Perfecting Your French Pronunciation: Top Tips from Our Tutor
We often learn how to speak a foreign language by imposing the sounds of our mother tongue on the new language. Sometimes such an accent can be seen as charming, but in most cases, without conquering the new sounds, it can really prevent us from being properly understood. In fact, French requires you to learn how to make sounds that you may never had to make before.
The French ‘R’
For instance, if you want to make a proper French ‘r’ sound, it will require the root of your tongue to come closer to the back of your palate as the air passes. A way to conquer this sound is to begin by pronouncing a simple vowel like the French ‘a’ or ‘i’ and then quickly move the back the back of your tongue at the end of the sound. The French ‘r’ is quite soft and there is no need to make it sound too harsh when training your tongue.
The French ‘U’
One of the most common mistakes French students make is pronouncing ‘u’ like the ‘oo’ in ‘food’. Think of the ‘u’ as in ‘cru’ (raw). Repeating such a short word in the wrong way could change its meaning entirely. To avoid doing this, pronounce the vowel clearly: bring the tongue forward and – more importantly – round and tense the lips as you bring them forward as well to produce the ‘u’.
Nasal sounds can be challenging too. ‘An’ or ‘en’ as in ‘enfant’ (child) are different spellings of the same nasal sound. The second one is ‘on’ as in ‘pont’ (bridge) and the third one is ‘in’ as in ‘pain’ (bread). These sounds require practice before you can pronounce each differently. Focus on the shape of the lips: when pronouncing ‘on’, your lips will be drawn more forward than when pronouncing the ‘en’ in ‘enfant’, and the ‘in’ in ‘pain’ draws your lips out horizontally. Pronouncing these small sounds well could make or break a conversation – replacing one sound for the other makes a huge difference in the resulting word.
Clear pronunciation when speaking a foreign language is a real asset. Not only does it show a better knowledge of the language but it also trains your ear to better understand other speakers of this language. Keep your French skills in top shape with a French level test and check out other resources like this French listening test for extra practice!