Posted by: lyonenglishnetwork | October 6, 2011

English is a more descriptive language than French

Recently (as always), I’ve been surfing the web in the evening. Sometimes, I listen to music on youtube and at the beginning of the music, there’s often an advert. The one that kept coming up was the head and shoulders one starting “Je suis dermatalogue…” Up to this point, nothing strange.

I saw the same advert on English tv the other day. It started like this: “I’m a skin specialist…”

The French always use the specific term for the doctor and somehow, they seem to know all the terms for the specific doctors – it’s very precise. For an English person arriving in France, it was like the French had all been to some kind of advanced university! I was using terms like back-doctor!



  1. And believe it or not but some of my students seem to find it incredible and it makes me feel like they don’t believe me!
    It’s actually quite funny how people seem to think they can comment on English (or any other “foreign” language) when they don’t actually speak the language really well…
    My students are actually always surprised when I show them a French-English dictionnary and they realize that the English part is actually thicker than the French!

  2. Yes.

    But it doesn’t mean the English are STUPIDER than the French just because they speak in a different way. To use skin specialist or back doctor, instead of dermatologue or “kiné” is the way the English language is. The words (dermatologist) exists in the dictionary, it’s just that not many people use it. Maybe that’s why the English part of the dictionary is thicker.

    It also doesn’t mean that the French are more intelligent – it’s just that the words they used come more often from Greek or Latin than us and they use more greek or latin words and more nouns, whereas we use more verbs (phrasal verbs at that).

    We also have no ‘academy’ to check that whatever words are developing in the anglo-saxon world (to tweet, to google) are O.K. to go into the language.

    There are more words in English (about 5 times more) but again, it doesn’t mean that English is better just because they have more words.

    I’m been reading a bit of Hobbes lately and it’s easier in French! He’s an English philosopher but from a long time ago so that means the more recent French translation is easier. And perhaps French has changed a lot over time and maybe is more adapted to philosophy in some ways than English – after all, it’s designed like that by the ‘academy’.

    On another point though, I think this thing about ‘naming’ things is great in French. Things should be given their proper name. There’s no politically correct skirting around the proper names of things (can’t talk about sex, can’t talk about this, can’t talk about the other) in French – say it like it is!, and the opposite is a really negative point of English culture.


  3. In medical matters I think the French are more precise and more conscientious about their healths. I still struggle to define differences between kinetherapy, chiropractice and osteopathy. I mean, as an Englishman, it’s all to do with bone & joint problems – isn’t it?
    On the other hand, I think we’re more ‘au fait’ with non-traditional massages, such as ‘shiatsu’ and ‘reiki’. Guess there’s some cultural difference here.

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