Welcome to the one-hundredth Language Bug article!
As you may have noticed, it’s been a week since I last posted. Unfortunately, I had business in the real world. I had written some articles, but I’d set up the queue system in WordPress wrong. The extra posts will be on their way over the next week or so, but until then, I’ll carry on with the week’s scheduled posts.
Today, we’re going to talk about the IPA for French language.
The IPA for French Language: Why Learn This?
If you’re from England, you’ll have heard of ‘Only Fools and Horses,’ It’s a situational comedy about some cockney men who are always trying to become millionaires. That’s not relevant to the IPA for French language, but there is a particular aspect of the main character, Del Boy, who is relevant: His French pronunciation. Del Boy has learned the words for French, but he fails because he hasn’t learned the IPA for French Language. He pronounces “Duck a l’orange” as you would if you learned the English IPA and used it with the French language, as opposed to using the actual sounds of French. As such, he sounds it “Duck a le orange.”
Incorrectly, in other words.
Whilst this is something that is a joke in the show, it’s amazing how many language learners neglect what is a very simple way to learn correct pronunciation.
The IPA for French Language: What Are The Sounds
The IPA For French: The Vowels
The majority of problems with French pronunciation come with over-applying the phonetics from your own language. For instance, reading “a” in French as you would an “a” in English. In reality:
‘A’ in French is a cross between “pat” in English and “part” in English. It’s slightly ‘deeper.’
‘A’ with an accent is similar to the ‘a’ in ‘Part.’
‘e’ is pronounced as in ‘they’ in English.
Crepe contains the second way of saying ‘e’ in French. It is said as the English ‘e’ is, e.g. ‘best.’
In the French word ‘gris’, the vowel sound is similar to a short ‘seen’ in English.
The schwa is represented in much the same way as in english – an unaccented ‘e.’
‘O’ tens to be similar to English – either “stop” or “port” or “long.”
“Œ” as in “lure” is represented most commonly in French by the letters “eu.”
“u” in English is “ou” in French. Similar to “you.”
“y” in French is similar to “urgh” in English. As in “fur.”
French also has the common sound, “eu” as in “deux.” This is a ø in the IPA, and is a short “oo” sound.
The IPA For French: The Consonants
You’ll have an easier time with consonants, because they are for the most part the same as in English. If you practise the vowels, you’ll notice that French speakers shape their mouth in a different way generally. If you pay attention to that shape, then you’ll have no trouble learning the consonants.
B as in Balloon
D as in Desk
F as in Fence
G as in gone
K as in Kitchen
L as in Line
M as in Merlin
N as in Night
Here is a new one: French Ng, is pronounced ɲ or n-y
And another: ŋ . This is used similar to Dancing.
P as in Portgual
R is in ready, though the French do have a slight roll.
S as in Song
Ch is pronounced like the English Sh.
T as in Table
V as in Victory
Z as in Zebra
J as in Vision.