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How to speak with a French accent

While French is in many ways very similar to English, you’re probably well aware that the accent is totally different. The language involves sounds that simply don’t exist in English, and this can be difficult for learners to overcome.

Luckily, we’re going to share some helpful tips on how to master the French accent, and help you blend in like a native speaker!

The ‘r’ sound

The way the letter ‘r’ is pronounced in French is markedly different from its English counterpart. To say this letter correctly, try breathing out slightly while saying the letter ‘r’. It should sound both softer and more guttural.

The ‘d’ sound

The French ‘d’ is similar to the English ‘d’, but slightly more dental. By this we mean that when you pronounce the letter ‘d’, your tongue should be touching the back of your teeth.

The ‘n’ sound

‘N’ is pronounced similarly to the way it is in English, however it is much subtler when it comes at the end of a word or before another consonant. You should barely be able to hear it in words like ‘donc’ or ‘cinq’.

‘J’ and ‘g’

The ‘j’ sound in French is much softer than its English equivalent, and can be made by just moving the lips. ‘G’ is generally pronounced the same way when it’s preceded by an ‘e’ or an ‘i’, so that ‘jeter’ and ‘geter’ would have the same pronunciation. Think of it as sounding somewhere between a ‘sh’ and a ‘j’, similar to the ‘s’ in words such as ‘casual’ and ‘Asia’.

Intonation

Intonation refers to the rising and falling of pitch as you speak. This is common in English, where it varies throughout a sentence (you’ll have noticed we tend to end questions on a higher note). In French, however, it tends to be even more exaggerated, so pitch variation and intonation are worth bearing in mind.

Confidence is key!

Mastering the accent is all about getting the emphasis right, and the best way to do this is to speak loudly, clearly and boldly. Speaking a foreign language can of course be nerve-wracking, but make sure not to mumble. Even if you get your pronunciation spot on, no one will be able to hear you!

Immerse yourself in the language

You’ll pick up these tricks naturally by listening to French speakers. Watching TV and movies in French, listening to French radio channels and surrounding yourself with French speakers are all fantastic ways to help your brain pick up on all the subtleties and nuances of the French accent. Without even realising, you’ll develop an ear for the language, and your mouth will soon follow!

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