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Lesson Transcript

Virginie: Bonjour tout le monde! Hi everyone.
Eric: Eric here. French Rhythm.
Virginie: So this is the last of our five lesson series about pronunciation, right, Eric?

Lesson focus

Eric: That’s right. And today, we are going to be looking to a new aspect of French musicality.
Virginie: Yes with this lesson, you will know why French sounds so lovely.
Eric: And she is not biased. So the first question is probably, what do we mean by rhythm?
Virginie: Well each language has its own rhythm right.
Eric: And rhythm is comprised of three categories.
Virginie: The stress marks, in other words the volume of the syllables.
Eric: And then the intonation which is the pitch of the syllables.
Virginie: And finally the way words are linked to each other in a sentence.
Eric: Okay so let’s see how French is organized.
Virginie: What are the specificities of French rhythm Eric?
Eric: Well the first thing that gives French its rhythm is the lack of stress marks.
Virginie: Yes as opposed to English for example.
Eric: Every word in spoken English is stressed on one of its syllables.
Virginie: Let me know if I say it right like in the word unbelievable.
Eric: Right, excellent and you can hear the stress is on that word.
Virginie: Yes but you won’t hear that kind of thing in French.
Eric: And everything has more of a steady volume.
Virginie: Uhoo did you notice how reasonable and quiet French people sound?
Eric: Well I guess they are reasonable and quiet.
Virginie: That’s true. French rhythm doesn’t have stress marks but it has rhythmic groups and intonation.
Eric: And a rhythmic group is a grammatically related group of words.
Virginie: Like say a subject with its verb.
Eric: For example “Je suis” I am is a rhythmic group called a verbal group.
Virginie: Or like an article with its noun which is called a noun group like “une fille” a girl. How does it work Eric?
Eric: So take out two rhythmic groups “Je suis” I am and “une fille” a girl and make that into a sentence.
Virginie: Je suis une fille. I am a girl.
Eric: What happened is that Virginie said the last syllable of each of the rhythmic groups with a slightly higher intonation.
Virginie: Yes and again, it sounds like “je suis une fille”.
Eric: You can hear that “suis” and “fille” sort of standout in front of the last syllable of each rhythmic. It is a little bit higher pitched.
Virginie: Not too much of course.
Eric: Right just slightly but that’s one of the secrets of the poetry of French.
Virginie: We know that you probably just started learning French. So you won’t need those details right away.
Eric: This is something you want to listen for when you are hearing a French conversation.
Virginie: Yeah you will definitely hear different segments in the sentence if you pay attention to it.
Eric: And this is all making French get that sound of love.
Virginie: Okay now we need to talk about another important component of French rhythm Eric.
Eric: The effective accent.
Virginie: Words are emphasized when loaded with emotion.
Eric: And that’s what we call the effective accent. For example:
Virginie: Like in: oh là là!
Eric: You can hear the annoyance in her tone sort of.
Virginie: And annoyance makes me emphasize the last syllable.
Eric: Since this isn’t a monotonous language, there is going to be a lot of emphasis on certain words.
Virginie: The last component of the French rhythm is the “enchaînement” and the liaison.
Eric: And we could translate “enchaînement” as a sound sequence.
Virginie: Since the liaison was the focus of our previous lesson, today we will only talk about the “enchaînement” or sound sequence.
Eric: Let’s start with a definition.
Virginie: In the “enchaînement” the final consonant of a word is linked to the first vowel of the following word.
Eric: So is this like liaison?
Virginie: No, not exactly. A liaison happens with consonants that are usually silent.
Eric: Okay and “enchaînement” happens when the consonants are pronounced anyway.
Virginie: Exactly.
Eric: So you should probably give an example.
Virginie: Take the two words: “avec”
Eric: Which means “with”
Virginie: Spelled a-v-e-c and the other word “elle”
Eric: Which means her.
Virginie: And it’s spelled e-l-l-e.
Eric: Avec elle.
Virginie: Said together, it will sound like this “avec elle”.
Eric: Right as if it were one word.
Virginie: Absolutely. The c at the end of “avec” is pronounced anyway right, but when followed by the e of l, it really sounds like a wave like “avec elle”.
Eric: Right. It gets very smooth.
Virginie: Another good example of an “enchaînement” is when the first word in the sequence ends with a silent E.
Eric: Like in the word “elle”. So for example, “elle est”: she is. Elle est.
Virginie: It sounds smooth “elle est”. Not “elle...est”.
Eric: Right. You are not breaking up the phrase into two words. It’s going to be a smooth “elle est”.
Virginie: It might all sound very technical but in the end, it is just logical.
Eric: And all of this phenomenon make the French language smooth and it’s like a soft, continuous sound.


Virginie: Exactly. Okay well, we are about to wrap up and we hope that this lesson helped you understand why French language sounds the way it sounds.
Eric: And we are sure it will help you to improve your speaking skills.
Virginie: Thank you all for listening.
Eric: That just about does it for today. Okay, bye.
Virginie: Au revoir!