What You Need to Know to Master French Pronunciation

Getting enough French pronunciation practice is one of the most difficult aspects of learning French. If you’re living in a francophone country, it’s easy enough to practice saying “bonjour” a few times a day through repetition — but mastering anything more complicated will require an exceptionally patient partner.

Why is French pronunciation so difficult?

Every language poses its own challenges to non-native speakers — French among them. This is particularly true for anglophones. There’s no precise English equivalent for many of the sounds required to convincingly speak French: the R in Montmartre, the U in rue, the nasal sound required by en and on and many other words (or syllables) ending in N or M. Add to that the many lettres muettes (silent letters) and the knowledge required to understand that the C is spoken with avec and silent with porc.

Add liaisons to all that. For many native speakers of English, liaisons — like those linking the final S of nous to the beginning of the word allons — can look … rather optional. But for a native French speaker, that linkage can be the difference between a clear sentence and a mishmash of sounds.

How can I improve my pronunciation?

If you’re looking for French pronunciation practice, one good option is conversation with a native speaker, whether IRL or online — for example, with a partner-finding service like Conversation Exchange. Any online course, like those offered by WICE, will improve some level of pronunciation work. And listening to French will only help — like our favorite French-speaking vloggers, podcasters, and books.

All that said: Group classes don’t always allow much time for French pronunciation practice, while a conversation partner might not have the patience to listen to you repeat quand on until you’re perfectly linking those two words (and remembering that quand gets a T sound when liaising.) Which is why a program like Yabla’s Speak can be so valuable.

Is there an app for French pronunciation?

Yabla’s Speak.

Yabla’s Speak challenges users to listen to a French-language video and then repeat what they’ve just heard. It’s as simple as that. It’s also as hard as that — it can be tricky to get the pronunciation just-right enough that Yabla Speak’s sophisticated tech will move you forward to the next set of spoken texts. But you’ll get better, and that is the name of the pronunciation game.

Yabla’s thousands of videos run the gamut from authentic news reports to music videos to tours of French cities like Strasbourg — all featuring native French speakers. (Try one here!) Yabla offers a number of different tools for practicing with those videos, including multiple-choice comprehension quizzes, vocab review, and Yabla’s patented Scribe feature. Together, all these skill-building games are super powerful.

Yabla’s Speak, though, puts all those challenges together: You’ll need to listen to the video, then repeat it. That means rolling your Rs just to the right degree, and leaning into the nasal sounds that for many English speakers can sound like an exaggeration. But over time, Speak gives users the French pronunciation practice they need. And it works, and there’s nothing better than that.

You can try it now for free for 15 days.

Above: Photo by Nil Castellví.

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