Home French Language The French IPA: 6 Hacks to Excellent Your French Pronunciation

The French IPA: 6 Hacks to Excellent Your French Pronunciation

The French IPA: 6 Hacks to Excellent Your French Pronunciation



Does French sound like a sequence of guttural and nasal nothings to you?

Are you content together with your pronunciation and listening expertise, however you need to good the technical bits and obtain a close-to-native accent?

It doesn’t matter what your aim is, the Worldwide Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is a necessary useful resource for any French language learner!

It’s an alphabet of symbols that characterize sounds in a language, and it’s used to speak about pronunciation because it avoids confusion over the written phonetic sound.

On this publish, we’ll present you what it’s essential to know concerning the IPA for French, plus six hacks to good your pronunciation utilizing the French IPA.


French IPA Sounds

One of the simplest ways to be taught to provide these is to pay attention and repeat till you may make the sound completely. The IPA chart is superb for this; you possibly can see the entire vowel sounds visually, representing the place within the mouth they’re made. Consonant sounds are additionally given in tables, serving to you to see the household of sounds that they arrive from.

In the event you’re pretty new to French pronunciation:

  • Take heed to the IPA sound in isolation on the IPA chart.
  • Attempt to produce this till you are feeling that you simply’re fairly near the IPA sound.
  • Then take heed to the audio instance supplied and attempt to copy the native instance.

French Vowel Sounds

French Vowel Sound Instance in French Pronunciation Tip
[a] plat  
That is produced on the entrance of the mouth with a tongue that doesn’t constrict the air-flow.
[ɑ] * bas  
This is identical as [a], solely produced additional again within the throat, and it is also an extended sound.
[ɑ̃] sans  
(with out)
This sound is not on the supplied IPA chart, nevertheless it’s produced like [ɑ], although nasally by blocking the throat. Think about pushing the again of your tongue to your throat to push the air up your nostril.
[e] jouer  
(to play)
The tongue is close to the roof of the center of the mouth.
[ɛ] lait  
It’s extremely related in pronunciation to [e], however [ɛ] is extra open in the midst of the mouth (i.e. the tongue isn’t obstructing the sound).
[ɛ̃] matin  
The identical as [ɛ] however with the tongue as much as the again of the throat.
[ə] ** le  
Understanding when to voice it’s troublesome. The sound [ə] is not typically pronounced.
[i] il  
That is produced with the tongue fairly near the roof of the mouth.
[o] eau  
That is produced fairly far again within the throat, with the tongue closing it off early on.
[ɔ] donner  
(to present)
To provide this sound, begin with the [ʌ] within the English “enjoyable,” and spherical your lips a bit.
[ɔ̃] bon  
This is identical as [ɔ], simply with the again of the tongue protecting the throat.
[œ] peur  
It is a rounded model of [ɛ], so a good way to follow is to start out with [ɛ], preserve the air-stream going and spherical your lips.
[œ̃] *** brun  
This is identical as [œ], however with the again of the tongue protecting the throat.
[ø] deux  
That is [e] however produced with tightly rounded lips.
[u] genou  
It is produced behind the throat and closed by the tongue.
[y] rue  
This is identical as [i] with rounded lips, and is definitely transitioned to. Begin off saying [i], proceed the air stream and spherical your lips to provide this sound.

*This sound is ceasing to be a phoneme and turning into extra of a person pronunciation model. For instance, the phrase patte (paw) has the phoneme /a/ for its vowel sound, and pâtes  (pasta) has /ɑ/. These phrases are normally pronounced precisely the identical in dialog, although, making /ɑ/ an typically redundant phoneme.

**This typically happens if it’s (1) a syllable in the midst of a phrase, i.e. rappeler  (to recall) is commonly pronounced [ʁaple]; (2) on the finish of a phrase, i.e. desk  (desk) [tabl]; and even (3) not a whole syllable, in future and conditional types of -er verbs, i.e. garderais is pronounced [gaʁdʁɛ].

***This sound is dying out in fashionable French, so you possibly can simply use [ɛ̃] as an alternative.

French Semi-Consonants

French Semi-Consonant Instance in French Pronunciation Tip
[j] dieu  
Just like the English “y” in “but.”
[w] oui  
That is similar to the English “w” in “bewail.”
[ɥ] lui
Distinction this instance with the title Louis in French [lwi]. You’ll discover a distinction: [ɥ] is clearly one sound made by going from rounded to flat lips in a short time, and is extra exaggerated than [wi].

For extra steering on the [ɥ] sound in French, try this video.

French Consonants That Are Additionally in English

French Consonants That Are Not in English

French Consonant Instance in French Pronunciation Tip
[ʁ] arriver  
(to reach)
Generally often called guttural “r,” it is produced utilizing the tongue towards the uvular.
[ɲ] agneau  
That is just like the “gn” sound in “lasagna.” It is pronounced by releasing the again of the tongue from the laborious palate.

A good way to follow the [ʁ] sound is with a pencil, as demonstrated in this video.

Take a look at this handy tutorial for extra steering concerning the pronunciation of the [ɲ] sound in French.

IPA Hacks to Excellent Your French Pronunciation 

Right here, we are going to share 6 hacks to good your French pronunciation utilizing the IPA, together with examples and workouts you should utilize to follow every hack.

1. Examine the English IPA with the French IPA

The most effective methods that you would be able to sharpen your French pronunciation is by trying on the IPA in relation to English (assuming it’s your first language) and evaluating.

It will allow you to not solely grasp French pronunciation with extra perceptive ears, but in addition keep away from utilizing English pronunciation habits once you method new phrases by correcting your accent your self as you develop into extra superior.

Listed here are a number of the key areas of English IPA:

English vowels vs. French vowels

One of many causes that English audio system wrestle to be taught vowel sounds in a second language is as a result of our personal set of vowel sounds are so funky. The details to pay attention to are:

  • Diphthongs and the combos of letters
  • Vowel sounds in English that it’s best to by no means use in French


Diphthongs are two consecutive vowel sounds that sound like one. Understanding the spelling of those will assist practice your mind to not acknowledge these spellings in French, and to not put a diphthong in a French pronunciation (as a result of French doesn’t have them)!

Diphthongs are shaped in one in all 3 ways in English:

  • From two vowels subsequent to one another, i.e. “oi” in “be a part of” is pronounced [ɔɪ].
  • A silent “e” on the finish of the phrase, i.e. the “i” in “5” is pronounced [aɪ].
    In French, the silent “e” doesn’t change the vowel sound, however it might have an effect on the consonants. It could possibly soften the “g” to [ʒ] and likewise makes the ultimate consonant heard, the place with out the “e” it could be silent.
  • Hardly ever, a “w” subsequent to the vowel, i.e. the “ow” in “now” is pronounced [aʊ].

Train: Be aware as many alternative phrases of every language as you possibly can in a desk, and distinction the function of a silent “e” and two vowel sounds collectively in every language.

Instance: “Oi” in an English phrase can be pronounced [ɔɪ] as in “be a part of” however it could be [wa] as in loi  (regulation) in French.

English vowel sounds that aren’t in French

It’s time to take a look at vowel sounds which might be in English and never French. These are:

  • [ɜ:] as in “fur” (British English) or “third” (American English)

Train: For every of those, you might evaluate the English vowel sound to what the pronunciation of the spelling equal can be in French.

Instance: For [ɜ:], the equivalence can be [yʁ] as in urgence  (emergency).

Aspiration of consonants

We are likely to aspirate our plosive sounds: [p] [b] [d] and [t]. You’ll be able to follow not doing this by holding a bit of paper in entrance of your lips, saying these sounds and aiming for the paper to maneuver as little as potential.

“J” and “ch” sounds

In English, the letter “j” normally produces the sound [dʒ]; for instance, “take pleasure in” or “jam” each have the [dʒ] sound. Nevertheless, in French this sound is uncommon, and the “j” is way extra more likely to be pronounced [ʒ], i.e. je  (I) and jaune  (yellow). Nevertheless, [dʒ] could be present in mortgage phrases like “jazz,” so it’s not unknown to the French tongue.

The identical is true for “ch,” which we regularly pronounce [tʃ], however the French normally pronounce [ʃ]. Though we’ve phrases like “cheese” and “probability” with a tough “ch,” a few of our phrases like “brioche,” “Chicago” and “quiche” pronounce “ch” as [ʃ]. Many of those phrases are of French origin, so this pronunciation needs to be second nature to us.

Nevertheless, it’s nonetheless widespread for folks studying French to attempt to use [tʃ] for phrases like selected (factor) or [dʒ] for phrases like je . With the IPA you possibly can simply keep away from that mistake!

“Gn” in French and English

In English, we might separate these two letters into two totally different sounds, however the French have only one sound for this.

Examine the phrases “magnificent” and magnifique  (stunning). The English phrase is claimed “mag-NIF-i-cent” whereas the French is claimed “magn-if-ique.” The sound on the finish of the primary syllable “magn” is the [ɲ] sound.

Train: You may underline the sound in any phrases you come throughout in French, and follow utilizing this sound within the phrases.

Instance: Think about you might be studying “Le Petit Prince” (The Little Prince) and get to chapter 10. You come throughout the phrase désigna (to nominate). You’ll underline or make an observation of this having the [ɲ] and perhaps add it to an inventory of phrases with this sound.

2. Familiarize Your self with Mortgage Phrases

There are two sounds within the French language that solely exist for the pronunciation of mortgage phrases, phrases that come from different languages. These are:

  • [ŋ] as within the English “sing”

The second sound is borrowed from Spanish and is kind of uncommon.

The French use our [ŋ] sound in mortgage phrases, which makes it simpler once you come throughout these phrases in French. Nevertheless, these can actually mess up your accent once you’re talking in French; though the “ng” sound is identical, the pronunciation of the phrases are sometimes not.

Train: You may write out the IPA pronunciation of mortgage phrases and follow saying them in French sentences.

Instance:”Pudding” in English is phonetically [pʊdɪŋ] and in French it’s [pudiŋ]. Discover that the vowels are very totally different: [i] is used within the French pronunciation somewhat than [ɪ] that we use in English, and [u] as an alternative of [ʊ.]

3. Study Orthography Quirks with the IPA

Orthography means the letters that phrases are written with, or the spelling of that language. By relating this to the IPA and studying about French orthography, you possibly can in a short time educate your self the principles and quirks of the language and method new phrases with a native-like experience of pronunciation.

This hack is about matching the spelling and composition of a phrase with its pronunciation.

You may draw up a chart of every IPA sound and undergo a dictionary so as to add phrases with every image in them to their right column. For every one, discover: (1) what letters make up that sound, (2) the place it falls and (3) whether or not it’s a careworn syllable or not.

Train A: See in case you can give you your personal guidelines for when these symbols are used within the following pronunciations.

  • [e] versus [ɛ]
  • [ø] versus [œ]
  • [o] versus [ɔ]

Instance: Élevage  (cattle farming) could also be anticipated to be pronounced [eləvaʒ] however, because the [ə] is mute, the [e] turns into [ɛ].

You’ll be able to write in your notes {that a} mute [ə] leads the [e] within the syllable earlier than to develop into [ɛ]. There are a lot of different guidelines and examples you will discover in case you contemplate the place a sound is inside a phrase, whether or not it’s an open syllable (doesn’t finish with a consonant) and the function of accent marks.

Train B: Attempt to be aware phrases which have the identical spelling however don’t produce the identical IPA sounds. For instance, phrases with “gu” or “qu” that may be pronounced with both:

Train C: You may additionally take a look at the “ch” spelling and observe when it’s [ʃ] and when it’s [k].

Instance: Arche (ark) is a [ʃ] and arachnide  (arachnid) is a [k].

Train D: It’s possible you’ll need to take a look at when a mix of letters makes a particular mixture of IPA symbols and a sure sound.


  • from the diphthong train that “oi” could make the sound [wa] as in loi  (regulation).
  • “eil” could make the sound [ej] as in pareil  (the identical).
  • And “ail” could make the sound [aj] as in bail  (lease).

This hack is about observing the entire guidelines and traits of French pronunciation from the orthography.

You’ll be able to take a look at the IPA of French phrases and categorize it with different phrases which have the identical spelling teams and pronunciation, and take a look at the vowel sounds it has in every syllable. You may additionally be aware whether or not it has a standard spelling for its pronunciation, or a uncommon pronunciation in comparison with its spelling. 

4. Do Dictations with the IPA

Dictation is a superb train to see how nicely you’re doing with all of those factors. There are three expertise that this hack will provide help to enhance, and all of those workouts yield greatest outcomes when accomplished with a associate.

  • The primary talent you possibly can follow with that is transcribing from French phrases into IPA symbols. You may additionally do that on your associate from a ebook or one other sort of prose.
  • The subsequent step is saying the IPA, which can be particularly helpful if you’re not the one who transcribed the sentences. It will provide help to to listen to the phrases, getting ready you for the subsequent step.
  • Lastly, the one that didn’t transcribe the phrases into IPA takes the IPA symbols and transcribes them again into French phrases.

When you’ve practiced doing this a number of occasions, you’ll have educated your mind to guess the spelling of unfamiliar phrases from their pronunciation, and to recollect the pronunciation of phrases in IPA.

5. Educate Your self about French Liaison

Liaison is the becoming a member of of sounds throughout phrase boundaries when the second phrase begins with a vowel sound. The IPA is an efficient medium to learn the way this works and to place it into follow.

In IPA, an under-tie, [], denotes liaison. You may also use your data of IPA symbols to take a look at how liaison adjustments the phrases concerned in methods aside from altering the syllable boundaries.

These are a number of the adjustments liaison may cause:

  • “S” turns into [z] as in les enfants  (the youngsters) – [le.z‿ɑ̃.fɑ̃]
  • “X” additionally turns into [z] as in fake amis  (false mates) – [fo.z‿a.mi]
  • “F” turns into [v] as in neuf ans  (9 years) – [nœ.v‿ɑ̃]
  • Phrases ending in “n” with a nasalized vowel typically have the vowel de-nasalized, i.e. bon ami  (good good friend). Bon would finish with the [ɔ̃] sound, however the liaison produces this pronunciation: [bɔ.n‿a.mi]
  • The “er” sound that will normally be an [e] sound, turns into an [ɛʁ] sound, as in premier étage  (first ground) – [pʁə.mjɛ.ʁ‿e.taʒ]
  • “L” turns into [j] as in gentil enfant  (variety little one) – [ʒɑ̃.ti.j‿ɑ̃.fɑ̃]
  • Many different consonants that will have been silent develop into voiced in liaison, together with “p,” “t,” “z” and “g.”

Train: To be taught liaison pronunciations you might write the IPA of the unique phrases and the IPA of phrases (which you will discover in a Robert dictionary or Forvo) and be aware the adjustments that happen to the phrases due to liaison.

Instance: Grand oiseau (massive hen) is pronounced [gʀɑ̃.t‿wazo] in comparison with [gʀɑ̃] for grand (massive) with out the liaison. Oiseau stays the identical.

6. Discover French Intonation

The IPA could be helpful when studying about intonation in French—though you’re unlikely to seek out explanations of intonation in French utilizing IPA. However you possibly can nonetheless use the notation in your notes that can assist you perceive and keep in mind intonation guidelines.

The IPA symbols for intonation are [↗] for rising intonation and [↘] for falling intonation. Including these symbols to IPA sentences means that you would be able to pinpoint the syllables of adjusting intonation extra precisely.

There are 4 details in French intonation that you simply’ll need to pay attention to and follow:

  • A continuation sample. Which means the ultimate syllable of a phrase or clause has a rising intonation, to point out the continuation of the sentence.

Quand j’étais petite, j’étais danseuse.
(After I was little, I used to be a dancer.)
[kɑ̃ ʒɛte pɛ.↗tit, ʒɛte dɑ̃.↘søz]

  • Finality sample. You may also see within the instance above that the final syllable of the sentence has a falling intonation, which is the finality sample.
  • Sure/no sample. The final syllable all the time has rising intonation, unbiased of the query type.

Il est riche ?
(Is he wealthy?)
[il e ↗riʃ]

  • Info query sample. The query phrase has a rising intonation, after which intonation falls, generally rising once more on the final syllable to iterate that it’s a query.

Où va-t-il ?  
(The place is he going?)
[↗u ↘va↗.t‿il]

Train: One of the simplest ways to be taught and follow intonation patterns is to take heed to speech very carefully and take a look at inserting intonation marks onto a transcript.

You’ll be able to then follow talking with these patterns and get a local speaker to verify your intonation. 

Instance:If somebody says “À bientôt”  (See you quickly), you would possibly discover a rising intonation on the final two syllables and write it as [a ↗bjɛ̃.to].


There are a lot of methods you possibly can take heed to native French speech to follow figuring out French intonation and IPA sounds. You may watch French YouTube movies or for extra help you might strive a language studying program like FluentU.

FluentU makes use of genuine movies reminiscent of film clips and galvanizing talks to immerse you within the French language. Every video comes with interactive subtitles, which you should utilize to assist establish pronunciation and intonation in genuine French speech.

This system is on the market to entry in your browser or by downloading the iOS or Android app.

By listening to native audio system, you’ll be capable of establish not simply intonation but in addition the totally different IPA sounds, enabling you to good your French pronunciation.

The IPA and How It Can Enhance Your French

As talked about earlier, the Worldwide Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabet that consists of symbols that characterize sounds in a language. It’s used to speak about pronunciation because it doesn’t depend on evaluating to English equivalents and it avoids confusion over the written phonetic sound.

Nevertheless, the IPA does have some limitations. There could be variation within the pronunciation of an emblem between languages and even inside a language.

For instance, each English and French have the symbols [d] and [t]. English audio system pronounce these consonants additional again within the mouth, however in French, the tongue is additional ahead for each of those.

Though this produces a slight distinction in accent, the variations in [d] and [t] should not going to trigger points for an English speaker when talking French. The rationale for that is linked to phonemes. 

A phoneme is the smallest speech sound that may differentiate between two very related phrases in a language. For instance, the distinction between the phrases “dangerous” and “bat” is simply /d/ or /t/ (denoted between slashes as a result of they characterize phonemes).

We see these as two totally different phrases, however some languages might view it as the identical phoneme with a barely totally different pronunciation.

The IPA is beneficial right here because it lets you decide variations between phonemes that you could be initially hear as the identical phoneme or a unique one altogether, which helps you improve your comprehension when listening and be understood when talking.

As a result of a phoneme can range between languages and audio system, the IPA isn’t an alternative to listening to French audio system, however as an alternative enhances it.

The IPA for English and French could be present in most dictionaries, for instance a Robert dictionary. You may also discover IPA symbols subsequent to phrases on WordReference.


Now that you understand how to shine your French accent, it’s time to start out perfecting it!

Bonne probability ! (Good luck!)