Lesson Notes

Unlock In-Depth Explanations & Exclusive Takeaways with Printable Lesson Notes

Unlock Lesson Notes and Transcripts for every single lesson. Sign Up for a Free Lifetime Account and Get 7 Days of Premium Access.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Transcript

Virginie: Bonjour everyone.
Eric: Eric here. French Pronunciation.
Virginie: I am Virginie and thanks again for being here with us. Today, we will catch a glimpse of some of the French pronunciation aspect.
Eric: Okay so French pronunciation is known to be quite difficult but it’s also the sound of love.
Virginie: Yes. We certainly don’t want to scare you and you will see that with some practice, French pronunciation is not very complicated.

Lesson focus

Eric: Okay, so let’s go out and share some French sounds: les sons français.
Virginie: Pronouncing French is only hard if you refuse to open your mouth basically. In any other situation, you should be fine.
Eric: Okay sounds good. How many sounds does the French language have?
Virginie: 37 sounds, just not that much. I think that what scares people is the fact that we have 130 ways of spelling those 37 sounds which is a lot. So yes, when it comes to reading French out loud, it gets more tricky.
Eric: But we are not going to be talking about that today.
Virginie: No, no, no, no, no today we will only focus on the sounds. Of course, not all of them but the most interesting and challenging ones.
Eric: Okay so I just want to make everyone know, from now on, we are going to be referring to sounds as vowels and consonants. So whenever we say vowel, think sound, don’t think letter.
Virginie: So c’est parti! Let’s go. So how many vowel sounds in French Eric?
Eric: 19.
Virginie: Exactly. Let’s start with some common ones and very easy.
Eric: Okay so Virginie, what you are going to be doing is giving us the French vowel sound and then an English word that sounds similar right?
Virginie: Yes first sound “a” as in map, second sound “i” as in feet and third sound “ou” as in foot.
Eric: Now how many consonants are there in French?
Virginie: There are 18 consonants. Some examples. We have “p” as in Paris, “c” as in Carrot “g” as in gross.
Eric: So most of the consonants also exist in English. Only a few are French specific.
Virginie: Here we are not going to go over all the sounds but if you are interested, you can listen to our pronunciation series to master pronunciation.
Eric: Okay so what would be the most challenging vowels in French.
Virginie: Definitely what we call the nasal vowels.
Eric: Okay nasal vowels. So those are vowels that are uttered with nose?
Virginie: Right sort of. The nose is definitely involved here. There are three nasal vowels with some variations that you really don’t need to know. First nasal vowel “on” as in “long”, “bonbon” and here I am giving you guys French words, not English words. So let me repeat this one. “On” as in “long”, “bonbon”.
Eric: And “long” means long, “bonbon” means candy.
Virginie: Second sound is “an” as in “vent” and “maman”.
Eric: “Vent” means wind and “maman” means mommy.
Virginie: And third nasal sound is “in” as in “pain” and “vin”.
Eric: “Pain” is bread and “vin” is probably the most important word, wine. It’s difficult to hear the difference at first when you are not familiar with this language but it’s going to get easier.
Virginie: And obviously, all of those vowels are pronounced with the nose since they are called nasal vowels. And part of the sound is affected by an area somewhere between your nose and your palate. Any tips to master those sounds, Eric?
Eric: First, keep your mouth shut and sort of pretend like you are meditating and you are going to want to say umm….
Virginie: Umm…And then I open my mouth a little bit like in the shape of an O and so it will be (sound). Is that right?
Eric: Got you. Okay.
Virginie: Why don’t you guys out there try with us like (sound). Okay your nose is vibrating and you still have some sort of “on” instead of “o”
Eric: Right. So you are not going “o” you are going “on”.
Virginie: Right.
Eric: Okay. So now we are going to try our next sound. This is going to be an “an” sound. Sounds like it is (sound).
Virginie: Yes, our second sound is “an” so just like Eric just said, it’s (sound). So it’s the same as “on” except that the mouth is more widely open. So “on” is more like (sound) and “an” is more like (sound).
Eric: So you are basically going to have your nose vibrating you know, while your mouth is shut, but when you open your mouth wide, you are going to feel that your tongue is sort of sticking to the back of your palate. Okay this is great. I hope that it is not just the two of us doing this online though. So the last nasal sound is “in” (sound) same thing, you shut your mouth, make your nose vibrate and open your mouth in a smile by stretching your whips towards at the back.
Virginie: Right and you will notice that of all the nasal vowels, the “in” the last one we are doing right now is the less nasal. Your nose doesn’t vibrate as much.
Eric: And your tongue really sticks to the palate. (sound)
Virginie: (sound)
Eric: That’s beautiful.
Virginie: Thank you. The best way to practice those sounds is to pronounce them in a word.
Eric: Okay. Try to repeat after Virginie.
Virginie: “On” sound. Bon.
Eric: Good.
Virginie: Son.
Eric: Sound.
Virginie: Boulon.
Eric: Screw.
Virginie: Mouton.
Eric: Sheep.
Virginie: Onde.
Eric: Wave.
Virginie: Now with the “an”. Vent.
Eric: Wind.
Virginie: Ment.
Eric: Lie.
Virginie: Pendant.
Eric: During.
Virginie: Now with the “in”. Vin.
Eric: Wine.
Virginie: Teint.
Eric: Dye.
Virginie: Tintin.
Eric: Tintin is a Belgian comic strip.
Virginie: Right exactly.
Eric: Okay. So what about some consonants now?
Virginie: Almost most of the French consonants will be found in English, there are some variables. Let’s take “che” and “je” for example.
Eric: Okay so I think yesterday we are just talking about “ch” as in “chat” and “je” as in “j’aime”.
Virginie: And “chat” is a cat and “j’aime” is I love.
Eric: So this sound is a little bit softer right?
Virginie: Right instead of “tche” you will say “che” and instead of “dje” you will say “je”
Eric: Okay. So those are the difference between the American pronunciations and the French pronunciations. So what’s the one that the Americans really struggle the most with?
Virginie: I think it will be “r”.
Eric: The R sound.
Virginie: Can you say “r” Eric?
Eric: (sound)
Virginie: Yeah good, very good. It’s very hard for Americans. There are two different ways of saying “r”. In French, there is “r” and there is (sound) which is very different and you won’t hear (sound) a lot in French. It’s really in the country and it’s the older generation that speaks this way.
Eric: Why is that?
Virginie: It’s just an old sound that’s disappearing and oh I know why you are asking this question right because you’ve heard that sound in songs. Haven’t you?
Eric: Yeah I have sometimes.
Virginie: Yeah.
Eric: Old songs, I guess old songs.
Virginie: Right. So I don’t know if you know the singer called George Brasses.
Eric: Yeah of course.
Virginie: So he is very famous for making this sound (sound). Whenever he sings, it is (sings)
Eric: Right.
Virginie: It was bad.
Eric: No it is beautiful.
Virginie: And he is always doing this (sound) sound. That is not very common in French anymore but we definitely say “r” all the time.
Eric: Okay.
Virginie: Did it make sense?
Eric: I think so. It sounds also like the most – probably most famous singer Edith Piaf like I think I heard you sing this song before.
Virginie: Yeah she sings (sings) something like that.
Eric: Right, right. What a singer you are Virginie!
Virginie: Yeah she is a lot better than me for sure. Here are some words with the sound “r”. Roi.
Eric: King.
Virginie: Port.
Eric: Port.
Virginie: Vert.
Eric: Green.
Virginie: Mer.
Eric: Sea.
Virginie: Cour.
Eric: Court.
Virginie: Okay.
Eric: That sounds a little bit hard for English speakers but what other vowel sounds are there?
Virginie: Yeah there are other sounds that are tough for English speakers. For instance, the sound “u” can you say that Eric?
Eric: (sound)
Virginie: Well it’s hard but definitely manageable.
Eric: Okay.
Virginie: What would be an English word that we have some sort of the same sound?
Eric: Ah like the English word cute?
Virginie: Yes it’s a good example cute. The sound is “u”
Eric: Right “u”. So do you have some examples of French words that use the exact sound?
Virginie: Yes. Lutte.
Eric: Struggle.
Virginie: Culotte.
Eric: Underpants.
Virginie: Nu.
Eric: Nude.
Virginie: Okay well, that’s a lot to remember, isn’t it?
Eric: Yeah it sounds like enough practice for today. Basically what’s going on with this is, you are using a lot of different parts of your mouth than you would in English.
Virginie: Yeah every single part of your mouth is at work when you say something.
Eric: And then when you speak French, you go from guttural sounds to high pitch sounds in no time.
Virginie: Yeah I guess that’s what makes it sound so nice to most people.
Eric: So now that we’ve overviewed some of the most challenging sounds, let’s talk about the intonation.
Virginie: You mean the accent.
Eric: Right.
Virginie: Yeah and the good news are, there is no stressing accent in French. For example, when you say, you are an incredible person. Well in French, you would say, you are an incredible person.
Eric: Right, okay. So you guys are a little more calm, less emotional I guess.
Virginie: Quite. That’s for sure. Go to a restaurant in France and you won’t feel half as noisy as in an American one but of course French people have emotions like any other people and it affects the way of speaking.
Eric: So they talk with their hands a lot I guess.
Virginie: uh-huh.
Eric: What all should we absolutely know about the French?
Virginie: I think you know all you need to know to start working on your pronunciation now. If I could show you how to speak with your hands, I would be happy to.


Eric: But you can’t. Thank you guys for listening.
Virginie: Thank you and have a great day. Au revoir.