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Lesson Transcript

Hi everyone.
Welcome to The Ultimate French Pronunciation Guide.
In this lesson, we'll cover accents, silent letters and final letters in French.
Let's begin with French accents.
Accents can be used to mark slight changes to the original pronunciation of a particular letter.
They may look intimidating at first and their function may seem complicated, but in fact it's quite simple.
There are a total of five accents in French. Four of which are for vowels and one of them for the letter C.
The acute accent.
The grave accent.
The circumflex.
The diaeresis.
And the cedilla.
Not all of these accents can be used with all of the vowels.
Only certain accents will appear over certain letters.
The acute accent for example, can only appear over the letter E.
This means that you'll never see *this* accent over any letter, other than the letter E.
Similar rules also apply to other accents...
But it gets better still, as many of these accent and vowel combinations don't impact the pronunciation at all.
They serve other functions unrelated to pronunciation...
ou (or)
où (where)
Let's focus on the accent and letter pairings that *do* impact pronunciation.
Here are all of them.
It's important to remember that you've learnt how to pronounce all of these sounds before, these accents do not introduce any new sounds that we haven't taught you already. So if you've been studying properly, you should be able to pronounce the correct sound just by hearing it.
Let's have a look at the first one, the acute accent over the letter E. It's pronounced...
école (school)
métro (subway)
écouter (listen)
Words ending in ER, EZ and ED in French are also pronounced this way.
chanter (sing)
vous chantez (you sing)
pied (foot)
Now let's move on. Both the grave accented E and the circumflexed E are pronounced the same way.
mère (mother)
frère (brother)
pêche (peach)
fête (party)
A regular E before a consonant and where the letters EI are together are also pronounced the same way.
pelle (shovel)
reine (queen)
The circumflexed A is pronounced...
pâte (dough)
hâte (haste)
château (castle)
It's the same pronunciation as...
glas (tolling bell)
gras (fat)
The circumflexed O is pronounced...
hôte (host)
hôpital (hospital)
côte (coast)
It's the same pronunciation as...
haut (top/high/tall)
sot (stupid)
We can think of the diaeresis set collectively, as they do not impact the letters directly.
The diaeresis signifies that one should pronounce the vowel seperately from the preceding vowel.
That is to say that you should not combine the two vowels together.
Instead, you should pronounce them in seperate syllables.
This can be seen in words like naïve or Noël.
Listen to the example.
naïve (naive [feminine])
Noël (Christmas)
maïs (corn)
The final accent is the cedilla and it only applies to the letter C.
This accent causes the letter C to be pronounced as an S-sound.
garçon (boy)
je lançais (I threw)
Now let's move on to silent and final letters.
In English, you're used to pronouncing all letters in a word. While silent letters *do* exist in English, they're not nearly as common as they are in French.
Silent letters appear quite frequently in French.
As a rule of thumb, you generally don't pronounce final letter if it's a consonant.
froid (cold)
sang (blood)
champ (field)
Of course, exceptions do exist for certain letters.
club (club)
anorak (anorak/waterproof jacket)
par (per)
Remember aspirated and muted H's?
homme (man)
hommage (homage)
Some words are pronounced with a silent H.
Unfortunately, you will just have to learn and memorize these.
Lastly, if the word ends with the letter E, it's almost always never pronounced.
homme (man)
pomme (apple)
exemple (example)
The letter E isn't pronounced in the nine single syllable words either, they are instead contracted.
Take a look at these examples.
Je appeler
j’appelle (I’m calling)
Le accident
l’accident (the accident)
Ce est
c'est (It is)
There are a few exceptions however, so be careful.
de le (from [singular])
du (from [singular])
de les (from [plural])
des (from [plural])
That's all for silent and final letters.
In this lesson, you learnt about the use of French accents and about silent and final letters.
In the next lesson, you'll learn about liaisons in French.
Do you have accents in your language? If so, what kind? Let us know in the comments.
See you in the next Ultimate French Pronunciation Guide lesson!