Learning French: Sounding Less Like A Beginner (Part 3)

Bonjour!

I recently wrote a blog post about how I’ve started to feel much less like a beginner and a lot more proficient in my use of the French language and I want to continue sharing some of the reasons for this.

One problem I faced as a beginner was that despite spending hours memorising vocab and phrases, I wasn’t always understood when I spoke to French people. Frustratingly for me, my husband can speak French fluently and often he would repeat the exact same phrase that I had just used, but would be understood perfectly. The reason for this was his pronunciation; he would pronounce the same French words, but confidently and using a French accent.

This was a little disheartening, but pronunciation is key when speaking a language. Saying the exact same word with either an English or French accent will obviously completely change the sound. This can cause the word to be interpreted in completely different ways. The difficulty for language learners is two fold. The first that people recognise the sounds that they are used to and secondly, some of the people you will speak to may not have the time or skills to listen patiently and try to figure out what you said, as maybe a language teacher would do.

As a language learner, I think it’s really important to take responsibility for your own learning and if improving your pronunciation is going to help people to understand you, then it’s something that you really need to work on. The reason I say this, is because I know from personal experience that speaking French with a French accent can make people feel a little silly and self conscious. This is how I felt for quite a long time and I sometimes still feel this way.

Sometimes you have to do something that makes you feel a little silly and uncomfortable in order to learn and develop. For me, this is one of those times!

I was recently lucky enough to have a private French lesson with Lingoda where the French teacher told me that I needed to work on my pronunciation of the letter R. Since then I have been working on it and it has really made a difference to the way I sound when speaking French. The pronunciation of the letter R in French is difficult, as it is significantly different to the way that it is pronounced in English. It is made even more difficult by the fact the sound changes slightly depending on it’s placement within a word.

It’s important to remember that the sound is not as harsh or guttural as most people usually pronounce it, it’s actually far softer. Once you’ve mastered the sound, you will also need to practise, practise and practise some more! There is so much information online about this, but the best YouTube videos I’ve found are:

Learn French with Alexa

As always, Learn French with Alexa, makes this subject fun and accessible!

French Truly

This is probably the most useful video I’ve found on this topic and have watched it many times

LRC Michigan

This is a great video for practicing the “R” sound, especially when it’s placement within a word changes

I really hope these help with what I know is an incredibly different aspect of speaking French.

Let me know how you’re getting on with learning French. What are you tips for learning to understand spoken French? Are there any letters or words that you’ve had difficulty pronouncing?

Bon chance!
A bientôt,
Catherine xx

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