#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.
This informative article shared from French Today is especially appropriate for the PronouncingFrench website since we specialize in sounds. This fun blog gives the sounds that the French language uses to imitate real sounds, or onomatopoeia (maybe you remember that term from poetry units in your English classes.) So whereas in English we say “shhhh” for “be quiet”, the French say “chut”. The last entry also offers a charming video of a mother and her baby to illustrate the word for “cooing”.
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”.
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 #9 The capital city of the lovely province of Normandy has caused grief to many an English speaker! Rouen was named as one of the hardest words in French by expats in the online news magazine The Local.Fr. In this video I teach why it has only one syllable and how to put that troublesome French r on the front of it. For an opportunity to take your French to a whole new level, check my website under “Courses” for information on my excellent video program.
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 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.
Way back in 1973 I was the director of the French student teacher program at UC Santa Barbara and visited the local high schools to evaluate and guide the young interns. Along the way the students in their classes got to know me and asked if I would take them to France. And so began a delightful career that lasted until 2005. I always tried to give my participants the most authentic “France Experience” (the original name of my tours) possible-- from the teenagers who were my first and longest fellow-travelers, to the adult wine tours I led in the late 1990's. I thought it would be fun to share these travels on this blog site, and for the first in this series, will begin with my favorite tour day in Paris. This is the day we visit Ile de la Cité, literally from one tip of the island to the other.
At around 9:30 in the morning, we go to the open air market at the Maubert-Mutualité métro stop at Place Maubert, ( 5e arrondissement) to buy provisions for a picnic we will have later. Don't forget your shopping bag or filet, and be sure to have some utensils with you, like a knife for spreading and cutting, a corkscrew and a small cup for drinking if you have wine. This market is open every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday of the year and is a real cultural experience. There is even a little section for “bio”, organic produce. And if you don't find what you want at the market, there are several permanent stores at the same location for bread (la boulangerie), cheese (la fromagerie) and wine (of course).
After gathering all the delicious breads, cheeses, and charcuterie, we will cross Bd. St-Germain and walk down the little street rue de Bièvre, just opposite the market. A little anecdote: for years this street was closed to automobile traffic and two policemen were always on duty as French President Mitterand lived in an apartment on this street. The street is named after a creek (la Bièvre) still active underground and running to the Seine. You arrive at the Seine and cross the river on Pont de l'Archevêché. This brings you to one of the best photo ops of Notre Dame Cathedral so don't hesitate to spend a little time here with perhaps boats gliding past below or moored along the banks. The next stop on this tour will be looked at in the next blog as we actually start our day on Ile de la Cité. This spot is practically unknown and more rarely visited but it will touch you in many ways. Don't miss the next installment!
My love for France doesn't stop with its physical attractions. I am also passionate about the sound of the language. I came out of retirement to share with the world my particular take on how to correct our English language accents so we sound more authentically French. I think I have something to offer to the non-native French speakers of the world and a gift to give to the propogation of the purity and the beauty of this language we all love. Please look at my website (pronouncingfrench.com) for more information on myself and the course being released on January 31, 2016, Mastering French Pronunciation. Dedicated to French teachers, students, expats living in France, those doing business with France, and all who would like to sound more authentic when speaking the beautiful French language! Merci!.
Making sparkling wine in England? The climate conditions are changing and now Taittinger, of Champagne, France, had purchased land in the English region of Kent to start making sparkling wines in England. That brand also has vineyards and a sparkling wine facility in the Carneros region, (Domaine Carneros) between the Napa Valley and Sonoma. This Napa-Sonoma region in California has the climate the champagne grapes love, due to the cooling influence of the San Francisco Bay with its summer fog. Taittinger is not the only French champagne house to locate a winery in California: both Roederer and Mumm have wineries there, and I had the pleasure of working in the visitors' center at Mumm Napa.
Many people are surprised to learn that the main ingredient in a traditional champagne is the red grape, pinot noir. This grape is often blended with chardonnay, and perhaps a touch of pinot meunier. If the wine is labelled “blanc de blancs” it means it is entirely chardonnay. In France, the region the wine comes from is its identity, not the grape the wine is made from. So even though an American sparkling wine of quality (like the brands mentioned above) is made from exactly the same grapes and the same production method, called Méthode Champenoise, it still must be called “sparkling wine”. This is to protect the French system of “appellations” of place of origin.
Wouldn't you like to know how to properly pronounce French wines and grape varieties? Remember I offer tutoring sessions where you can bring your questions and I can help you. And if you already speak some French think about taking my course, Mastering French Pronunciation which will be available in January. It gives you the tools to correct your English language accent and sound more like a native. Visit my website, pronouncingFrench.com for more information.