- French & English have many words in common but their pronunciation differs greatly.
- A sound is a vowel or a consonant; these sounds do not necessarily match one letter or the same letter.
- A syllable is a rhythmic unit; in French a syllable must contain a vowel sound.
- A stress is the way to pronounce a syllable: - louder in English, longer in French - the last syllable of a word or group of words is always the one stressed in French.
- Intonation refers to the notes on which the syllables are pronounced the melody goes up or down.
A. FROM SOUND TO SPELLING
a. Listen to the French vowels:
a / e / i / o / u
Now these are only the vowel we have for written French (or English) but in fact there are more vowel sounds than letters to represent them. In English we will use two letters to represent the other vowels; for instance, we use the letters ou as in you or ey as in obey because we don’t have a single letter to represent these vowels. In French a similar (but not identical) system will be used.
b. Listen to the following combinations and try to imitate them as precisely as you can:
ou / oi / an / in / on
The last 3 vowel sounds are nasal sound, the sound AN for instance is close the British pronunciation of the word ‘ France’ with this difference: The N is always mute in French.
Compare the 2 pronunciations of the word "France" in English then in French.
Unlike English, French uses accents on top of the vowel e to change its pronunciation. There are 3 main types of accents:
The acute accent: é
The grave accent: è
The circumflex accent: ê
The last two accents (2 & 3) give the same pronunciation. The acute accent can only be found on the letter e and the other two can be found on the other vowels but they do not, however, change their pronunciation. In other words the letters a, à and â are pronounced the same way the same goes for i and î or u and ù or û.