly.

Common Vocabulary Between French and Spanish

English speaking students who have studied French, will be amazed at how quickly they will recognise new Spanish words!

Can I Learn to Speak Spanish through the French Words I Know?

The reason why Spanish can be found in the French language is largely due to Geography. Spain and France share a border and even a region called the Basque Country. And even though the Basque country has a unique language of its own, it is unsurprising then that there exists a significant cultural cross over in this region as well as other parts of France and Spain.

The history behind all this dates back to the 12th century when hundreds of thousands of Spanish people migrated to France to flee the dictatorship of Franco and search for better living conditions.

So while there are some Spanish words present in the linguistics of French, the proportion is tiny. However, there is no doubt that it would be easier for someone who knows French to learn Spanish than someone who is Chinese, for example.

silence painted on wall in spanish, french and english
There are some Spanish words present in the linguistics of French - Source: Unsplash

Here are some examples of Spanish words that are present in French:

  • La fiesta
  • Le guacamole
  • Les tapas
  • Le gazpacho
  • Les churros
  • Le chorizo
  • Le flamenco
  • Le tango
  • Le patio
  • La corrida
  • Embargo

These are just some examples, to truly get to grips with the similarities in these Romance languages you could immerse yourself in the language and culture by backpacking through the French and Spanish countryside!

Beware of Creating False Spanish Words

It’s really helpful that students who have studied French could progress quickly in Spanish. For example, with a little guessing, these students could deduce the meaning of these words:

  • Vendre = vender
  • Un accident = un accidente

Marvellously similar aren’t they? The problem comes in when French speakers are tempted to invent words in Spanish by simply adding an ‘o’ or ‘a’ at the end. This is a bad idea that seldom works, unfortunately! For instance, “a village” does not mean “a villagio” in Spanish!

There are a few other pitfalls when it comes to learning Spanish if you already know French. As is not uncommon when comparing a foreign language, some words strangely resemble others without having the same meaning at all.

Here are a few false cognates:


CarameloUn bonbon

This is something to be aware of when translating between Spanish and English too. For instance, the word “actual” in Spanish does not mean the same in English, it means “current”. The same goes for the Spanish word “pretender” – which in English means “to attempt”.

Immerse Yourself in Spanish Culture

If you are learning Spanish, it would be truly beneficial to be able to immerse yourself in the rich Hispanic culture and colourful tradition that is in many ways inseparable to the language. Besides that, the most effective way to learn a foreign language is to completely immerse yourself in it.

Of course, you would need to know the basics, but within no time at all, your Spanish pronunciation will be like that of a native and those tricky Spanish verb conjugation problems you had will be a thing of the past.

If you are serious about becoming fluent in Spanish, consider taking a sabbatical in one of the 20 Spanish speaking countries around the world. You could apply for a work visa, university exchange programme or even volunteer for your favourite cause. There is no doubt that it will be the most fun and effective way to learn to speak Spanish quickly and get to know the fascinating Hispanic culture that goes with it.

traditional Spanish dancers in red dresses
Spend time in a Spanish speaking country to boost your progress. - Source: Unsplash

Let’s face it, learning in a classroom, online, or with a private tutor is one thing, but when every activity, from catching a bus to visiting a laundromat becomes a lesson, your progress will be unstoppable.

And if you are fluent in French too, you could consider Europe for your language immersion and really hone your romance language bilingualism.

If you’re wondering to yourself, who is going to teach me Spanish in South Africa, there are several ways that you could about this!

Learn to Speak Spanish as a Foreign Language in South Africa

Even though Spanish is seldom taught in South Africa’s mainstream schooling system, there are more than enough language schools and private foreign language teachers to start you off with anything from conversational Spanish to help with your Spanish verb conjugation and other complex grammar issues.

The most important decision is to figure out if you want to learn in a group or classroom setting, or one-on-one with a tutor.

The benefits of signing up with a private Spanish tutor are numerous, but basically you will get to learn in your own time and at your own pace. Also, you could discuss your reasons for wanting to learn Spanish with your tutor and actually tailor-make content to suit your particular needs. For instance, if you work for a Spanish company, you could focus on business-type language and even vocabulary that is specific to your industry!

So, if you have been asking your friends, who is going to teach me Spanish, or if you are having trouble with your Spanish verb conjugation and even if you are battling to move from French to Spanish pronunciation, you could check out a website like Superprof for Spanish tutors near you. Buena suerte!

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Niki is a content writer from Cape Town, South Africa, who is passionate about words, strategic communication and using words to help create and maintain brand personas. Niki has a PR and marketing background, but her happiest place is when she is bringing a story to life on a page.