French is sometimes described as the most difficult European language, and this is true to a certain extent. You wouldn't believe the number of completely silly
rules in the language, especially weird spellings that aren't pronounced. As a result, many native speakers with a college education (like me) still make a substantial number of spelling mistakes
(1 per paragraph say).
Here's a sample of what you'll have to suffer through if you try to learn French and spell it properly (to be fair, other languages have some of these characteristics too; I'm comparing it to English here):
- Verb conjugations. There are around 50 (not kidding) ways to conjugate each verb. (there are many tenses not found in English or that can be expressed more simply) There are 3 different types of regular verbs, so you can start by memorizing how those work. That won't help you with all the irregular verbs, though.
- Masculine/feminine. In French, each noun is given an arbitrary gender. You must memorize it. The most noticeable effect of this is that it changes articles. ("le" and "la" for example) However, it also subtly changes the spelling of adjectives, pronouns and other words that happen to be around it in complex, irregular ways.
- A hopelessly irregular grammar. For example, if I recall correctly, the spelling of the past participle used with the verb "avoir" varies with the direct complement, but only if the complement is before the verb. This rule is terminally stupid and it's a fertile source of mistakes. And don't even let me get started on when to spell "leur" as "leurs". French is full of such rules which you'll have to painfully remember.
- Accents, placed pretty much arbitrarily. It's hard to remember where to put them, especially since there are 3 types.
Quebec native speakers use a dialect of French which is different in many moderately important ways from standard French. Interestingly enough, there's no official grammar for it or accepted way of writing it down, so in written texts we use standard French (which is taught in Quebec schools), which sounds rather formal to us. So I hate IRC chatting in French: it's a choice between overly formal standard French or Quebec French, which seems unnatural when written down. Not to mention, I hate making spelling mistakes, and in French I still do :(.
Here's an example of standard French versus Quebec French:
Standard: Veut-il venir?
Quebec: Y veut-tu venir?
Both sentences mean "Does he want to come?". The first is correct, but would sound very odd and overly pedantic about grammar if someone from Quebec actually said it in a real-world situation. The second has completely crazy grammar (what's that "tu" doing there!?) and "Il" is mispronounced "Y", but it's perfectly natural and easy to understand for a French Canadian. Don't worry though, nobody minds when foreigners speak standard French.
My favorite poetry is all written in French: for some reason there's something about the language that makes its poetry so much better-sounding to my ears. "Les sanglots longs des violons de l'automne" (Verlaine), mmmmm. If you learn French you *must* read the work of Nelligan, the most famous French Canadian poet. Everyone likes Nelligan.