Sounds / Phonics

Please note: There is a short delay when playing the audio clips.

When you listen to French, you'll hear that there are some sounds that seem unusual to English-speaking ears. Every language is different and it's good to be aware of some of the 'special' sounds of French.

It helps if you think of using 'French eyes' when looking at words. In English, the word 'the' goes before nouns to say 'the bus' etc, but in French, thé is a noun and means 'tea'.  See how it's pronounced below!

Listen to the words with the 'special' sounds:

J - jaune - yellow

(The J is a bit tricky to explain isn't it? It's a bit like a 'zh' sound.)

CH - cheval - horse

(The CH is just like 'sh' in English!)

Some letters in French are silent. Just like in the word 'hour', you don't pronounce H in French.

H - huit - eight

Have you noticed that some French letters have little marks above or below them?  These are accents and they change the way the letter sounds.

Listen to these examples:

Ç - français - French

(The Ç makes a sort of 'ss' sound.)

È - frère - brother

(È is like the 'e' in pet.)

É - thé - tea

(É is like the 'ay' in day.)

Here are some common sounds you'll hear in French. It's worth having a practice saying them as they're not quite the same as English.

EU - bleu - blue

(Imagine you're sticking out your tongue and saying you don't like something.)

OU - rouge - red

(Imagine you're singing backing vocals and singing 'ooooo'.)

ON - non - no

(Sounds a bit like you've got a blocked nose!)

The two groups of letters below represent the same sound - or phoneme. It's a bit like saying the 'an' in 'ran' without moving your mouth!

IN - lapin - rabbit

AIN - pain - bread

Here's another example of different letters with the same sound:

O - rose - pink

EAU - eau - water

AU - jaune - yellow

So when your French friend tells you that you're having du pain for tea, don't forget your French eyes and ears. They can be very helpful when you're reading and listening to French!