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Lesson Transcript

Virginie: Bonjour à tous! Hello everyone.
Eric: Eric here. French Vowels. Thanks for being with us here for this lesson. Today our focus will be on the pronunciation of French vowels.
Virginie: “Ou”, “u”, “a”, “en”, “in”.
Eric: Wow! Virginie is raring to go, sounds very French.
Virginie: The sound of elegance.
Eric: Absolutely.
Virginie: Now some vowels are really difficult to pronounce in French.
Eric: Okay so what we are going to be doing is to help you guys master your French vowels.
Virginie: Right and then you will pronounce your French sounds properly.
Eric: Yes because in French, a single sound can modify the meaning of a word.
Virginie: For example “pain” and “pont”.
Eric: Did you guys hear the difference?
Virginie: One word has the sound “in” and the other the sound “on”.
Eric: But first word means “bread” and the second word means “bridge”.
Virginie: Completely different words.
Eric: Now, today we are not going to be looking at all the sounds in French, only few of the tricky vowel sounds.
Virginie: Oh by the way, in this lesson, we are going to refer to sounds as vowels. So whenever we say vowel, think sound, don’t think letter.
Eric: Okay let’s go.

Lesson focus

Virginie: C’est parti. First of all, pronouncing French is only hard if you refuse to open your mouth.
Eric: Exactly. That’s something you are going to want to keep in mind.
Virginie: It really makes it easier for you if you put your mouth to work.
Eric: Don’t hesitate to exaggerate the width of your mouth.
Virginie: Like this “aaa…..”
Eric: Now you maybe in the line of the bakery or driving in your Convertible, but we don’t care, please repeat after Virginie.
Virginie: “a”, “o”, “ou”, “é”, “i”. These should be easy to pronounce and now that your mouth is stretched...
Eric: Well wait, by the way, I wanted to ask a question. How many vowels are there in French?
Virginie: 19. Now most of them are easily accessible to pretty much everyone.
Eric: But today we are going to be looking at those that are difficult.
Virginie: Yes.
Eric: Are there a lot of similarities between sounds in English and French?
Virginie: Well the main difference is that French vowels tend to be pronounced forward in the mouth as opposed to English vowels that tend to come from the back of the mouth.
Eric: Okay that helps. So French vowels are divided into three categories which are the vowels:
Virginie: The nasal vowels.
Eric: And the semi-vowels.
Virginie: And today we are going to practice all the nasal and semi-vowels. They are quite tricky.
Eric: Okay. So let’s go for the nasal vowels first.
Virginie: There are three nasal vowels in French. Here they are: “on” as in “long”.
Eric: Long.
Virginie: Bonbon.
Eric: Candy.
Virginie: “an” as in “vent”.
Eric: Wind.
Virginie: Maman.
Eric: Mother.
Virginie: And “in” as in “pain”.
Eric: Bread
Virginie: Vin.
Eric: Wine. It’s difficult to hear the difference at first when we are not familiar with the language but this is going to get easier.
Virginie: Eric, any tips to master those sounds since you studied those at some point right?
Eric: The best thing is just to hear them a lot. So if you want to watch some French movies, listen to French music.
Virginie: Thank you. Well get ready out there.
Eric: Okay so a few mouth exercises to start out. First, keep your mouth shut and say “mmmmmmm” just as if you were meditating.
Virginie: Now if you touch your nose, you will feel vibrations.
Eric: Okay then open your mouth just a little bit into the shape of an O.
Virginie: A very small O. You guys probably have heard it all in our all about series.
Eric: With your nose vibrating and your mouth open to pronounce “on”.
Virginie: On. Excellent, isn’t it fun.
Eric: Can we hear it one more time Virginie.
Virginie: On.
Eric: Okay. Now the last stop is to shorten out into the word “pont”.
Virginie: Okay everyone. I am going to say a series of words and I will leave a silence between each word.
Eric: And your job is going to be to repeat them after Virginie.
Virginie: Ready? Go! Pont.
Eric: Bridge.
Virginie: Son.
Eric: Which means “sound”.
Virginie: Mon.
Eric: Which means “my”.
Virginie: Long.
Eric: Which means long. For the sound “an” it will be pretty much the same process except that your mouth will be wide open.
Virginie: Okay mouth shut everyone and with me “mmmmmm”.
Eric: Feel the vibration of your nose and then open your mouth. An.
Virginie: An.
Eric: Okay so what are some words with “an”.
Virginie: Okay again you guys, you repeat after me and a little silence after each word. Let’s go. vent.
Eric: And that means wind.
Virginie: Lent.
Eric: Which means slowly. Our last nasal vowel is “in”.
Virginie: And same thing, shut your mouth, make your nose vibrate and this time open your mouth and smile.
Eric: Right and stretch your lips towards the back.
Virginie: I hope you guys are following. It’s quite a workout! In. Here are some words to repeat after me again. Vin.
Eric: Which means wine.
Virginie: Pain.
Eric: Which means bread. Is this going to be as physical for the semi-vowels?
Virginie: No the nasal vowels are really the toughest sounds in French.
Eric: Okay. So how many semi-vowels are there in French?
Virginie: Same as for the nasal vowels, just three. So at the end of this lesson, you will have in your bank six vowels to practice.
Eric: And here are the three semi-vowels!
Virginie: “iy” as in “adieu”, “u” as in “nuit” and “wa” as in “boire”.
Eric: And those words mean “adieu” goodbye forever, “nuit” night “boire” to drink. These words are just certainly more accessible to us as English speakers.
Virginie: Yeah they are pretty easy. The trickiest one might be “u” as in “nuit” because of the sound “u” in it.
Eric: Yeah and it is also a tough one for Spanish speakers.
Virginie: Yes and the best way to train is to stretch your lips forward as if you were about to kiss someone.
Eric: Wow! So you are doing like a cartoon kiss here. It’s sort of an exaggerated kiss.
Virginie: Yes. We are asking you to exaggerate, remember? So put your lips forward.
Eric: The way you would do when you are whistling.
Virginie: And then try to say “u”. Some of you will tend to say “ou” instead and that’s perfectly normal. A brand new sound is very hard to produce.
Eric: It’s sometimes hard to hear it even. For example, can you share the difference between:
Virginie: “mu” and “mou”
Eric: Can you hear it? Let’s try it one more time Virginie.
Virginie: “mu” and “mou”
Eric: Great.
Virginie: Here is a list of words that have the sound “u”. Try to repeat each one after me and I will leave a silence after each of them. Lutte.
Eric: Struggle.
Virginie: Jus.
Eric: Which means “juice”.
Virginie: Du.
Eric: Which means “of”.
Virginie: Plus.
Eric: Which means plus. Wow, we have a whole list of new sounds today, right Virginie.
Virginie: Yes there you go. A quick recap “on”, “en”, “in” and “iy”,“u” and “wa”.


Eric: Okay well that just about does it for today. Before we go, we want to tell you about a way to drastically improve your pronunciation.
Virginie: The voice recording tool.
Eric: Yes the voice recording tool on the premium learning center.
Virginie: Record your voice with a click of a button.
Eric: And then play it back just as easily.
Virginie: So you record your voice and then listen to it.
Eric: Compare it to native speakers.
Virginie: And adjust your pronunciation.
Eric: This will help you improve your pronunciation fast. Thank you very much for listening.
Virginie: Merci et au revoir.
Eric: Bye.
Virginie: Bye.