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Pronunciation

There are 11 French vowel combinations.
One unique sound for each combination.

[ai, ei]   [au, eau]   [eu]   [oi]   [ou]   [ui]   [ille]

[an, en]   [in, ain, ein, un]   [oin]   [on]

 
Vowels - Nasals - Consonants




VOYELS

a
is pronounced as "cat", "father". 

a
i, ei, è
e in "bed" 
Ex: j'aime    /em/    (I love)
 
au, eau
, o
clipped long "o" 
Ex: château    /sha to/    (castle)
  
e
short "e"
is silent at the end of a word 

é
long "a" 
Ex: donné   /dun nay/,    (given)
  
è
e in "bed"
Ex: très    /treh/   (very),   mère    /mehr/    (mother)

eu
pronounced as an English "er" without the "r" 
Ex: feu    /fö/    (fire)

i
short "i" or long "e"
Ex: kiss

ille

"w" or "yw", pronounced as "gh" in "high"
Ex: caille    /kigh/   (quail),  bille   /beew/ /beegh/    (marble)

oi
"wah", "watch"

ou
long "u", "oo"


is pronounced as an English long "e" said with pursed lips 

ui 
/ooi/ 
Ex: lui    /'looi'/    ('him') 

y 
short "i" or long "e"
Ex: kiss

 

Voyelles Nasales

- - can't - - want - - won't - - are nasalized.

In French, nasal vowels are distinguished by being followed by a single n or m which is not followed by another vowel.
Pronouncing nasal vowels can be a little tricky for English. But, they do occasionally use nasal vowel sounds. This can be seen in the colloquially response to something not understood too:

Speaker 1: [mumble, mumble] 
Speaker 2: "Huh?" 

an, am, en, em
nasal a
/ã/ (can't)(want)

in, im, ain, aim, ein, eim, un, um
nasal i

/~i/ (sounds like "blind")

oin, oim
nasal wi
/~wi/ (sounds like the precedent, with a "w")

on, om
nasal o
/õ/ (font)(long)(won't)


Obviously, these sounds are best modelled by a native speaker. But the French will forgive you, they are nice for that...

CONSONNES

b, d, f, k, l, m, n, p, t, v, y, and z are pronounced generally as in English.

c 
is pronounced as s before e, i, y
is pronounced as k before a, o, u 
Ex: cette   /set/   ('this'/'that'),    café   /ka fe/   ('coffee')

ch
is pronounced as sh 
Ex: chaud   /sho/   ('hot'),    riche   /reesh/   ('rich')
 
g 
is pronounced as the s in "vision" before e, i, y 
is pronounced as a hard g like "garter" before a, o, u 
Ex: gendarme    /zhã darm/,     gaulois    /go lwa/   ('Gaul'/'Gallic')

j 
is pronounced as the s in "vision"

h 
is never pronounced. 
Ex: joli   /zho lee/   ('nice'/'beautiful'),     janvier /zhã vee ay/   ('january')

ph 
is pronounced as f 
Ex: téléphone    /tay lay fohn/,    phare    /far/   ('headlight')

qu 
is pronounced as k 
Ex: quart    /kar/   ('quarter'),    pique    /peek/    ('pike' / 'spade')

r 
is pronounced on the uvula (the narrow flap which hangs down in the back of your mouth). The French will forgive you if you use a weakly rolled "r" instead. Remember not to blend your "r" with other consonants (e.g. "tr" is never pronounced as the "tr" in "truck"); you may care to add a schwa (unaccented syllable) before the "r" to avoid blending them. (but the French will forgive you again if you use a "tr" as "truck":)

s 
between vowels is pronounced as "z" 
at the end of words is usually silent. 
Ex: bise   /beez/    ('kiss'),    très     /tray/    ('very')

ss 
is pronounced as s 
 
th 
is pronounced as t 

w 
is usually pronounced w 

x 
before most consonants is pronounced as ks 
before most vowels is pronounced as gz

Obviously, these sounds are best modelled by a native speaker. But the French will forgive you, they are nice for that...

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