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Lesson Transcript

Welcome to Introduction to French.
My name is Alisha and I'm joined by...
Hi everyone! I'm Candice.
In this lesson, you'll learn the basics of French pronunciation.
English vs. French sounds
In the previous lesson, you learned that roughly 30% of all English words share their origins with French words. Because of this, French pronunciation is quite similar to English.
In fact, there are more common sounds than there are different ones. For example...
boue "mud"
sandwich "sandwich"
daim "deer"
gain "gain"
Chances are, you can imitate these words without much difficulty because these words use common sounds that exist in English.
Of course, there a few differences between French and English sounds too:
agneaux "lamb"
roue "wheel"
huit "eight"
sans "without"
These unfamiliar sounds are the ones that you need to focus on and practice. Let's take a look at some of those sounds.
Unique French Sounds
A big aspect of French pronunciation relates to nasalization.
Nasalization simply means to pronounce something through the nose. For example, the M and N sounds are considered nasal consonants because the air escapes your nose when you pronounce these sounds.
In French, some vowels can be pronounced through the mouth, or through the nose. Compare oral vowels, with nasal vowels in French:
une, un
sonne, son
certaine, certain
Nasal vowels are used often in French, so it's important that you learn them in the near future.
Another unique French sound, is the guttural R sound.
roue "wheel"
rester "stay"
riz "rice"
This R sound is pronounced at the back of the mouth. It sounds almost as if you're gargling.
Lastly, let's take a look at the French U sound.
chute "fall"
rue "street"
tu "you [informal]"
To pronounce this sound, try saying "eee" as in "see,” and then from there, slowly round your lips.
Silent letters
French is renowned for being a language full of silent letters, particularly at the end of words. Consider the following:
Je vais manger au restaurant. "I’m going to eat at the restaurant."
The S in the word "vais,” the "R" in the word "manger" and the "T" at the end of "restaurant" are all silent letters. We don't actually pronounce them in French. Listen to it again.
Je vais manger au restaurant. "I’m going to eat at the restaurant."
In fact, most of the time, the last letter of a French word is actually silent.
coup "knock/blow/shot"
froid "cold"
vous "you"
There are of course exceptions to this rule. Let's look at the most common case, when the next word starts with a vowel.
Ordinarily, the final letter of a French word would usually be silent.
vous "you"
The final S in this word is silent, but when the next word begins with a vowel...
Vous avez "you have"
The S is no longer silent and is instead pronounced like a Z sound.
Vous avez "you have"
The two words are "connected" by the Z sound and pronounced as if they were a single word.
This linking of words through the "activation" of the silent letter, is a common phenomenon in French known as "liaison.” It's the special quality that makes French sound the way it does.
Let's look at a few more examples of liaison in action.
tout "everything"
tout homme "every man"
un "a [masculine]"
un ami "a [male] friend"
neuf "nine"
neuf ans "nine years"
gentil "nice [masculine]"
gentil enfant "nice child"
Liaisons may seem a little difficult to learn at first, but they will only get easier and more intuitive by the time you get used to pronouncing whole sentences in French.
OK. Let's wrap up this lesson by recapping what we've learned.
In this lesson, you learned that there are more familiar sounds than unfamiliar sounds in French.
We showed you some unfamiliar sounds, like nasal vowels, the guttural R, and the French U.
You also learned that the final letter in a French word is usually silent, and that the letter becomes "active" if the next word starts with a vowel. This process is known as "liaison."
We've covered only the basics of French pronunciation. If you're interested in learning more, check out the entire course we created named "The Ultimate Guide to French Pronunciation." In that course, we cover and break down every single sound in the French language, showing you mouth and tongue positioning, and giving you tips to help you perfect your French Pronunciation.
In the next lesson, we'll introduce you to the basics of French Grammar, where you'll learn about French word order and how to build basic phrases in French.
See you in the next lesson. Bye!