French Alphabet Pronunciation Guide for English Speakers

This is the easy to understand rules of French pronunciation, this page associates English words with the French alphabet.

French Alphabet Pronunciation Guide
- This page uses English word examples to explain the sounds of letter of French alphabet. 

Learing a language is easy if you work, sadly people that decide to teach French are 99 percent of the time naturals. A natural learns languages without study or work, they often hear the word one time, and remember it.

Most of us have a difficult time learning a language and the natural fails to understand,
"I can hear a word 10 times, and not remember how to pronunce it, or the meaning."

The best way to learn it immersion, to have the maid, girlfriend, boyfriend, or even a boom boom girl move into your home, and forget the teacher. Learning a language is a process over a long-time, not one hour class. You will invest 1000s of hours in learning, the more time spent using French, the quicker you learn to think in French.

The rules below are for pronunciation. If you learn all the rules, you will be able to look at any French word, and phonetically sound them out. Then the maid, girlfriend, etc. can help you better hear the word.

There are hundreds of videos on YouTube.com to watch.

"Learning a language is rote memory"
Like a child, you must repeatedly hear, and say the words and sounds until you remember."

How to study the rules? How to study the French alphabet?

a. Take a pen and paper, the paper must have a minimum of 20 vertical lines.

b. Write each phrase 20-30 times, saying the sounds or words until they resonate in your brain.

c. The more senses or feeling involved the better the "rote memory,"

See the word.
Touch the word by writing it.
Say the word outloud.
Hear
the word you said, or on a tape, computer program.

As you write it, say it, hear it, speak it, and touch it, the more senses involved the quicker it will be forced into your brain.

Write out the rules 20 times, it is hard work, but you can force words into long-term memory.

a, à, â / Like "a" in "father"
a, à, â / Like "a" in "father"
a, à, â / Like "a" in "father"
a, à, â / Like "a" in "father"
a, à, â / Like "a" in "father"
a, à, â / Like "a" in "father"
a, à, â / Like "a" in "father"
a, à, â / Like "a" in "father"
a, à, â / Like "a" in "father"
a, à, â / Like "a" in "father"
a, à, â / Like "a" in "father"
a, à, â / Like "a" in "father"
a, à, â / Like "a" in "father"
a, à, â / Like "a" in "father"
a, à, â / Like "a" in "father"
a, à, â / Like "a" in "father"
a, à, â / Like "a" in "father"
a, à, â / Like "a" in "father"
a, à, â / Like "a" in "father"
a, à, â / Like "a" in "father"

If you did that, and did not just sit there hoping to learn through osmosis, if you really did that, then you can remember that a is like a in father, when you see a, you will remember that rule, if not, write it another 20 times.

If you did not do this, then stop, there is no reason to proceed.

Language Terms to Learn:

(Note, write each of these terms 20 times, if you truly want to learn, you must remember.)

Consonants: Non vowels - Read on Wikipedia please NOTE, the last consonant of French words is NOT pronounced.

Dieresis: pronunciation mark: a mark (¨) placed above a vowel to show that it should be pronounced. It may be above the second of two adjacent vowels to show that it is a separate syllable, as in the word "naïve," or above a single vowel, as in the name "Brontë."

Diphthongs: A complex speech sound or glide that begins with one vowel and gradually changes to another vowel within the same syllable, as (oi) in boil or () in fine.

Rote Memory: repetition: mechanical repetition of something so that it is remembered, often without real understanding of its meaning or significance

Transliteration: transcribe something into another alphabet: to represent letters or words written in one alphabet using the corresponding letters of another alphabet.

Final consonants words are dropped: allez (go) is pronounced ahl-AY, not ahl-AYZ; tard (late) is pronounce tar, not tard.

Liaison
But if the next word begins with a vowel, the consonant may be pronounced; this is called liaison. A final 'e' is also usually silent if the word has more than one syllable.

Nasals: 

Stress is normally on the last syllable.

Homophones:

Vowels
Vowels in French can have accent marks, which generally have no noticeable impact on pronunciation, but they often distinguish between homophones in writing (ou, meaning or, and où, meaning where, are pronounced the same). The only really important one is é, which is always pronounced "ay", and changes the meaning of the word.

Note: Most final consonants are silent except for c, q, f, l, and r (except in the combination "-er", normally found in verb infinitives). Note that the plural ending "-ent" for verbs is never pronounced, though it is pronounced in other words.

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START OF THE "French Alphabet"

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Consonants, vowels, dipthongs and nasals are all aphabetically listed so you can find how to pronounce.

a, à, â like "a" in "father" --- ami, café

an (Nasal)  if double "nn" or "mm" then not nasal. 

ai towards "e" in "set" or "ay" in "day", and é is more nasal --- le lait, frais

ain (Nasal è) "e" in "set" or "ay" in "day

au generally like "oa" in "boat" or "aw" in "law".

b like "b" in "bed"

c like "k" in "kill" (before "a", "o", and "u" or before a consonant

ç like "s" in "sun" (this letter can only be written before "a" ,"o", or "u"

ch like "sh" in "bush"; sometimes like "k" in "kill"

d like "d" in "death"

e in most cases a central neutral vowel like "a" in "about"

é, è, ê towards "e" in "set" or "ay" in "day", and é is more nasal.

eau generally like "oa" in "boat" or "aw" in "law"

-er  towards "e" in "set" or "ay" in "day", and é is more nasal

-es towards "e" in "set" or "ay" in "day", and é is more nasal

en (Nasal) if double "nn" or "mm" not nasal

-es towards "e" in "set" or "ay" in "day", and é is more nasal

eu between "ew" in "dew" and "ur" in "burp"

-ez towards "e" in "set" or "ay" in "day", and é is more nasal

eu (Nasal) sometimes pronounced the same as 'in'

f like "f" in "fun"

g like "g" in "go" (before "a", "o", and "u" or before a consonant), like "g" in "sabotage" (before "e", "i" and "y").

gu like "g" in "goose" (before "e", "i", "y")

gn like "ny" in "canyon". This is particularly difficult when followed by oi, as in baignoire (beh-NYWAR) "bathtub".

h usually silent, but may sometimes prevent a liaison with the former word

i or î like "ee" in "see" but short OI wa foie gras boire, troiser and tenser

in (Nasal è) "e" in "set" or "ay" in "day

j like "g" in "sabotage"

k like "k" in "kill"

l or ll like "l" in "like"; some exceptions for "ll" in the combination "ille" (pronounced ee-yuh)

like "m" in "me"

n like "n" in "nurse"

oi like "wa" in "walk"

oui like "wee" in "week"

o and ô generally like "oa" in "boat" or "aw" in "law"

oin (Nasal) "wè" thus, coin is a nasalized "cwè"

on (Nasal) o - distinguishing between this and "an" is tricky, it's a deeper, more closed sound

ou like "oo" in "food", but a pure vowel - soup douze, nous

œ a bit like "eu" but more "open". The distinction between œ and "eu" is very subtle and often irrelevant.

p like "p" in "push" (unaspirated like the t)

ph like "f" in "fun"

q(u) most of the time like "k" in "kill" (not like "qu" in "quick"); in some words like "qu" in "quick" (generally before an "a") or the same but with a French u (generally before an "i")

r guttural; kind of like coughing up a hairball.

s like "s" in "sun

s between vowels is like "z" in "zero" Excusez-moi. (ehk-SKEW-zay MWAH)

t, th like "t" in "take" (unaspirated, it should sound dry and on the tongue, like that of a Spanish speaker)

u and ù like a very tight, frontal "oo" sound (purse your lips as if to say "oo" as in "soon" but try to say "ee")

ui like "wee" in "week", but with a French u instead of the w

un (Nasal)  sometimes pronounced the same as 'in'

v like "v" in "value"

w only in foreign words, mostly like "w" in "wise" and sometimes like "v" in "value" (in particular, "wagon" is "vagon" and "WC" is "VC"!)

x either ks (like "x" in "exit") or gz

y  like "ee" in "see" ; also sometimes used as a consonant, pronounced the same as in English (in 'yes' for example).

z like "z" in "zero"

Diphthongs

ail like "i" in "fight"

ill either literally, or like "y" in "three years", with some exceptions (ville is veel, fille is fiy)

Exceptions

When there is an accent mark on "e", it prevents diphthongs. Letters should be pronounced separately, following the rule for the accented letter. Example: énergumène, (rowdy character), réunion (meeting).

A dieresis (") may also be used to prevent diphthongs on "e", "u" and "i". Example: maïs (Indian corn or maize).

In the combinations "gue" and "gui", the "u" should not be pronounced: it is there only to force the pronunciation of "g" as in "go". If the "u" is pronounced, a dieresis is added on the 2nd vowel : aiguë (sharp).

In the combination "geo", the "e" should not be pronounced, it is only there to force the prononciation of "g" as in "sabotage" (in the case the "e" should be pronounced, it is indicated with an accent mark as in géologie).
Note you should not pronounce the "G" where "NG" is used in the pronunciation hint.

 it will get you in worse trouble!

BORG THIS

Letter(s) English Sound Examples

AI ay pain le lait, frais

AU o taupe chaud, mauvais

B b baby bonbons, bas

C k can café, sucre

s ceiling ceinture, nièce

Ç s façade ça va, caleçon

CH sh champagne chapeau, anchois

D d dad la douane, mardi

E, EU eu de trop le, un feu

É ay fiancé été, génial

È, Ê, EI eh bête noire exprès, une tête

EAU o eau de toilette beau, l'eau

F f fat février, neuf

G g gag gants, une bague

zh mirage il gèle, aubergine

H hour hiver, un hôpital
(always silent in French)

I, Ï, Î ee naïve dix, un lit

J zh déjà vu le jambon, déjeuner

K k keep un kiosque, le ski
(rare in French)

L l little fleurs, mille

M m mom Madame, comment
(n) (nasal vowel) le parfum, embouteillage

N n noun neuf, noir
(n) (nasal vowel) un, le pain

O o solo le dos, rose

OI wa foie gras boire, trois

OU u soup douze, nous

P p paper un père, la soupe

PH f phone une pharmacie, téléphoner

Q k pique quinze, la banque

R r rouge, une ceinture
(similar to Spanish J, Arabic KH)

S s sassy le sucre, un poisson

SC sk scold les escargots

s science les sciences

T t tight la tarte, latomate

TH t le thé, le théâtre

TI s attention

U u * tu, une jupe

UE weh suede* saluer, la Suisse

UI wee cuisine* une nuit, fruit
*Approximation - see lesson on U

V v verve vert, un avion

W v un wagon
(rare in French)

X ks express exprimer, taxe
gz example le xérès, un exemplaire

Y y yogurt le yaourt, les yeux

Z z zone la zone, la zizanie





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Comments 1

Sylvain43

Good hints Andy. I consider myself lucky to speak French as native language and to have learned English as second language. English is so easy when compared to French and other Latin languages. Also, mastering French makes it very easy (though sometimes confusing) to learn Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.

I would add some warnings and additional content. Due to the colonial wars, French and English languages often occupied the same space, either one after the other or at the same time. This historical proximity led to have MANY words that were borrowed from each other... but also many of what we call false friends... which are words spelled the same but having different meanings. One famous example of those words is attend which in French means wait). We also see the same confusion in the alphabet itself... with j and g, which are pronounced respectively like g and j.

One of the best way to learn a language and its pronunciation is through songs, especially if you have the translated version. Almost 20 years ago, I started a Web site based on that. Im a fan of a very popular singer named Celine Dion. In 1995, she released what became the best-selling French album of all time (title is DEux - From them). I had friends in the US who loved the voice but were frustrated to not understand the lyrics. So, I sat down and translated the songs. I since translated all her songs towards English and towards French (showing them side by side). Celine songs are easy to find as shes a top-selling artist all over the world, in both French and English... and her pronunciation is very clear. If you want to look at the translated lyrics go to my Celine Web site: www.celine-dion.net




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