When you're learning how to pronounce French words and expressions, one of the first things you realize is that for almost every rule, there is an exception, and sometimes there is even an exception to that exception! This can make learning French challenging. Pronunciation can be especially tricky so here are some tips to help you master those beautiful sounds.
1. Pay attention when you gargle to help you master the dreaded French “R”!
When you gargle with mouthwash at the end of the day, pay attention to how you hold your throat closed so that the mouthwash doesn’t choke you. Notice how you make your uvula vibrate by pushing air out of your closed throat which moves the liquid around. Now spit out your mouthwash and try it again. Voila! The French R. If you still have trouble, here's a video that is both entertaining and informative.
2. Say this out loud to make sure you use the correct “u” sound - “Vous avez vu”.
There are two different “u” sounds in French. The word vous has the same vowel sound as the English word food. But the word vu has a different sound. Make the sound you just made for vous, but push the back of your tongue up against the roof of your mouth. This will give you the the correct sound for vu.
3. Think of the word “quiche” every time you encounter “qu”.
The “qu” in French ALWAYS makes a “k” sound, never a “kw” sound like it does in English.Quoi? That’s right, you heard me. It is the “oi” in Quoi that gives it the “w” sound.
4. Remember this phrase, “Ils ont peur de leur sœur”.
The underlined words all rhyme. Don’t let the œ trip you up. Just relax and remember this phrase and you will pronounce it just fine.
5. Be CAREFUL with consonants!
One of the hardest things about French pronunciation is the silent consonant. The English word CaReFuL has the four consonants that are most frequently pronounced at the end of a word. These letters are not always pronounced at the end of a word, only sometimes. This is French after all!
6. The “e” is still silent.
For some reason, the silent “e” in French tends to throw English speakers off, even though we have one too. It is not pronounced. It is silent. The silent “e” signals us to pronounce the preceding consonant in French.
7. Blow it out your nose!
Nasal vowels can be hard to get right. The trick with nasal vowels is to push the air out of your nose as well as your mouth when you say them. For example, the nasal sound of “in” can be made by first saying the letter “a” as in apple (with an American accent). Now, keep your mouth in that shape but close your throat and push the air out of your nose when you say the “a” sound. See how the sound changed? You are almost there! Now, with your mouth in that same shape, blow the air out of your mouth and nose simultaneously. And there you have it, the nasal “in”.We can do the same thing for “on”. Say a long “o” in English, now blow the air out of both your nose and mouth, and you have the nasal “on”.For “en” and “an”, make the sound of “o” in off while blowing air out of your mouth and nose.For “un”, make the sound of “u” in up, and blow it out your mouth and nose.