french pronunciation

5 Helpful French Pronunciation Hacks for Beginners

french pronunciation

Are you having trouble nailing your French accent? Below, French teacher Jinky B. explains how to sound like a  français or française in just five easy steps…

The French have an undeniably distinct accent that can be difficult for non-native speakers to perfect.

Nevertheless, it’s not entirely impossible for non-natives to learn how to speak French.

All it takes is some direction from your French teacher and a whole lot of practice.

Below are five helpful French pronunciation hacks or shortcuts to help you perfect your French accent.

5 French Pronunciation Hacks

1. The Silent Letters

One of the first French pronunciation rules is that you don’t actually say all the letters that are in a word.

The general rule of thumb is that you don’t say the consonants at the end of a word unless there is an ‘e’ at the end of the word. Check out the examples below:

Example one: français (Frenchman)

DO NOT say the ‘s’ sound, rather it sounds like ‘frong-say’.

*See #4 for pronunciation of the ‘-an’ in the first syllable.

Example two: française (Frenchwoman)

DO say the ‘s’, but making it more like a ‘z’ sound, to sound like ‘frong-says’.

*See #4 for pronunciation of the ‘-an’ in the first syllable.

There are some notable exceptions. Use this acronym to recognize when it’s possible to pronounce the consonant at the end of a word: CaReFuL. See the examples below.

Example one: Un truc (a thing)

DO say the ‘c’ in truc to sound like ‘trook’.

*The ‘u’ sounds like the English word ‘too’, not the English word ‘crook’.

Example two: Hiver (winter)

DO say the ‘r’ in hiver to sound like ‘e-vair’.

*The ‘h’ is silent at the beginning of the word.

2. The Liaison ‘Z’

One surefire way to sound more français or française is by linking the letter -s and the vowel in the word that follows.

For example, ils sont (they are) and ils ont (they have) look very similar in writing. However, when spoken, there is a very notable difference.

In the first, Ils sont, do not say the ‘s’ sound in ils, but DO say the ‘s’ in sont to sound like ‘eel song’, paying attention to not saying the -ng sound.

In the second, Ils ont, the ‘s’ actually have the ‘z’ sound, which is known as a liaison, since the ils and ont are connected together. DO say ‘eel-zong’, paying attention to not saying the -ng sound.

3. The ‘O’ Sound

Sometimes, you will see a string of vowels in French that look a bit puzzling. Don’t do too much work, but rather make the one vowel sound, ‘o’.

When pronouncing this group of vowels, your lips should also form the ‘o’ shape. Check out the examples below.

Example one: Beau (handsome), which sounds like the ‘-bow’ in ‘rainbow’.

Example two: Eau (water), which sounds just like the letter ‘-o’.

4. The Nasal ‘On’ Sound

The nasal sound in words like Bonjour (hello) and cent (hundred) is a very recognizable French sound.

Non-French speakers can generally pick up that French is being spoken when hearing these sounds.

Think of the English word, ‘song’. Say the word, but stop when you reach the ‘-ng’ sound. In the French word chanson (song), for example, it sounds like ‘shan-song’.

5. The ‘R’ Sound

Fin (the end) is the most difficult French sound to produce as well as the  most used sound in French.

While this may take the most time to master, you will definitely feel like a true français or française once this is achieved.

It sounds a bit like you’re gargling water at the back of your throat. For example, Bonjour, Paris! (Hello, Paris!).

The ‘r’ sound is at the end of Bonjour and in the middle of Paris. Practice saying this phrase five times a day and you’ll get it down fast.

Your Turn!

For even more tips to improve your French pronunciation, and sound like a native speaker, check out this quick YouTube tutorial.

Keep these French pronunciation shortcuts in mind when you’re practicing your accent. If you concentrate on the proper pronunciation, you’ll be sounding like a real français or française in no time.

Post Author: Jinky B.
Jinky B. teaches French lessons in Jacksonville, FL. She has her Bachelor’s of Arts in French, French Literature and Psychology from Florida State University and has over five years of teaching experience. Learn more about Jinky B. here!

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