Dear French speakers of tumblr,
So I’ve been learning French for a whole 11 days now and I’m frustrated by my lack of French accent. Duolingo doesn’t think it’s so bad, but duolingo also isn’t terribly discriminating. I realized while learning “question words” today, that I speak French with a Spanish accent. Which probably has a lot to do with the fact that I’m also learning Spanish.
Anyway! Is there a way to learn how to make French sounds? Like the “r” in “robe”? I cannot do the thing, friends! How can I learn how to improve my accent? Or is it too late for me, as I’m already an adult?
Are you doing spanish on duolingo or elsewhere? Cause I just started the spanish course…
As for learning to make sounds: this may be a bit too linguistics nerdy, but looking up the IPA for words is a good way to see how they are actually pronounced (though it does take a little learning of what IPA means)
1. Find the word you are trying to pronounce in a dictionary that gives you the IPA pronunciation (wiktionary is the one I use a lot).
2. See what IPA character represents the sound you are trying to make
3. Look up what that character that represents.
4. (optional) listen to sound recordings to see how things sound.(Wiktionary sometimes has these, they’re pretty neat)
For example, for the r in “robe”, wiktionary has the r sound represented by “ʁ” in IPA, which is a “voiced uvular fricative" (sometimes also a uvular trill) - and really not much like an english "r" at all. We actually don’t have any uvular sounds in english, which is why you have trouble making it. (See here also)
As for what exactly it is - a fricative is a sort of “hissy” sound like shhhh, sss, zzz, fff, dg, etc. thats made by placing your tongue really close to the roof of the mouth (or the lips and teeth for f), but not quite enough to stop air from passing through.
As for uvular, that means it’s made waaay in the back of your mouth, by pressing the back of your tongue up towards the uvula (that bit that hangs down in the back of your mouth.
To experiment, try saying the “sss” and then “shh”, or “b” then “d” then “g” - see how the point of contact moves backwards in your mouth?
French R is even further back, behind where you pronounce g - we don’t have a comparative sound in english, so you’ll need to experiment a bit.
As for how to actually learn to say it:
1. Once, you know what the sound is called, look for videos and guides about it, and include alternate names - for example, search for ”french R”, “Uvular Fricative”, “Uvular Trill”, “Guttural R”, etc.
2. Practice a lot! Sit around moving your tongue around making weird noises to practice making different kinds of sounds.
3. Don’t worry too much if you can’t make it sound right - even after 4 years of linguistics, while I know *how* sounds should be made….I still can’t make a lot of them right (and this sound is one -__-).
In the end though, even if you can’t really pronounce it right, french people will still understand you, as they interpret spanish-style Rs as the same sound - you’ll just have a weird-sounding accent.
More Cool links:
IPA chart with linked voice clips
Intro to IPA for language learning