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How to speak with a French accent: 3 top tips from a native speaker

3 min read
30 March 2021

Have you ever pronounced a French sentence and realised that native speakers can’t understand a word you say? If your answer is yes, this is the right article for you. Let’s be honest, improving a foreign accent is a huge challenge.

Lucky for you, I can help you.

When I started learning French, the pronunciation seemed really tricky to me, so I asked a native speaker for a couple of ways to improve it and he gave me three tips that helped my French accents to make a quantum leap. If you want to hone your pronunciation too, all you need is to follow them!


1. Choose an accent

The first thing you have to know is that there isn’t just one French accent. This language is actually spoken in 84 countries all around the world, so before anything else you have to decide what kind of accent you want to learn.

Do you want to study the Parisian accent? The Marseille one? Or maybe the Canadian one. Make your choice and stay focused on that.


2. Pay attention for the slight differences in nasal sounds

In French there are some nasal sounds that could seem very similar but are actually slightly different. So one of the things you have to do first is improve your ability at distinguishing them.


  • The in vowel

    We'll give the name "in vowel" to a vowel that is commonly written in, ain, ein or un. It is generally similar to a French ‘a' vowel, but nasalised.

  • The an vowel

    What we'll call the “an vowel” is commonly written an or en. It is pronounced with the mouth in a position for a vowel partway between a and an open o, with the lips unrounded and the vowel nasalised.

  • The on vowel

    The “on vowel”, commonly written on, is pronounced with the mouth in a similar position to the close o vowel, but nasalised.

3. Focus on the R sound

One of the hardest sounds for someone who is trying to improve his French accent is the ‘r’ sound.

To pronounce it correctly you just have to open your mouth, close your throat as if you're going to gargle, and say the letter "k".

But be careful, a common mistake is to exaggerate this sound. You should pronounce it in a balanced way: not too soft and certainly not too strong!


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Pro Tip: Work on your intonation

The rhythm of French is what makes it such a beautiful language. Work on your intonation in order to give musicality to the speech and to not make it flat. Following these tips will make you become closer to sounding like a native speaker, but remember to be patient with yourself!

Perfecting a foreign accent takes lots of time and practice.

This article was written by Federica Merlo, one of our Kaplan International Languages student


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