The French and English languages have an amazing amount in common- some sources even say up to 45 percent of English words come from French! So as a native French speaker you have a big advantage: you already have half of the lexical database in your head!
One thing that French and English definitely do not have in common is pronunciation. As much as English speakers struggle to perfect the French accent, many French speakers cannot lose theirs when speaking English. There are common errors that we see popping up for native French speakers. Here we’ve put together a list of the most common pronunciation difficulties that French speakers have when speaking English. By identifying these errors you can work to minimize them in your speech.
- Losing the last syllable
French speakers often carry over this element of their native pronunciation to English:
They tend to elongate the last syllable of a word, by adding a slight ‘eh’ sound to the ending. Pinpointing this error can be difficult as it is so subtle, but listen for this sound in your speech to spot where it might be slipping in.
To combat this, by focusing on pronouncing the last letter of a word very quickly- not even half a second. Keep this in mind when speaking and you will become more conscious of when you are dragging out words too much.
- Omitting the ‘s’ at the end of words
In French the ‘s’ at the end of words is almost always left out – in English it is essential to pronounce this ‘s’ at the end of words, as often it changes the meaning of a noun from singular to plural.
- Omitting the ‘h’ at the beginning of words
French speakers often leave out the pronunciation of the ‘h’ letter when it comes at the start of words.
In English when ‘h’ comes at the start of a word, it is almost always pronounced (with the exception of a few word such as ‘hour’ and ‘honest’- we kept the French pronunciation for these.)
Practice perfecting your ‘h’ sound with a simple trick- hold a compact mirror to your mouth, and pronounce the word ‘have’, so that your breath fogs up the glass. Then wind down that exaggeration a little – and you’ve got your ‘h’ in English. Think of this mirror trick when pronouncing words that begin with a ‘h’ to ensure you are making your ‘h’ sound.
- The ‘r’
In English, the ‘r’ sound is not as emphasized as it is in French . The pronunciation of ‘r’ in English always comes from the middle of the mouth, instead of the back of the throat.
Try practicing words beginning with ‘r’, and with ‘r’ in the middle with your mouth half closed. This will stop you bringing the ‘r’ sound from the back of your throat, and will give you the nice shallow sound perfect for the letter ‘r’ in English.
- Zee famous ‘th’
The key for anyone trying to fake a French accent- the conversion of ‘th’ to ‘z’.
In English the ‘th’ sound is very soft, and comes from the tip of the tongue. Try not to engage any part of your tongue except for the very tip when making this sound to make sure you get a soft ‘th’.
These are some of the persistent problems that keep popping for French speakers learning English. By targeting these areas, you will dodge your biggest issues! Practice all of these sounds and more with an expert Lingoloop tutor- try one of our classes today to get your personal pronunciation guide!