Learning a language is not only about reading and writing, but also about listening and reproducing the sounds as accurately as possible while speaking. A correct pronunciation of the words is a key to be understood. Spelling is often misleading, especially when it comes to French!
Memorisation of the words by visualising the words and imitating the sounds is essential. Listening to an audio file while following along in the actual book contributes to gaining understanding and building general language confidence.
The National French Spell Bee competition format seeks to address this issue with many school students in India who even after having 2 to 3 years of French learning under their belt in their schools lacks listening & correct pronunciation skills.
There are pre-registrations specialised interactive workshops which focuses of the spoken & listening skills of the French vocabulary that are conducted by the National French Spell Bee team for the benefit of the students with schools who decide to go ahead & participate in the National French Spell Bee competition.
Here are 10 top pronunciation difficulties that an Indian student face while learning French:
Pronunciation Difficulty 1 – The French R
The French R has been the bane of French students since time immemorial. OK, maybe it’s not quite that bad, but the French R is pretty tricky for a lot of French students. The good news is that it is possible for a non-native speaker to learn how to pronounce it.
Pronunciation Difficulty 2 – The French U
The French U is another tricky sound, at least for English speakers, for two reasons: it’s hard to say and it’s sometimes difficult for untrained ears to distinguish it from the French OU. But with practice, you can definitely learn how to hear and say it.
Pronunciation Difficulty 3 – Nasal Vowels
Nasal vowels are the ones that make it sound like the speaker’s nose is stuffed up.In fact, nasal vowel sounds are created by pushing air through the nose and mouth, rather than just the mouth like you do for regular vowels. It’s not so difficult once you get the hang of it – listen, practice, and you will learn.
Pronunciation Difficulty 4 – Accents
French accents do more than just make words look foreign – they modify pronunciation and meaning too. Therefore, it’s extremely important to know which accents do what, as well as how to type them.
Pronunciation Difficulty 5 – Silent Letters
Many French letters are silent, and a lot of them are found at the end of words. However, not all final letters are silent. Confused? The National French Spell Bee team conducts specialised complimentary workshops to drive home this point with schools who participate in various editions of National French Spell Bee.
Pronunciation Difficulty 6 – H muet / aspiré
Whether it’s an H muet or an H aspiré, the French H is always silent, yet it has a strange ability to act like a consonant or like a vowel. That is, the H aspiré, although silent, acts like a consonant and does not allow contractions or liaisons to occur in front of it. But the H muet acts like a vowel, so contractions and liaisons are required in front of it. Confusing? Just take the time to memorise the type of H for the most common words listed in the Guide Book of the National French Spell Bee, and you’re all set.
Pronunciation Difficulty 7 – Liaisons and Enchaînement
Some French words flow one into the next thanks to liaisons and enchaînement. This causes problems not only in speaking, but in listening expressions as well.The more you know about liaisons and enchaînement, the better you’ll be able to speak and understand what’s being spoken.
Pronunciation Difficulty 8 – Contractions
In French, contractions are required whenever a short word like je, me, le, la, or ne is followed by a word that begins with a vowel or H muet, the short word drops the final vowel, adds an apostrophe, and attaches itself to the following word. This is not optional, as it is in English – French contractions are required. Thus, you should never say “je aime” or “le ami” – it is always j’aime and l’ami. Contractions never occur in front of a French consonant (except H muet). Through the format of the National French Spell Bee a student has the clear idea of the same as she r he tries to memorise the words with contractions especially with a definite article in front.
Pronunciation Difficulty 9 – Euphony
It may seem odd that French has specific rules about ways to say things so that they sound prettier, but that’s the way it is. While preparing for the National French Spell Bee through the dedicated Guide Book the students of French automatically familiarise themselves with the various euphonic techniques so that their French sounds pretty too.
Pronunciation Difficulty 10 – Rhythm
Ever heard anyone say that French is very musical? That’s partly because there are no stress marks on French words: all syllables are pronounced at the same intensity (volume). Instead of stressed syllables or words, French has rhythmic groups of related words within each sentence. Regular practice from the guide book of the National French Spell Bee which are made as per the levels of the students enable them to appreciate this rhythm in the French language.