“Le” or “la”? Even the French can’t decide

If you’ve ever dabbled in the French language, you know the difficulty of memorizing which gender goes with which noun. Why is a beard — la barbe — feminine? Why is a bicycle — le vélo — masculine? Well you shouldn’t have to feel bad about your French language difficulties; turns out even the French can’t agree on which gender goes with which word.

A recent study conducted by Dalila Ayoun at the University of Arizona found that, “Fifty-six native French speakers, asked to assign the gender of 93 masculine words, uniformly agreed on only 17 of them. Asked to assign the gender of 50 feminine words, they uniformly agreed [on] only 1 of them. Some of the words had been anecdotally identified as tricky cases, but others were plain old common nouns.”

Put simply, even native speakers have a hard time distinguishing between le and la. But I’m not surprised, French is after all très difficile.

Via LanguageHat