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Learn the French Alphabet from A to Z!

Learning to speak a new language is exciting; learning to write a new language is even more exciting! It will open new worlds for you. So, dig into these tips and advice for learning how to master the French alphabet easily - at FrenchPod101 we make it easy, fun and relevant for you!

Starting anything from scratch can be challenging, especially if you learn how to write in a language completely different from your own. It is really like navigating through a territory that is completely unknown to you.

However, this need not be a big hurdle or a problem! At FrenchPod101, we introduce you to French writing in simple, easy-to-follow steps, and you can ask for advice or help anywhere along the way. It is important to master the French alphabet completely from the start.

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Introduction

The French writing system uses the Latin or Roman alphabet of the Roman Empire, just like English, plus five diacritics1 (the circumflex accent, acute accent, grave accent, cedilla, and dieresis2) and two ligatures (æ, œ) as its writing system. The accent marks mainly create phonetics for words, while the ligatures æ and œ are obligatory contractions of ae and oe in certain French words (as in sœur, meaning “sister”).

Origin of the French Writing System

Its first version (close to Latin) appears in writing in 842 A.D. in the Strasbourg Oaths, which formed alliances between two descendants of Charlemagne against their third brother to rule the inherited Empire divided among the three.

Then the French writing system evolved with the languages of the various invaders, including la langue d’oil (dialects of the Frankish Kingdom and Norse) and la langue d’oc (dialects of south and southwestern France), with both oil and oc meaning ”yes.”

The ancient origin of the Latin alphabet itself can be traced to the Cumae form of the Greek alphabet, from which a variety of other alphabets evolved to be used in the Italic languages.3

Knowing that French…

  • uses the Latin alphabet, which is a major part of international communication since it is one of the most widely used alphabets; six of the twelve international languages of the world-French, Spanish, German, English, Italian, and Portuguese-use the Latin alphabet
  • has many common vocabulary roots with romance languages (Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian, etc.)

…will help you survive with limited knowledge of these languages in many parts of the world, such as Spanish- or Portuguese-speaking countries as well as Italy, and the many other countries where French is widely spoken or is the official language.

The French Alphabet

The word “alphabet” refers to a writing system that has characters (graphemes) for representing both consonant and vowel sounds (phonemes). Ideally, each letter represents one speech sound (grapheme-phoneme correspondence), which practically is not always the case.

The current French alphabet consists of five vowels and twenty-one consonants, and thus it has twenty-six characters. It also uses accent marks, also called diacritics,1 that create phonetic, semantic, or etymological meanings for words.

We form French words by combining letters into syllables and syllables into words.

To form syllables, we use the thirty-seven phonemes, which are divided into nineteen vowels and eighteen consonants,and more than 130 graphemes.

A phoneme corresponds to a unit of sound, and a grapheme is the written code of this sound. In French, there are many graphemes for one sound. For example, the graphemes -en, -an, -em, -am, -aon, -aen have an identical sound.

You can also add prefixes or suffixes (a group of determined letters) to a word to form new words: we place a prefix before the word and a suffix after a word. For example, to create opposites of some words, which are called antonyms, add -; when we add - to brancher (”to connect” or “plug in”), it becomes débrancher (”to disconnect” or “unplug”).

If you know the French writing system and are familiar with the Latin alphabet, you will better understand its applications in the romance languages still spoken today. This will allow you to evaluate the spelling of any single one and better understand how romance languages function.

Therefore, you will also be able to learn in an easier and more efficient way an additional language, such as, for example, one of the most popular languages today for business or communication throughout the globe-Spanish.

Birth of Accents

It was also during the sixteenthcentury that accents began to appear. With the invention of the printing press, printers looked for ways to eliminate ambiguity and redundant letters. The solution to these problems was the use of accents and other markings. For example, in 1530, the French introduced the cedilla as a means of making it clear that the c was soft before a, o, and u (up till then, printers had used -ce-, -ss-, -ch- or just -c-).

1 Diacritic: small sign added to a letter to alter its pronunciation or to distinguish between similar words.

2 Dieresis: pronunciation of two adjacent vowels in two separate syllables, as in the word “cooperate” (with the syllables “co” and “operate”).

3 Italic languages:a subfamily of the Indo-European languages including the Romance languages (Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian, Latin, etc.).

French Alphabet Chart

Alphabet

The language of France is as beautiful as the countryside and the lights of Paris. The French alphabet has 26 letters based on the Latin alphabet with two orthographic ligatures and five diacritics. The French lessons that one takes will help them to make more sense of the alphabet and how it comes together to form one of the most interesting and lyrical languages in the world. Many people call the French language the language of love, and it all starts with the French alphabet and French letters.

French is the fourth most widely spoken language in the European Union, and it is the third most understood language after English and German. French is the official language of 29 countries, and the language has a long and interesting history that began as far back as the Roman Empire. The current French alphabet is a derivation and distortion from the original Latin spoken during the time of the empire. French culture and language had quite a bit of influence from the native Celtic language and the language of the Frankish invaders as well. Together these mingling of language and culture helped to form the current French vocabulary.

Those who begin taking French will find that the language is relatively easy to learn compared to other languages. The French phrases take only a bit of practice before the accent and the inflection starts to come naturally. When you want to learn how to speak French, listening and learning how to pronounce the accents and words from people who speak the language and reading French writing can make it easier.

Learning the French alphabet and searching through a French dictionary can give you a start on learning and understanding the language. However, you will want to do more to gain a better grasp of the language so you will be able to use it in daily conversation. The more you practice the language, the better you will become at speaking it, understanding it, and knowing how to add the inflection and French accents. French grammar and vocabulary may seem challenging at first, but they are quite easy to learn.

The French alphabet has 26 letters among them 6 vowels and 20 consonants.

French Letter‘s Phonetic Symbols Letter Pronunciation Example

A a

[ɑ]

[a] as in arm Un arbre (“a tree”)

B b

[be]

[be] as in bed Un bé (“a baby”)

C c

[se]

[se] as in celebrate Une lébration (“a celebration”)

D d

[de]

[de] as in delicious Un (“a dice”)

E e

[ə]

[eo] as in supple Une heure (“an hour”)

F f

[ɛf]

[ef] as in elephant Un effet (“an effect”)

G g

[ʒe]

[ge] as in genesis Un ne (“a gene”)

H h

[aʃ]

[ash] as in ashtray Un hâche (“an axe”)

I i

[i]

[e] as in eel Une fille (“a girl”)

J j

[ʒi]

[ji] as in Jim Un jean (“a pair of jeans”)

K k

[ka]

[ka] as in carrot kaki (“kahki”)

L l

[ɛl]

[el] as in eliminate Une ellipse (“a ellipsis”)

M m

[ɛm]

[em] as in hemisphere Une émanation (“an emanation”)

N n

[ɛn]

[en] as in enter Un énarque (“a graduate of the ENA3”)

O o

[o]

[o] as in orange Une opération (“a surgery”)

P p

[pe]

[pe] as in pet Un age (“a toll”)

Q q

[ky]

[ku] as in cure Une quille (“a skittle”)

R r

[ɛʀ]

[err] as in eradicate (er is pronounced as a hard r) Une erreur (“an error”)

S s

[ɛs]

[es] as in esthetic Un esquimau (“an eskimo”)

T t

[te]

[te] as in television Une lévision (“a tv”)

U u

[yu]

[u] as in cute Une tortue (“a turtle”)

V v

[ve]

[ve] as in vehicule Une voiture (“a car”)

W w

[dubləve]

[woa] 4 as in what [va] as in valley Un watt (“a watt”) Un wagon-lit (“a sleeping-car”)

X x

[iks]

[ix] as in fix Fixer (“to set”)

Y y

[igʀɛk]

[e grehk] as in eel, graph & trek Un yen5 (“a yen”)

Z z

[zɛd]

[zed] as in zebra and dance Un zoo5 (“a zoo”)

1 as learnt in primary school

2 The letter’s pronunciation is the one when it is said by itself or when spelling a word.

3 École Nationale d’Administration (ÉNA) (“National Administrative School”) is one of the most prestigious French schools seen as the one to apply for to reach positions in the various corps of the State (senate, government etc).

4for words originated in foreign languages.

5 These two French words contain the letter from the alphabet, but not the letter pronunciation when said by itself or when spelling a word for example.

Why is Learning the French Alphabet Important?

AlphabetA language’s alphabet is its building blocks. Trying to learn how to write in French without first learning its alphabet is a bit like trying to build a brick house without touching the individual bricks! It is impossible to do a good job that way. So don’t believe language schools and methods that try to teach you otherwise. You will regret it later.

Also, once you start recognizing symbols and words, you will be encouraged by your own progress and motivated to learn even faster. Even just learning the basics of the alphabet will allow you to start recognizing simple French words, and it will feel great!

Furthermore, knowing the alphabet even helps with pronunciation, as learning the individual letters of any language will start uncovering nuances and intricacies that are not always apparent when you’re simply listening to the words.

Completely mastering the French alphabet, no matter how long it takes, will give you an excellent head start in learning how to write and read the language. It will offer you a solid foundation on which to build the other language skills, so set a goal to learn the alphabet so well that you’re able to recite it in your sleep!

Read on for helpful tips and secrets to learning the French alphabet quickly and effectively.

How to Download Your Free Guide to Beginner French

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3 Reasons to Learn French Through PDF Lessons

Let’s now take a closer look at how studying French lessons in PDF format can help you reach your dream in up to half the time of normal video or audio lessons!

① Saves Minutes on Your Data Plan

Learning French through PDF lessons can dramatically reduce your data use. Once a lesson or tool is downloaded, you can then access it offline via your computer or smartphone any time or place regardless of Internet access. And once you’ve download the French lessons in PDF format, you can actually access them faster than logging in and trying to do so via a live site. So not only will learning French using PDF lessons save minutes on your data plan—it will save you some significant time as well as the lessons add up!

② Print and Take All French Lessons and PDF Tools With You Anywhere

Sometimes, a tiny smartphone screen just isn’t adequate, especially when you are trying to learn something new. The great thing about PDF lessons, tools or files is that they can be quickly printed and taken anywhere after you download them. In fact, printing out French lessons in PDF format can actually save you time when compared to going through the material on a smartphone with a small screen—even with the extra printing time!

③ Great Study Tool to Boost Retention and Mastery

Studying video or audio lessons online is a great way to learn a language because students can play and rewind sections as many times as needed until the lesson is mastered. But when you review the same French lessons again in PDF format, an incredible thing happens: your retention dramatically improves! Thanks to Time Spaced Repetition, seeing the information again in written format helps reinforce the information in your mind and improves both retention and recall. The benefits of learning French using PDF lessons quickly add up to significant time savings for you, your data plan, and your dream of learning a new language!

Why are we giving it away?

Learning to read and write is a must for all beginners. Although you get video lessons on how to write in French at FrenchPod101, you’ll still need physical worksheets to practice on. That’s why you’re getting this printable tutorial PDFs as a gift.

Secrets to Learning the French Alphabet Fast

SecretWith a language, like with anything you have to learn from scratch, having a few mnemonic devices handy are key to learning it fast. A mnemonic device is basically any method or technique that helps you to retain or commit something to memory more easily.

Here are a few mnemonic devices to memorize the French alphabet so you can speed up learning how to write in French.

① Find and Learn an Alphabet Song or Poem in French

Can you still remember your childhood alphabet song in your own language? The best way to commit it to memory so you can recite it is still your mom or first teacher’s way - with music, a song and/or a poem! Find a recording and learn to sing the song, or recite the poem along as best as you can. Ask your FrenchPod101 teacher to help you understand exactly what you are singing or saying, and soon you’ll have reciting the alphabet under your belt! Repeat it out loud as often as possible.

However, you still need to learn how to write it.

② Study a Few Letters At a Time

Remember when you were young and learning to write for the first time? You didn’t start with words or sentences; you started with letters, one at a time!

Decide on tackling only a few letters each week, and then don’t move on from these till you are completely familiar with them. Don’t take on too many at once, or you may become discouraged. Also, remember to ask your teacher at FrenchPod101 if you have questions!

Learn to incidentally spot the letters in books, road signs (If you’re living in the country), magazines, on TV, anywhere you encounter written French. Remember to write them out!

③ Write Out the Letters of the Alphabet By Hand

Make it a goal to write out your week’s letters at least once a day, and commit to this goal. You can also do it every time you have a free moment. Get yourself a special notebook for this purpose that you can carry with you anywhere you go. Sitting on the train or bus? Waiting for someone somewhere? Whip out your notebook and write the French alphabet, or the letters you are learning. Aim for about 20 repetitions, while silently saying the letter in your head as you write it out. This way, you will soon be able to form and write words all by yourself! Exciting, isn’t it?

Writing something down with a pen also seems to engrave it in the brain in a way that nothing else does. As an added benefit, it gives you the satisfaction of seeing a new language in your own writing!

Once you’ve mastered the whole alphabet, commit to writing it out in its entirety at least once a day, for at least one month. More repetitions are obviously better.

④ Involve Your Whole Body

Research has shown that the more senses and actions we use to learn something, the quicker the new information sticks in the memory and becomes habitual. To apply this principle while learning the French alphabet, write out huge letters by tracing them in the soil, or with chalk on the floor. Now, while saying the letter out loud, walk on the lines you have just traced. In this way, you ‘write’ the letter by moving your whole body!

Having fun just makes it even easier to learn something, so why not ‘write’ the letters out with dance steps while moving to your favorite French music!

This is a simple trick that seems silly, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you will commit intricate letters to memory this way. It really works!

⑤ Use Associations To Memorize Letters

This technique would involve saying the French letter out loud, and then thinking of a word in your own language that sounds the same as the letter. That would then create a phonic association that should make it easier for you to remember the letter. Better even if the association is something you can draw or picture.

If the script of the new alphabet is very different from your own, look at it closely, and see if you can find an image that the letter reminds you of

⑥ Now Have Fun Trying To Write Words!

Try to write words from your own language in French, and ask your friendly FrenchPod101 teachers for feedback! Or post them on the forum and see if anyone can read them. You will be so pleased with yourself when you start writing words that are readable and recognizable by native speakers.

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Has anyone thanked you today? We will. Thank you for reading this article and learning with us! In fact, today, you’ll learn the many different ways to say “Thank You” in French. It’s one of the most important French phrases. Check it out and watch the video too to practice your pronunciation.

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