Also the English language has changed a lot in the past 50 years, do we included grammar from the past into our current analysis? I don't know?
Enlgish has not changed much in a fundamental way in the last 50 years (what language has?). It has some new words and some influence from substrates such as AAVE that aren't yet widely accepted as standard. But anyway, no need to complicate the analysis by including historical versions of the languages. :)
French verbs can be very difficult. You have to account for gender inflection and verb conjugations which seem to inflect with every pronoun.
You don't have to account for gender in French verbs, except for participles probably 5% of the time (90% of all statistics being made up on the spot). But yes, you do have to account for number and, in the plurals, you have to account for person. Most verbs have 4 audibly different forms: singular and 1st, 2nd, 3rd person plural.
one thing that is nice is that French doesn't have as many irregular verbs as English so there is a lot of consistency
English irregulars are not very irregular. Usually they have different past participle and/or preterite (e.g. drive/drove/driven). French irregulars tend to obscure the original form, which can be hard for learners, but there are certainly patterns (e.g. in the classic pouvoir/vouloir/devoir series). Funny enough, English and French each have two suppletive verbs and they have parallel meanings: go and be in English and aller and être in French.
English past tense is highly irregular with bizarre conjugations like "sit" and "sat"
Arguably not more bizarre than pouvoir / pu. But it should be noted that in both languages, these are a tiny minority of the verbs.
phrasal verbs that you practically need to memorize ("stand in/stand up/stand out" all mean completely different things, "stand up" specifically has multiple meanings.)
This is a good point; English prepositions do a lot of work. While both languages are very particular about which prepositions are most natural, in English there's a much greater risk of them dramatically changing the meaning.
French nouns and adjectives conjugate with gender while English adjectives don't
One might argue that as long as a language has any agreement, its complexity is at a certain level. English actually has more genders (3) than French (2). But we apply them to very few words; just about all inanimate nouns are neuter. This makes the memorization burden much greater in French.
As Draconis pointed out, one has to define complexity before one can know whether "I have to memorize the gender of 20,000 words, or at very least a dozen endings that allow me to predict most words" makes the language itself more complex; but I would argue that it does add quite a lot to the list of things a non-native speaker has to acquire.
One remark to make in response is that a mistake in gender almost never changes the meaning, whereas number does. Number agreement is present in both English and French, but is actually not marked in spoken French most of the time. That this presents a difficulty can be seen in the fact that French speakers who learn English frequently make mistakes in number.
That also raises a core question about complexity. Which is more complex: If a language has two different forms for two different concepts, requiring the speaker to know how to use both? Or if a language has only one form, requiring the listener to deal with the ambiguity? Is the fact that je serai and je serais are pronounced the same a help or a hindrance to learners of French?
English has more words and synonyms than in French and there seem to be more ways to creatively and specifically express oneself.
Indeed, English has a much larger vocabulary by standard counts. While one can easily communicate with a subset of either language, this variety can make reading more of a challenge.
I find advanced sentence structures seems to be difficult in English, both have strict and inflexible word order systems but English goes overboard with things like adjective order and the use of when to use articles feels almost random in English.
Most of the syntax is surprisingly parallel. Adjective order is not more complex in either language, to my knowledge. One thing that's used more often by English speakers than by French speakers is the passive voice.
I agree that articles can be pretty difficult in English, and like prepositions, they can change the meaning in interesting ways. For example, in French, « Les ours grondent » serves equally well for a statement about particular bears and for bears in general. But in English you need to express these differently: "The bears are growling" vs. "Bears growl". A French speaker in our French SE chatroom remarks that knowing when to use the zero-article in English is a challenge.
English has more ways to express possesion ( 'S genitive/Of/Mine) than French.
True, and we can construct some quite difficult phrases (not always universally accepted), such as "the king of England's territory" where a learner might perceive ambiguity in parsing. That said, you can construct similar phrases in French.
French's uses reflexive pronouns way more than in English.
Real semantic reflexives (translatable by "self") are probably about as common in both languages. But French has a lot of pronominal verbs like se rendre or s'en aller. This is another case where it's not really more complex, because the pronoun is just built into the lexical item like any other verb to a French speaker, but at the same time it poses a problem for learners because the analysis is harder.
(This one may be bias) I have heared better French as second language speakers than English as second language speakers on average. This could be due to a lot of reasons though.
Yeah, that probably is bias. How much more likely are we to notice errors in people speaking our native language than in people speaking our second language?
Also, I find that most native speakers place a lot of weight on accent in their evaluation of someone else's skill, even though accent is a tiny part of learning a language (that is, producing the sounds just right; you certainly have to be able to distinguish them). Accent is also one of the hardest things to perfect and one of the easiest things to be oblivious to in your second language. It takes almost no time for a native speaker to judge someone non-native because of tiny differences in articulation.
English has a progressive verb tense that French lacks.
Yeah, and this also visible in the example with "The bears are growling" vs. "Bears growl". On the other hand, French can insist on progressive aspect with « être en train de » or « en ce moment », which are pretty easy to use, and the English rules for using and conjugating progressive are also easy to explain. (Meanwhile, the difference in meaning between imparfait and passé composé is nigh impossible to pin down!)
Both have difficult subjunctive moods but French's is way more difficult.
Orally it's not too bad. For most verbs, just pronounce the final consonant for je/tu/il or insert an "i" into nous/vous. But combined with other tenses you can get some very difficult ones (which French speakers themselves don't always employ perfectly), such as eusse + participe passé. Also, the English subjunctive is in much greater danger of disappearance. So I think this is more of a challenge in French.
there are so many pronouns in French and they change so often
Another case (no pun intended) where we do at least have the foundations of the distinction being made: he/him vs. il/le/lui and so forth. French does have more unique forms, but the total is still fairly low. I find that after a year, students are more tripped up by the sentence order of pronouns than by the choice of pronoun.
French spelling has its issues but is still much more logical and consistant than English.
Yes, French spelling is much more regular, although English speakers have a hard time with all the silent letters. English is not as bad as people think, as for example in Shaw's "ghoti" joke which only works as a joke because its point is wrong (we all know it can't be pronounced as he says, and we know that because English is regular). The worst thing in English is not cough/through/bough, which are very much a finite and memorizable set, but multi-character vowels with ambiguous readings, like tear/tear/fear/bear, read/read/bead/bread and so on. Extremely few French words or combinations of letters have unpredictable pronunciations; the exceptions, like fils, tous, est, ville, are just that, exceptions.
Both languages have very difficult forms of formality, both are generally pretty similar (light sentence inversion etc.)
Notably, we don't have a tu/vous distinction, which affects a lot of things in every sentence. Remembering to call someone "Mr. Lastname" is technically easier than switching between tu/vous. This is more of a cultural thing, though; a culture could come up with any number of complex ways to use its language to express formality.
the difference seems to be all over the place between English and French.
I have found that many English as a second language speakers like to flex about how "easy" English is when in reality I personally find that both languages are easy and hard in their own ways. In terms of learning French is a harder language to start with
This is probably true. To add to Draconis' answer, I think that while we can theoretically argue about the complexity of a language till the cows come home, the question of how hard a language is to learn is easier to answer — if only because Western culture has given us a rich corpus of language tests that provide the criteria for us! But yes, linguists tend to concede that there are differences in ease of acquisition of a given target language based on which source language you're coming from.
And why is the language's complexity so tied to its worth.
Good question, with the possibility of a deep and broad answer looking into attitudes towards language superiority dating from the 16th century onward in the West. The question of expressivity, poeticness, regularity, subtlety, sophistication, etc. has been endlessly asked, and the answer is always subjective and almost always motivated by politics.
This is my own perception as a non-native speaker of French, but: One thing unique to French is that it is one of the most normative languages in the world. If a language is a dialect with an army and a navy, French has a nuclear arsenal protecting it. It has the Académie française; it has draconian language laws in Canada (where restaurant owners have been known to be legally forced to write "poisson cru" instead of "sushi"); it has the organization of the Francophonie; it has comparison to « la langue de Molière », whereas we English speakers don't compare ourselves with Shakespeare when evaluating our eloquence...
The culture of France and many former colonies has been imbued with the idea of the language's perfection and the need to keep it so. What's incredible is how much impact it has in people's self-correction and social correction. While English speakers have similar prescriptivist thoughts, e.g. in Johnson's preface to his dictionary, we don't tend to reach for "sophisticated" as the first way to describe our language (we'd probably prefer "expressive"), and many people regard those who make it their duty to correct others not as people saving the language, but as "grammar Nazis" (to use an outdated term). This difference is corroborated by the Francophone jlliagre's answer.
Similarly, the many accents of England are celebrated as part of its charm (cf. Pygmalion) whereas the Académie worked hard to stamp out the various « patois » of France.
Both languages have plenty of pedants, but French culture normalizes the idea of a correct language in a way that, I think, reaches the average person more deeply than English culture does for us. This probably contributes to your friend's sense that he can get along fine in his broken English, while even minor mistakes in French are flagrant offences.