The importance of French pronunciation

Photo of Pantoufle the French deaf cat. Copyright Le Francophoney.French can be a tricky language when it comes to pronunciation. For mysterious reasons, the basic rule is that the last letter of a word isn’t pronounced. For example, ‘un croissant‘ is pronounced without the ‘t’. However, if it’s made plural with an ‘s’ (‘deux croissants‘), neither the ‘t’ nor the ‘s’ are pronounced. Trying to conjugate verbs for the first time without the guidance of a French speaker is inviting disaster! Pantoufle the cat, pictured, proved just how important pronunciation is last week, but I’ll get to that later.

Pronunciation is sometimes very important to get right. For example, the difference between puppy and poo is just one letter which appears in both the written forms (‘chiot’ vs ‘chiotte’). Verbalise that ‘t’ and you’re saying ‘oh what a cute shit!’ to that person walking their puppy.

Another common mispronunciation is ‘gare‘ (train station) and ‘guerre‘ (war). I’ve confused more than one French person by asking where the war is. ‘Gare‘ is pronounced more like ‘gar’. This isn’t to be confused with ‘gars‘ (a guy), which doesn’t have the same rolling ‘r’ that ‘gare‘ has.

Hear the words for yourself!

Listen to ‘chiot, chiotte, gars, gare, guerre, sourd, saoul‘ pronounced by a French man.

Just last week, I created a really awkward moment when a man walked past and pointed out my cat to his young daughter. I tried to say she’s deaf (‘sourd‘ — the ‘d’ is not pronounced) but instead I said she’s drunk (‘saoul‘). My Australian brain can’t differentiate between the two, and had no idea why the man went quiet. I added that she can’t hear a thing and he gasped in relief: “Ah, sourd“. Yeah, that’s what I said, didn’t I? Nope.

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I’m a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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One comment on “The importance of French pronunciation
  1. Samantha says:

    French Language is difficult to pronounce no matter how hard you work on brushing your language skills. I also tried to learn french although I was able to learn, but couldn’t get the pronunciation right.

About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

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