Learning French is not just vocabulary and grammar. It is also the correct pronunciation. Don’t be afraid if you have your accent, just sometimes you should remember that incorrect pronunciation can lead to misunderstandings. Look at these simple examples: cheveux – chevaux, attendre – entendre, faim – femme. All these words sounds almost the same to a non-native ear, unless in English we translate them as: hair – horses, to wait – to hear, hunger – woman. I hope that you understand the importance of the correct pronunciation from now.
So how to improve your French pronunciation?
DIFFICULT FRENCH SOUNDS
Nasal vowels. These vowels are /in/ /im/ /ym/ – [ɛ̃], /an/ /am/ /en/ /em/ – [ɑ̃], /un/ /um/ – [œ̃], and /on/ om/ – [ɔ̃]. All you have to do is to push the air through your nose and mouth. Try to pronounce these words – chambre, cinq, bon, un. One you understand the technique, you will see that it is not so difficult.
Liaisons. French people do liaisons. But what does it mean exactly? To make it simply, it is a type of sound changing between two words that is finished and started with a vowel sound. In this way, we add a consonant sound. For example, les avions. Let’s look at these words separately: les is finished with the vowel sound because we don’t pronounce the last letter “s”, avions is started with the vowel “a”. Between this two words we do the liaison. Practically, you pronounce like this: /le-z-avion/ . I hope now you understand what does it mean.
Silent consonants. A lot of the silent consonants you can find at the end of the words. We never pronounce them. The golden rule is that the letters d, t, s, x, p, z are not pronounced at the end of the words (but there are exceptions!).
SO WHY DO FRENCH PEOPLE WRITE THEM?
It is a good question. I think I have an answer for you. A long, long time ago… when the monks rewrote books to not loose the important information, they added letters at the end of some words, simply because they were paid for every symbol. A legend? Maybe. Nevertheless, we still need to learn some rules to write and pronounce correctly.
U. For non-French speakers it can be quite difficult to make the difference between /ou/ and /u/. However, you should definitely learn it to sound correctly. To train these sounds, try to pronounce slowly the following tongue-twister: un hibou roux et doux hurle et hulule comme un fou. Also, try to pronounce this phrase: une tortue sourde court sur un mur.
Resources and ideas to train your pronunciation:
If you are a beginner in French, you can check out this web site DUCANDU and listen to the examples of some difficult French sounds.
Tongue-twisters. Tongue-twisters are so funny to me. I used them with my students, and every time they give a lot of positive emotions when you try to pronounce them quickly! However, I use tongue-twisters not just for make my students laugh. It is a nice way to train some particular sounds.
Did you know that…
“tongue-twister” in French is “virelangue”?
TONGUE-TWISTERS TO TRAIN YOUR FRENCH PRONUNCIATION
For example, to train the sound /r/ you can try to say this:
Ce grand, gros rat a mangé tout le riz dans la cruche grise.
Sound /u/ and /ou/
La roue sur la rue roule; la rue sous la roue reste.
Elle est partie avec tonton, ton Taine et ton thon.
Des blancs pains, des bancs peints, des bains pleins.
Sound /œ/ and /o/
Si neuf folles fleurs volent au cœur d’un décor de bonheur, neuf sœurs folles pleurent sans effort leur malheur.
Read out loud. I enjoy reading books in English, French, Spanish, Polish… It is a great source for learning new words. Sometimes I read my books out loud, not just for fun. It allows me to hear my pronunciation and to train difficult sounds.
Listen to native speakers conversation. Everyday listening to French dialogues can be a good way to practise not only your oral comprehension but also pronunciation. Listen carefully every sound that the French native speaker pronounce. Here you can find different audio of dialogues – podcastfrancaisfacile.
Watch videos and repeat. Try to watch videos where native speakers pronounce the words slowly. In this way you can see the position of their mouth. Repeat each word you hear. Here is an example of video that you can use to practise your pronunciation – parlonsfrancaisfr.
In conclusion I’d like to add that you don’t have to be afraid to speak a foreign language because of your accent. Everyone makes mistakes. However, if you work your pronunciation every day, it will allow you to forget about some misunderstandings while speaking with a native speaker. Good luck!