In our last post we talked about how a poor accent shouldn’t hold you back from trying to speak French. Your standard of French pronunciation should be commensurate with your ability to speak the language. As we said before, too good an accent will fool your listener into thinking your ability is much greater than it actually is.
However, as you begin to build your knowledge of the language, here are some tips to help you improve your French pronunciation.
In English, we stress certain syllables in a word e.g im-por-tant; con-stant;
In French, you stress every one – which is much easier e.g. im–por–tant; per–miss–i–on; per–sonne
The danger for English speakers is to start correctly a word which is the same or nearly so in English then lapse into the English stress, or non-stress:
prof-itable instead of prof–it–able
pho–tog-raphie instead of pho–tog–ra–phie
You can speak English with a very slack mouth but with French you have to
keep your mouth fairly tight and not be frightened to work it about a bit:
i = eeeee letterbox mouth
u = no sound like this in English tiny hole, lips pursed, try and say a strangled “u”
ou = (who but without the “wh”) generous rounded lips
en/em an/am (all 4 same sound) pull chin down, (nose); don’t say the last consonant
Think of the “en” in the French name “Henri” (no “h” required!)
in/im = an(xious) as in the French important an(xious)-por–T-Henri
If in/im are followed by a vowel, they are pronounced ” eee” as in imaginer eee–madge–eee–nay
If an/am are followed by a vowel, they are pronounced as they look
e.g. amiral am–ee–ral animal an–ee–mal
——é ay (think of café)
As we stress in the course, PRONUNCIATION IS REALLY THE LEAST OF YOUR PROBLEMS when you first set out to learn French. If in doubt about how to say a word – just say it and be damned.