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Properly Pronouncing the French Alphabet

It might seem silly to be an adult and having to learn the alphabet all over again. You’re probably more interested in learning about French past tense, greetings, or where to find beginner content. But when you’re trying to learn a new language for the first time, going back to the basics plays a crucial role in helping you master your new lingo. While I’ve covered a lot in the past about the different types of content that you can use to help you learn French, in this article, I wanted to do something a little more basic and cover how to properly pronounce the French alphabet.

 

Pronunciation Chart

I believe the best way to learn the French alphabet is by using a pronunciation guide or chart, every day, especially when you’re just starting out on your journey towards learning French. If you’re a beginner, you’re going to want to start out by learning the names of each letter in French.

 

In the chart below, you’ll find a listed version of all the French alphabet characters, as well as how to pronounce them.

 

LetterPronunciation Word ExampleTranslation
AAhActeurActor
BBehBonjourHello
CSheCoiffeurHairdresser
DDehDoucheShower
EUhExamenExam
FEffFranceFrance
GJayGarçonBoy
HAhshHiverWinter
IEeIglooIgloo
JJeeJournalisteJournalist
KKahKlaxonHorn
LEllLireRead
MEmMangerEat
NEnNuageCloud
OOhOrageStorm
PPehPolicierPoliceman
QKooQuaiPlatform
RAirRêverDream
SEssServeurServer
TTehTrainTrain
UOohUrgentUrgent
VVehVoitureCar
XDoo-blah-vehWagonWagon
YEeksXyl

 

If you want to listen along to a recording to help you learn how each letter is pronounced, check out the short Youtube video below

 

The 5 French Accents

After learning how to properly pronounce the letters in the French alphabet, you’re going to want to master the 5 French accents. These can be a bit trickier to learn, but once you get them down pat, you’ll have a much better understanding of how to pronounce French words.

Listen along to this Youtube video on pronouncing French accents.

 

Accent Cédille – Ç

To properly pronounce the çedille, just enunciate the letter just as you would pronounce the letter S in any other word. Not only is this French accent’s pronunciation fairly straightforward, it’s also only found on the letter C.

Français – French

Deçu – Disappointed

Garçon – Boy

Reçu – Receipt

 

Accent Aigu – É

The accent aigu is pronounced exactly as you would pronounce the letter A in English, either “Eh” or “Ay”. It also often found in verb usage to

Salée – Salty

Ménage – Housecleaning

Café – Coffee

 

Accent Grave – À, È, Ù

When the accent grave is found on any letter other than E,it won’t change the pronunciation of the word at all. However, when it’s applied the letter E, the accent grave is pronounced more as closed sound (similar to the verb être in the second person – il “Est”), instead of the open sound of the accent aigu (“Eh” or “Ay”)

Biftèque – Steak

Très – Very

À – To/At

Derrière – Behind

 

Accent Tréma

The accent tréma marks a distinct change from the letter or vowel that precedes it. For example, the word “Mais (However)” is pronounced similar to the English word “May”, but with the accent tréma, it becomes “Mais (Corn)”.

Noël – Christmas

Jamaïque – Jamaica

Maïs – Corn

 

Accent Circonflexe – Â, Ê, Î, Ô, Û

The accent circonflexe only affects the word’s pronunciation when it’s applied to the letters A, E, and O. So, anytime you see the accent circonflexe on the letters I or U, it won’t change the way the word is pronounced.

When the accent circonflexe is applied as Â, it makes a slightly rounder A sound, sort of like the English word “Bat”, only slightly softer or rounded.

Pâtes – Noodles

For Ê, it’s pronounced as a shorter vowel sound, similar to the English word “Bet”.

 

Tête – Head

For Ô, pronounced this as a short, closed sound, similar to the world “Hello”, but avoid drawing out the O sound at the end.

 

Bientôt – Soon

 

Pronouncing the French Alphabet with LingQ

The best way to learn French is by using content you love. This way, studying is enjoyable and you’re more likely to stay motivated. You can use content you love and learn French online using LingQ.

 

You can look up new words you come across using LingQ’s dictionaries and click them to hear how they’re pronounced. If the content you import has audio, you can listen to that too. Not only does LingQ allow you to import content, but it also comes equipped with hours and hours of stories perfect for all levels. For example, the Mini Stories are a great way to learn the fundamentals of French grammar. Listen to the audio, save your words, and review them at a later date.

 

Learn French Online Using LingQ

 

Also, LingQ is available on mobile. Take your lessons wherever you go and listen to your target language, read your transcripts, and create review flashcards. LingQ’s language learning apps are available for both Android and iOS.

Good luck.

***

Joel is an ex-construction worker turned online content writer. He writes mostly about topics related to finance, health, wealth and wellness. When he’s not writing, Joel is usually out exploring new hiking trails with his dog, Baxter.

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