XPress: French in 40 Hours

Pronunciation hints

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Unfortunately, written French isn't very good at representing the sounds of French words. Here are some points to keep in mind when improving your pronunciation:

French Rhythm

French has a very regular rhythm compared to English. This means that each syllable should be of equal length. When pronouncing French words, don't rush! Make sure you are giving each vowel its due. Note also that French vowels are fairly short, so be careful not to draw them out. You can learn more about French rhythm here.

French R

French "R" is very similar the "hard G" sound. To master French "R", start with the word "gond" and slowly weaken the contact between the tongue and palate. This will result in the correct pronunciation of the "rond". You can learn more about French "R" here.

The French "u" sound

This is similar to the sound represented by "ee" (though shorter). To correctly pronounce French "u", start with a short tense "ee" , then add lip rounding. Note that the lips should have the same shape as when you whistle. You can learn more about French "u" here.

Nasal vowels

French has four nasal vowels, each is contained in the expression un bon vin blanc. When a nasal vowel is used, don't insert an "n" or an "m" after it. You can learn more about French nasal vowels here.

Liaison

Final "s" in small words is pronounced "z" if the next word begins with a vowel. For example, the "s" of "les" is pronounced as "z" in les amis /lezami/. However it is not pronounced in les femmes /lefam/. You can learn more about French liaison here.

The letter "i" before vowel

When you see the letter "i" before a vowel, its pronunciation is similar to the "y" in "yes". For example, the word piano is pronounced "pyano" and not "peeano". This means that while the word has three syllables in English, there are only two in French: pya-no. You can learn more about this here.

Final consonants

The vast majority of written consonants are not pronounced at the end of a word, e.g.: the word "beaucoup" ends in a short "oo" sound, not "p"; and, the forms il mange/ils mangent ("he eats/they eat") are pronounced exactly the same way since the final -nt is always silent.

The letter "s"

The letter "s" can represent the "s" or the "z" sound. It only represents "z" when it is preceded AND followed by a vowel, e.g.: prison. In all other cases, it respresents the "s" sound (e.g.: immersion). You can learn more about the letter "s" here.

You can find a complete French pronunciation guide with exercises here.

 
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