Learning French and German at the Same Time: My Favorite Tips, Resources and More
Currywurst. Hawaiian pizza. The (in)famous British “crisp sandwich.”
The idea of learning French and German together might incite reactions similar to those provoked by the above food combinations.
But if you really want to study two languages at the same time, French and German are pretty good choices.
In this post, we’ll look at the advantages of learning them together, some resources for doing so and how to best go about it.
- Is Learning French and German at the Same Time Possible?
- Should You Learn French and German at the Same Time?
- 3 Killer Resources for Learning French and German Together
- How to Learn French and German Together
- College-level Options for Studying French and German
- FAQs About Learning French and German at the Same Time
Is Learning French and German at the Same Time Possible?
The short answer: yes, learning French and German at the same time is completely possible.
However, it’s important to set realistic expectations.
Studying two languages at the same time—especially when they’re similar—takes more time than focusing on one.
But with the right study plan and resources, you can certainly achieve high levels of proficiency in French and German without having to choose one first.
Should You Learn French and German at the Same Time?
Yes, you should learn French and German at the same time! Here are a few reasons why.
1. They’re modern, international languages that open many opportunities.
French and German represent two of the most useful languages for international travel, studying and living abroad and even immigration.
France and Germany regularly make appearances on lists of the best countries for studying abroad, and much of this has to do with the extremely low cost involved.
Studying at public universities in Germany is essentially free, and doing so in France can be close to no cost, too.
Lists of the best countries for immigrants and for expats to settle also often feature countries where French and German are spoken.
Aside from France and Germany, Canada, Switzerland and occasionally Luxembourg and Belgium often get high marks for tolerance, which include factors like human rights and equality.
While French and German are often primarily associated with Europe, French sprawls much further across the world.
It serves to facilitate social and artistic connections between Europe and Africa, as well as between African countries.
Senegal, where the majority language is Wolof and the official language is French, is home to a thriving arts scene and was the shooting location for the most recent film to be awarded the Cannes Grand Prix, Mati Diop’s “Atlantics.”
Rwanda—another country where French is an official language—has been the site of a complicated yet groundbreaking shift in gender politics in recent years that could have international significance.
All of this means that French and German together are especially useful for their significant cultural and political connections in Europe, Africa and North America combined.
2. They’re different enough that you won’t confuse them but similar enough to help each other.
French is a Romance language that derives from Latin, whereas German is a Germanic language like English.
This means that learning them isn’t too similar.
It’s not like learning Spanish and Italian at the same time. With French and German, there’s little risk of confusing vocabulary between the two.
At the same time, there are some similar grammar concepts—such as grammatical gender—that make the two languages not entirely foreign to one another.
This allows you to focus fully on French and German at the same time without the risk of mixing them up, and with possible advantages.
3. They’ll give you new insights into the English language.
Due to the Norman takeover of England in 1066 and the subsequent establishment of French as the language of the ruling class, English also got a lot of its vocabulary from French.
Much of modern English has close linguistic relationships with both German and French.
For example, you can learn a lot of vocabulary through cognates. But cognates work the other way around, too.
I’m a native English speaker, but some of my more advanced English vocabulary comes from words whose cognates I first learned in French.
For example, I learned the word facile early on in my junior high school French class because it’s a common word in French meaning “easy.”
But the word “facile” in English, which has a related but different meaning veering more towards “simplistic” or “superficial,” wasn’t something that I encountered as a 12-year-old.
When I encountered it later, I still had to work out its meaning. But this was facile (according to the French meaning) because the word was already familiar.
3 Killer Resources for Learning French and German Together
Deutsche Welle (German Wave) is a top German-owned international news source.
Not only can you use the site to read international news in French, but you can also read in German (along with 29 other languages).
It also offers quality German learning materials that you can access in French, German or English.
You can sort available courses—which include video and audio options—according to your level on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
It helps you learn languages through the same authentic content that native speakers enjoy, meaning you learn in context.
There are hundreds of videos with interactive subtitles, full transcripts and vocabulary lists, which let you identify any word or phrase that’s used in the video.
The multimedia flashcards are another useful tool.
You can make your own or pick from sets that are linked to the video library, and follow them up with personalized quizzes to track your progress.
You can switch between the platforms for learning both French and German with one subscription.
The program saves your progress separately for each language, making multilingual studying aligned with your interests simple.
You’ve likely already heard of the fabulously popular quiz-based language learning app Duolingo.
But did you know that you can use Duolingo to learn French from German and German from French?
Yep, Duolingo offers a French-German and a German-French option.
This means you can use each language as the “teaching” language for learning the other.
This method works best if you already have a near intermediate level in at least one of the languages, as you need to know one fairly well to translate between it and the other.
For example, you may want to start off with the Duolingo English-German course, but keep your French studies low-key.
Then, when you have enough German under your belt, start the German-French Duolingo course. And learn French while keeping up your German.
You can check out our in-depth Duolingo review here to learn more about the program.
How to Learn French and German Together
So, how do you work these resources into an actual learning routine? Here are a few tips.
1. Study the weaker language in your daily routine first.
You’ll want to study French and German every day, even if you only get a little bit done.
But realistically, there will probably be some days where you just can’t manage this or where you’re cut short by something more urgent.
For that reason, always try to prioritize your weaker language over your stronger one.
Working on the language you’re finding more difficult first will ensure that if you do miss out on one language sometimes, it’ll be the one you already feel more confident about.
Plus, completing your daily study tasks in this order will create a sense of momentum.
Once your “hard” language is out of the way, it’s unlikely that you’ll feel tired and want to stop studying because moving into your “easy” language will seem even easier and give you a mental rush.
2. Use French language materials to learn German (and vice versa).
This is how resources like the Deutsche Welle site can be so useful.
Passively reinforcing a language that you know better while learning a different language at the same time is an efficient way to grow and maintain your skills.
So, try not to pass up any opportunity to do this.
Besides using dedicated resources like those above, you can also take the opportunity to search for information on questions you have about one language in the other.
Searching for Französisch lernen (learn French) or apprendre l’allemand (learn German) can also help you find useful materials.
3. Make parallel reading a regular part of your study routine.
If your French and German are at about equal levels, try reading a short portion of an e-book that’s a little bit above your current level in one language first.
If you get stuck, try to use the other text for help.
The great thing about doing this is that since both languages are target languages, “cheating” is never going to be detrimental to your reading.
Once you’ve finished reading the full portion of the book in the first language, switch to the other.
After reading both the German and French versions, check your understanding of a text in English or your native language if one is available.
If your French and German are at unequal levels, try the same exercise, but read the text in your less advanced language first.
This will challenge you to piece together the sentences from context before you resort to your more advanced language. But you’ll benefit from working with both languages regardless.
College-level Options for Studying French and German
French and German Language BA (with a year abroad) at the University of York
If you’re in the U.K. or would like to be, you may want to consider the University of York’s French and German BA option.
This is a four-year program that includes one year abroad in a French-speaking country, a German-speaking country or a combination of the two.
The program includes practical language use, linguistics and culture.
The University of York is a relatively high-ranking college that also has a high acceptance rate, potentially making it an accessible and worthwhile option for many students.
Franco-Germanic Studies Major at the University of Indianapolis
Combined French and German undergrad programs are much less popular at public universities in the U.S. than in the U.K., but the University of Indianapolis offers a Franco-Germanic studies major.
This program puts a broad focus on language and culture and includes study abroad opportunities.
Like the University of York, the University of Indianapolis has a fairly high acceptance rate and is a respected educational institution.
Franco-German Bachelor of Arts from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in cooperation with the Université de Bourgogne (The University of Bourgogne)
This is a bi-national program that includes an exchange between a French university and a German university that’s also open to students from other countries.
There are some language prerequisites though.
You need to provide proof of your language skills with the equivalent of a DSH-1 for German and a DELF for French.
But the good news is that you get to take advantage of that free European tuition.
Of course, you can also be a little more creative when it comes to mixing and matching a German and French education in a way that allows you to cater more specifically to your own needs.
For example, if your German skills are already very good and you want to establish your experience while building your French skills, you could check out a French program at a tuition-free German college.
Like the one at Freie Universität Berlin (The Free University of Berlin).
FAQs About Learning French and German at the Same Time
Is it better to learn French or German first?
If you decide you’d rather learn French and German one at a time, you’re probably wondering which you should choose first.
Most people agree that French is easier for beginners, whereas German is more difficult in the early phases of learning. However, French also tends to get more challenging as you advance, whereas German gets easier.
This also depends on your situation, goals and reasons for learning. Learn whichever language is more urgent or impactful in your life first.
Which language is more useful, French or German?
What makes a language useful is personal to you.
French has over 260 million native speakers, whereas German has 155 million. French is an official language in 29 countries and German is official in six. Both are highly valued in careers.
How much time does it take to learn German?
The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) places German as a category II language, suggesting it takes around 750 hours (30 weeks) to reach fluency.
How much time does it take to learn French?
The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) suggests that it takes around 580 hours (23 weeks) to become fluent in French.
French is considered a category I language, which means it’s one of the easiest for English speakers to learn.
French and German may seem like a weird combination.
But remember, as is the case with currywurst, it often just so happens that weird + time = classic.