Learning French -The Secret to the French "U"
So you want to speak French or are in the process of taking French. Aside from the myriad of complicated rules - not to mention the memorization of noun genders which is literally a life-long journey - you will sooner of later need to master the basic sounds of French. Now, as with all languages certain sounds can be "cheated." In other words, you don't need to prounounce the sounds of French "spot-on" in order to be understood. However, in my experience, there is an exception to the rule.
Most European languages contain a sound foreign to the ears of native English speakers - the rounded or fronted "u." The rounded "u" in French is written, well, as a "u," in most instances. It appears in words like tu, the informal word for "you," and in words such as cul which is the fairly vulgar term for someone's backside. Okay, so maybe you are asking yourself why this sound in particular can't be cheated, faked, glossed over, etc. This sound often drastically changes the meaning of words and is frequently found in short, everyday words - the workhorses of any language.
. Let me give you example: the word for "all" or "complete" is French is tout. And it is pronounced pretty much like the English word "to." Now if I say in French tout est bon that would typically be translated as "all is good" - referring to food, etc. Now if you want to say, and this could be interpreted with a sexual overtone, tu es bon or "you are good," well you can see where the confusion and embarassment might spring up.
Okay so back to the point of this posts. Single "u" in French is prounonced with rounded or persed lips. The easist way to practice this sound is to make the "ee" sound (long e) and while making that sound round your lips as if you were going to whistle. Until you get used to articulating the sound, just say the "ee" sound and physically move your lips (with your hand) to a rounded position. You will notice the "character" of the sound changes immediately. With a little practice, this "new sound" will become second nature. And with any luck at all, you will grab a nod of satisfaction from a French speaker. Good luck!
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See additional prounounciation tips
- Mastering Prounouciation of the French "R"
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