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The French language isn't one of the hardest languages to learn.
However, it also isn't a piece of cake.
According to French students, one of the things they struggle with while learning French is pronunciation.
Interestingly, that pronunciation is the beauty of the language.
In some cases, French sounds are pronounced softly. In others, hard. Some of them are often pronounced nasally but not when you would expect.
Oh yes, French consonants can be tricky at times.
Luckily, there are some clear rules about French consonants and we will reveal them in this post.
Let's dive in.
Here are some suggestions of how you can practice French consonants.
Thanks to the internet, today, you can find different ways to help you improve your listening skills and practice pronunciation.
French songs, for example, are a great way for practicing French consonants.
You can find your favorite genre and enjoy it while practicing.
If you are more of a narrating person, try learning with French podcasts. It is fun, useful, and you will be up-to-date with the latest info about the topic you are listening to.
Nowadays, audiobooks have become very popular.
The reason is very simple: due to lack of time, many people listen to the books while doing something else, like waiting in line, cleaning the house, or taking a walk.
Audiobooks in French are a great way to help you with French consonants and the pronunciation generally.
Audiobooks on Spotify, for example, have the option to listen to them and follow in text what you are listening to.
Even though English and French are two different languages, the two, interestingly, have the same consonants.
The difference is only in how we pronounce them.
So, paying attention to how the French pronounce consonants and comparing them to English is another great practice.
Besides listening to the French podcasts and music, you can also polish your ears with French movies and also get a little French listening practice.
While French tutors can help you with the proper pronunciation of the French consonants, you have some main rules that concern French consonants pronunciation in one place.
First of all, let's take a look at the French alphabet:
A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z
Take your time and pronounce every letter in French.
And now, let's focus only on French consonants and pronounce them without the vowels:
B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, V, W, X, Y, Z
It's not that hard, isn't it?
If we look at the consonants by alphabetical order, some are pronounced similarly, while others are quite different.
That's why the following rules we've categorized by similar pronunciation and rules can be useful enough.
B: This letter is pronounced similarly to English, but with a more tight mouth position. It sounds like the word in belle (beauty).
D: This consonant is pronounced ‘d’ as in ‘d’accord’ (okay). In some cases, it can sound like t when followed by a word that starts with a vowel sound, as in ‘le grand ‘homme’ (the great man).
F: This consonant is pronounced like ‘frère’ (brother).
J: The letter J is usually pronounced as ‘ʒ’, like ‘jupe’ (skirt) but in some cases, it can be ‘dʒ’ mainly in some loanwords, like the ‘job’ (job).
K: It is pronounced pretty much the same as in English, but with a tighter lip position.
V: This consonant is pronounced always the same way, as the simple ‘v’ sound, like ‘vous ‘(you [formal/plural]) or ‘savoir’ (to know).
French is known for its liaisons and final silent consonants.
The following consonants can be liaisons:
B, C, F, K are rarely silent
D, M, N, P, R, S, T, X, and Z are often silent.
In French, some consonants change their sounds depending on other letters that usually come after them.
C: The consonant ‘c’ has several rules about how it is pronounced depending on other sounds that are paired with it in a word.
In cases when it is paired with E, I, or Y, it is pronounced softly, similar to the English ‘s’ in the word ‘silence.’
When letters A, O, or Y come after C, it is pronounced as hard ‘c’ like in words ‘café’ (coffee) or ‘cou’ (neck).
Ç is pronounced as ‘s’ in words where it would perhaps seem that it is pronounced as ‘k,’ like in words ‘ça’ (that), ‘français’ (the French language), and ‘reçu’ (received).
G: This consonant can be pronounced softly or hardly depending on vowels next to it.
When it is followed by ‘e’,’i’ or ‘y’, it is pronounced softly, similar to the French ‘J.’
In situations when it is followed by ‘a,’ ‘e,’ or ‘u’, it is pronounced hard, like in words ‘gâteau’ (cake) or ‘guerre’ (war).
G+N: The combination of these two consonants is usually placed in the middle of the word. It is pronounced as ‘ɲ’ like in the word ‘lasagna.’
H: The ‘h’ consonant is usually placed at the beginning of the words, it isn’t actually pronounced. It is written, though, but omitted in pronunciation.
L: This consonant is usually pronounced as the English ‘l’ but in some situations, at the end of the word and when there are vowel next to it, it is pronounced as ‘i’
In some words, double L can be found, and in those words, it is pronounced as ‘j,’ like in words ‘billet’ (ticket) or ‘fille’ (girl).
M, N: At the beginning of the words, ‘m’ and ‘n’ are pronounced like the English sounds.
In the middle of the word, these letters can be found double and in those cases, they are pronounced the same as in English.
When paired with other consonants, such as ‘mp,’ ‘ng,’ or ‘nt’ they can be pronounced as nasals.
P: The French ‘p’ is pronounced like the English letter.
When it is followed by ‘h,’ as ‘ph,’ it is pronounced as ‘f.’
In situations when followed by ‘m’ it can be silent.
Q: This consonant when paired with U in words is pronounced as ‘k’ like in words ‘ qualité; (quality), ‘que’ (that).
In some cases, ‘qu’ can be pronounced as ‘kw’ mainly in loanwords.
R: When placed in nouns, adjectives, and verbs as ‘-er’ it is pronounced as rolled r, audible French like in words ‘cher (dear), ‘hiver’ (winter), or ‘plaisir’ (pleasure).
S: At the beginning of the word, the ‘s’ consonant is pronounced like the English one.
When it is at the end of the word, it is usually silent. There is an exception, though, when at the end of the word it can be pronounced and it is when the following word begins with a vowel.
T: This consonant usually sounds like the English letter but there are cases when it is pronounced differently depending on other letters.
When followed by ‘i,’ it is pronounced as ‘s’ like in words ‘patience’ (patience) and ‘natation’ (swimming).
At the end of the word, it is usually silent but when the following word begins with the vowel, it is pronounced regularly.
W: This isn’t a typical French word so you won’t find this letter a lot. It mainly is used in loanwords and it is pronounced as ‘v’ or ‘w.’
X: This consonant can be pronounced as ‘gz,’ ‘ks’ and ‘s.’
In words ‘dix’(ten) and ‘six’ (six) it is pronounced as ‘s.’
In other words, when the vowel ‘a’ is placed before ‘x’ it is pronounced as ‘ks.’
Y: This letter can be both consonant and vowel.
At the beginning of the word, it sounds like ‘j.’
As the preposition, it means ‘there’ and it is pronounced as a vowel, as ‘ on y va’ (let’s go [there]).
Z: This consonant is pronounced as ‘z’ at the beginning of the word and when it is placed at the end of the word, it is usually silent.
If you follow this ultimate guide to the French consonants and the rules we’ve provided, you will improve your French pronunciation in no time.
However, if you want to perfect the pronunciation so that even native French speakers can’t tell whether you are French or foreign, book a lesson with French tutors and start polishing your French skills today.
Listen a Lot, Use Audiobooks, Pay attention
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