Many students find that pronunciation is the hardest part of learning French. The new sounds, the silent letters, the liaisons... they all combine to make speaking French very tricky. If you really want to perfect your French pronunciation, your best option is to work with a native French speaker, preferably one who specializes in accent training. If that is not possible, you need to take things into your own hands, by listening to French as much as possible, and by studying and practicing the pronunciation aspects that you find most difficult. Based on my own experience as well as that of other French learners, here is a list of the top French pronunciation difficulties and mistakes, with links to detailed lessons and sound files.
Pronunciation Difficulty 1 - The French R
The French R has been the bane of French students since time immemorial. OK, maybe it's not quite that bad, but the French R is pretty tricky for a lot of French students. The good news is that it is possible for a non-native speaker to learn how to pronounce it. Really. If you follow my step-by-step instructions and practice a lot, you'll get it.
How to pronounce the French R
Pronunciation Difficulty 2 - The French U
The French U is another tricky sound, at least for English speakers, for two reasons: it's hard to say and it's sometimes difficult for untrained ears to distinguish it from the French OU. But with practice, you can definitely learn how to hear and say it.
How to pronounce the French U
Pronunciation Difficulty 3 - Nasal Vowels
Nasal vowels are the ones that make it sound like the speaker's nose is stuffed up. In fact, nasal vowel sounds are created by pushing air through the nose and mouth, rather than just the mouth like you do for regular vowels. It's not so difficult once you get the hang of it - listen, practice, and you will learn.
Pronunciation Difficulty 4 - Accents
French accents do more than just make words look foreign - they modify pronunciation and meaning too. Therefore, it's extremely important to know which accents do what, as well as how to type them. You don't even need to buy a French keyboard - accents can be typed on virtually any computer.
French accents | How to type accents
Pronunciation Difficulty 5 - Silent Letters
Many French letters are silent, and a lot of them are found at the end of words. However, not all final letters are silent. Confused? Read over these lessons to get a general idea of which letters are silent in French.
Silent Letters | Silent E (elision)
French pronunciation mistakes 6 - 10