“JE TE DEMANDE”
Some of the “e”s in those words are going to drop in spoken French. But how to know which ones? You'll learn the secret in Lesson 4 of my video course, Mastering French Pronunciation. Here are what we explore in each of the 8 Lessons:
Lesson 1: Introduction to the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) These symbols are the best way to describe a sound and all the course exercises are written in phonetic symbols, so this lesson gets everyone on the same page.
Lesson 2: The Anglo-American vs. the French mouth positions—detailed explanation of how English and French have opposite mouth positions to make their sounds and teaches how to imitate what the French do to sound French
Open Syllabication—the French habit of ending each syllable in a vowel which is also key to developing an authentic accent. These 2 topics are the heart and soul of the course.
Lesson 3: French vowels. A detailed description of each French vowel sound and specifically how and where they are made in the mouth. Since French emphasizes vowels over consonants, this lesson is foundational.
Lesson 4: Vowels continued: the mute e—one of the most interesting and challenging French sounds, teaching when it is pronounced and when it falls; and a study of the French vowels that are sometimes pronounced more open and sometimes more closed and how to make the distinction in contemporary French.
Lesson 5: A detailed description of each French consonant sound and specifically how and where they are made in the mouth; special attention to the challenging French “r”.
Lesson 6: Consonants continued: how to eliminate the breathiness that English speakers bring to certain French consonants; a detailed description of the “semi-vowels” (which could also be called “semi-consonants”) with special attention to the /j/ which English speakers often find difficult in certain contexts. (example: fauteuil)
Lesson 7: How to avoid the English habit of nasalizing all vowels and learning that the French do just the opposite. Visuals of the French and English mouth to explain the process. This is a feature that most speakers of French are totally unaware of, but it really affects the quality of your accent.
Lesson 8: A look at how the accentuation of English affects the rhythm of our sentences, and how to avoid carrying over these habits when we speak French.
Because I love you, I am offering a deep discount on my video course. For such a small investment you can feel more confident and at ease by speaking French without your English language accent. I have created this course with love: for the French language and for Anglo-American speakers of French. No one else teaches you exactly what the French mouth does to sound that way and offers structured exercises for you to practice these new habits. I invite you to join me in this adventure. You will be so glad you did, like these students:
"I want to let you know that I am absolutely beside myself with excitement as I am progressing through lesson 1 and 2. This is just what I have been trying to figure out on my own, without success. You teach it so clearly and it makes so much sense. "
"Your descriptions of how to shape your mouth are very useful. At school we are only told to listen and repeat, it doesn't help us to identify where we are going wrong. Thank you Geri!"
Jevous Souhaite Une Annee 2017 Pleine De Joie! For those who don't speak French, it says “I wish you a 2017 full of joy”. But on the right side there are lots of other wishes: full of success, of delicious things, of love, of friendship, of laughter, of health, of hugs and many more. So adding them all up is my wish for all who read this blog. Please don't lose out on the amazing sale of my video course—30% is a huge discount and it is over the last day of this year. Give yourself the gift of a better French accent. Click on the image below and SIGN UP TODAY!
#15 the French “r”. Many people think this uniquely French sound is hard to make and sounds harsh, but in reality it is very soft and quite easy to learn.
Hard Words #14
This is a word you see in airports and train stations, welcoming visitors, so it's a good idea to know how to say it. It does feature a French vowel that we don't have in English and that many find challenging to say. I give a hint about how French speakers form this sound which is also the sound you have in “soeur” or “oeuf”.
Le Musée d'Orsay gets my vote as one of the most enjoyable places in Paris to spend a few hours. Although most people go to enjoy the beloved Impressionists, I want to take you on a visit to the building itself which has so many stunning points of beauty. I recommend you start your visit in the morning hours soon after opening.
This building was once a railroad station from the 19th century, so as you walk down the center aisle after entering, look up and around at the iron work from the original station, and above all, turn around to admire the beautiful clock over the entrance. Since this article features the building, I will deliberately try to walk you along without mentioning the art works you will stop and see along the route. But as you go down the central hallway, the pre-Impressionists are in little rooms to your left, and dramatic sculptures line the pathway. At the end of the first floor you can walk on a glass floor to look down on a model of 19th century Paris featuring the Opéra and surrounding streets. To the left of this exhibit there is an escalator which takes you up to the Impressionist collection.
Follow the signs “Suite de l'Impressionisme.” Once on the next level, across from the gift shop, don't miss the famous and massive clock on the outside of the building. This is a super photo spot: the shot through the hands of the clock reveals Sacré-Coeur high on the top of Montmartre. From here you will follow the galleries showing the art of the most famous 19th century Impressionist painters and at the end of the galleries there is a tea room. I recommend eating lunch later on in your visit at another spot in the museum, but you should enter the tearoom where there is an exit onto the roof with a fabulous view over Paris. Continue along past the works of Van Gogh, Gauguin and Seurat, and find the room with the pastels of Toulouse-Lautrec, in dim light to protect the colors. As you exit this room you will be in front of a stairway.
Go down three flights of stairs, turn left and walk along the hallway to an elegant room on the right called “La Salle des Fêtes”. This was a room in the hotel which adjoined the Orsay railway station, and carries us back to another time of opulence with its crystal chandeliers and lovely statues.
And finally, go back out of this room and retrace your steps, turning right and following signs to the restaurant where I recommend having your lunch. This is another beautiful room in the style of the period, and it is a real treat to dine in this elegant ambiance. As a P.S., it's good if you can plan it, to visit the Rodin Museum just after your Orsay visit, since both museums are open on Tuesday when all the other French museums are closed. Here you can find an outdoor café for lunch or refreshments. The Rodin is an easy walk from the Orsay.
bouilloire The expats in France listed bouilloire as one of their “10 hardest words in French” and it's an important word, meaning tea kettle. As in most of these words, it is the spelling that causes the concern, especially the combination “ill” which has appeared in most of the words in this series. We saw this in the last word, #11, grenouille. It is really easy to say: the same sound you have in “bien” or “Pierre” or as in “yes” in English. To improve the quality of your spoken French, you will benefit from my video course. Check our more information on the website under courses.
Hard Words #10 Once again we take a look at the combination of letters “ill” which doesn't sound like you would expect. But also we mention the vowel “eu” as in “deux” which is so vital to speaking French correctly and one of the foundations of my video course. Go to my website under “Courses” to learn more and enroll in this program which will have you sounding much more like a French native speaker.
This place is an absolute jewel on so many levels. An intimate setting in a historic building from the 15th century, housing treasures from the Middle Ages, the Musée de Cluny has always been one of my favorite Paris visits. It is located in the same neighborhood as our last visit, right at the corner of Bd. St-Michel and Bd. St-Germain in the heart of the Latin Quarter. Before you even enter, you have before you one of the rare non-church buildings in Paris dating from the 15th century built in what is called secular Gothic. It was originally the home of members of the Cluny religious order.
The Musée de Cluny is now called the Musée Nationale du Moyen-Age. Here you will find a beautiful collection of sculpture, stained glass, and other art objects from the Middle Ages, from around the 12th to the end of the 15th centuries. Another amazing aspect of this museum is that long before it was a house, it was the site of Gallo-Roman thermal baths called the Thermes. This facility, built around 200 A.D. was open to the public, and many of the ruins can be viewed from the street as you pass by. You can also visit the restored baths on the interior of the museum. Another reminder that Paris was a flourishing city almost 2000 years ago! But of all the beautiful objects in the Cluny, perhaps the most compelling is the work called La Dame à la Licorne (The Lady with the Unicorn).
This is a six-panel tapestry housed in its own private room and dates from around 1500.. A tapestry is a woven art form, in this case in wool and silk, and most frequently originating from artists in Flanders, in what is today Belgium. Your first sight of this magnificent work will take your breath away. There are six large panels arranged along the walls, each panel showing a noble lady with a unicorn on her left and a lion on her right. Each panel depicts one of the five senses, and you see a portion of the display at the top of this page. For a detailed look at each panel accompanied by music of the period, see the video included at the end of this blog. The 6th panel is shown just above and is the one that has intrigued people down through the centuries. On the tent above the lady is written “A mon seul désir” (to my only desire). What does it mean? Is it a “6th sense”? She is reaching into a jewel box. Is that a hint as to the meaning of the words? I would be interested to see what my readers think of these words. Please leave your ideas and comments below. I have thought a lot about these words and what they might point to. If we ask ourselves, “what is our only desire?” and look more deeply within, I believe we will find that what humans long for is something way beyond the everyday needs and desires of our lives, something beyond the understandings of our mind. I think we all feel some kind of an attraction to a higher and deeper sense of being, of goodness, truth and beauty. For me, this is said beautifully in the expression “Enchanted by the Mystery.”
This new video series on Hard Words in French has been a lot of fun to teach. One of the interesting things I have noticed is that in most cases it is not that the word is particularly hard to pronounce but the spelling makes it look hard. I started the series around the time of Christmas, so the first of this series was “meilleurs voeux”. But from then on I have been focused on the “10 hardest words in French”, a list that appeared in an online news magazine called The Local. Fr. I am assuming that these were words expats in France submitted to the magazine and got the idea for the series. The word this week, “pneu” is not really all that hard but it has a couple of interesting features. One is the pronunciation of the eu spelling, which in this case we call the closed eu. Its phonetic symbol is /ø/ and it is one of the foundations of my course, Mastering French Pronunciation. What is so important about this vowel? It contains all the important characteristics of what I call “The French mouth”. Since I am an English speaker, I have had to learn how to sound French and that is the specialty of what I offer. These little video lessons give you a sample of the content of my teaching, but the course also gives the opportunity to practice what is taught by repeating exercises after me, and also by seeing a native French speaker say the words on video. If correcting your Anglo/American accent and sounding more authentically French interests you, I invite you to look into Mastering French Pronunciation.