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Lesson Transcript

Virginie: Bonjour à tous! Hello everyone.
Eric: Eric here. Accents, Silent Letters, and Final Letters. Okay, thank you for being with us for this lesson. Today we are going to be focusing on more pronunciation.
Virginie: In this lesson, you will learn about the sounds “é” and “è” and their corresponding spelling.
Eric: You are going to also be learning about silent letters and when not to pronounce the final letters of a word.

Lesson focus

Virginie: Let’s start with how to spell the vowels “é” and “è”.
Eric: In French, some of the vowel sounds can be spelled in different ways.
Virginie: Yes the same sound has multiple spellings.
Eric: Now first example today is the sound “é”.
Virginie: The sound “é” has two main spellings. The most common spelling is “e - accent aigu”.
Eric: You will find “e - accent aigu” in a lot of words. It can be at the end of the word...
Virginie: As in the word “clé”, “c-l-e accent aigu”.
Eric: Meaning key.
Virginie: And as in the word “pré” p-r-e accent aigu.
Eric: A meadow.
Virginie: And you can also find it in the middle of a word.
Eric: As in “métro”: m-e accent aigu-t-r-o, subway.
Virginie: And finally, you can find it at the beginning of a word as in “études”, e accent aigu-t-u-d-e, which means studies.
Eric: So the spelling is pretty straightforward each time you will see the letter E with an accent aigu it will be pronounced “é”.
Virginie: Now the other spelling for the sound “é” is AI although Northern French people won’t agree with me on this one.
Eric: It sounds like some controversy. Why is that Virginie?
Virginie: Well the spelling AI is actually pronounced differently in the south and in the north of France.
Eric: Oh mon Dieu!
Virginie: It’s pronounced “é” in the south and it’s pronounced “è” in the north.
Eric: And you grew up in the south right?
Virginie: I did grew up in the south. Therefore I pronounce it “é”.
Eric: But someone in the north would say you are wrong. They pronounce it “è”.
Virginie: Yes however it is not wrong. It is perfectly fine to say “é” when a word is spelled with AI.
Eric: Okay. Enough of French regional rivalries. Let’s look at a few examples.
Virginie: Sure for example, the word “maison” is spelled m-a-i-s-o-n and it means “house” or you have the word “aigu” which is spelled a-i-g-u which means “high pitch”.
Eric: And those are both going to have the same sound but it’s interesting to see that people don’t agree on a way to pronouncing some of the words.
Virginie: Yes but again I want to reassure everyone here, it is officially okay to pronounce ai one or the other way.
Eric: So either “é” or “è”.
Virginie: And now, let’s see how else the sound “è” can be spelled. The most common way of spelling it is E with an “accent grave”.
Eric: And you are going to be finding this in the middle of the word, never at the beginning or the end.
Virginie: As in “frère” which is spelled f-r-e accent grave-r-e which means “brother”.
Eric: Or as in “père” p-e accent grave-r-e, “father”.
Virginie: There are other spellings now that are very common for “è” and this will be for example e with the accent circonflexe.
Eric: Right. V hat on the top of the letter right?
Virginie: Right. You will find it in the words “fête” which means “party” and”fête” is spelled “f-e accent circonflexe-t-e”.
Eric: Or in “bête”, “beast”: b-e accent circonflexe-t-e.
Virginie: And another way of spelling this sound “è” is just the letter E when followed by a double consonant. For example a double “l”.
Eric: As in pelle, p-e-l-l-e, a shovel.
Virginie: Or a double “t”.
Eric: As in “cassette”; c-a-s-s-e-t-t-e, which is a cassette.
Virginie: Let’s go to our second point which is silent letters.
Eric: Now while in English, you are used to pronouncing all of the letters of a word, in French, you are going to be forgetting about some of them. There are three categories of silent letters in French.
Virginie: Yes first the letter H. Then the letter E in a specific context and then final consonants.
Eric: So let’s start with the letter H.
Virginie: Okay the letter H when placed at the beginning of a word is not pronounced.
Eric: So I should just ignore it.
Virginie: Yeah absolutely just ignore it. Here are a few words beginning with H. “Haricot”, h-a-r-i-c-o-t.
Eric: And that means “bean”.
Virginie: And “hommage”, h-o-m-m-a-g-e.
Eric: Which is a homage. Can you repeat those one more time for us Virginie?
Virginie: “Haricot” and “homage”.
Eric: Although h is not pronounced in France, you do need to know that there are two kinds of Hs.
Virginie: There is what we call the aspired H and the silent H. We will talk about that in further lesson though.
Eric: But just remember, you don’t have to pronounce either of them.
Virginie: No. And our next silent letter is the letter E when placed at the end of a word.
Eric: When the letter E ends a word, you just pronounce the preceding letter.
Virginie: Yeah you don’t pronounce the actual E and sometimes the silent final E is followed by silent consonant.
Eric: There is a lot of silent letters in French, aren’t there, but this brings us to our third category of letters not to pronounce, the final consonants.
Virginie: There are many exceptions to the rules when it comes to final consonants.
Eric: But we want to keep it simple. Some of the consonants are not going to be pronounced at the end of the word.
Virginie: Yes and these consonants are D, G, M, N, P, S, T, X, and Z.
Eric: And do you have few examples for us?
Virginie: Yes for example, the word “froid” f-r-o-i-d ends with d and that means “cold”.
Eric: Say it one more time for us. Notice there is no d sound at the end.
Virginie: Froid.
Eric: Froid. The other word we have is “sang” which is blood, s-a-n-g but there is no g pronounced, it’s just “sang”.
Virginie: We don’t want you guys to get overwhelmed with all these words. So this will be our last example Eric.
Eric: Right. The word “champ” which means field, c-h-a-m-p, “champ”.
Virginie: No one heard a p right?
Eric: You shouldn’t have. It’s a silent consonant. However Virginie, there are going to be some exceptions to this rule right?
Virginie: Yes for example M and N are pronounced in Latin words like “forum” and “amen”.
Eric: Right. That makes sense because these words aren’t from French origins. They are from another language.
Virginie: Yes absolutely and then another exception will be, when word ends with the letters ct, the t will be pronounced like in “direct” which means direct.
Eric: Okay, and one other very important point. When you are saying something plural, you are not going to pronounce S.
Virginie: Yes you never pronounce the s at the end of a word when it’s a plural word.
Eric: Okay, to sum up, for the most part, the final consonants are not going to be pronounced in French.
Virginie: Right, exactly.
Eric: But there are a few exceptions.
Virginie: There are some exceptions but you will get there. It’s not that hard.


Eric: Right. Okay that just about does it for today.
Virginie: Bye.
Eric: Au revoir!
Virginie: Thank you for listening.