Introduction to French I

French is a musical, romantic language, and its sounds need practice and a fair amount of attention. Although you can make yourself understood in French despite your own regional accent, use this chapter to help you sound as much like a native as possible.

Four areas need your undivided attention: accents, vowels, nasal sounds, and consonants, combined with the techniques of liaison and elision. The sounds of French vowels and nasals are quite different from the sounds you may be accustomed to in English; for that reason, vowels and nasals require some practice to obtain good results. Unlike English, French has accent marks that may or may not effect a change in pronunciation. In addition, many French consonants have the same pronunciation as those in English — only a few require additional concentration.

Keep in mind that each syllable in a French word has about equal stress, so by putting about the same emphasis on each syllable, you get the best results possible. Slightly stronger emphasis is placed on the last syllable of a group of words.

In addition, consider the following tips for better pronunciation:

  • Speak slowly and clearly.

  • Combine sounds and words for a more natural flow.

  • Practice reading aloud authentic French materials.

  • Listen to tapes and records to get a better feel for the sounds of the language.

  • Don't be afraid to ham it up; that is, trying your best to sound like a native French speaker.

  • Pay attention to accents and nasal sounds.