French Pronunciation Guide

By Dick Oakes

A a, B b, C c, D d, E e, F f, G g, H h, I i,
J j, K k, L l, M m, N n, O o, P p, Q q,
R r, S s, T t, U u, V v, W w, X x, Y y, Z z

French is a Romance language spoken by about 265 million people in Belgium, Canada, France, French Guiana, Haiti, Indochina, Italy, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Madagascar, New Caledonia, north, west and central Africa, some islands in the Caribbean, some islands in the Indian Ocean, Switzerland, the French Pacific Territories, the United States, and the New Hebrides.

The French language is descended from Latin and first appeared in writing in 842 AD and spread in the late 12th and early 13th centuries.

The French alphabet is exactly the same as the English alphabet, except the letters are pronounced differently.

The letter H is pronounced very, very lightly.

Vowels followed by M or N are usually nasal, except when the nasal consonant is followed by another vowel, in which case the vowel and consonant are both voiced.

The pronunciation of letters is also affected by their position. If the last letter of a word is a consonant, it is not pronounced unless:

For words with more than one syllable, the stress is always on the last syllable.

Letters not listed below are pronounce approximately as in English.

A, a   - a as in father
E, e   - e as in brew
I, i   - i as in machine
O, o   - o as in flow
U, u   - u as in duke
C, c   - c as in ceiling before I or E, otherwise c as in scan
G, g   - g as in mirage before E or I, otherwise g as in gag
H, h   - h as in hotel, although silent most of the time
J, j   - j as in job (never with the D pronounced before the j)
R, r   - j as in the Spanish junta

There are several dipthongs in the French language.
AI, ai   - ai as in pain
AU, au   - au bauble
CH, ch   - ch as in charade
EU, eu   - eu as in deuce
EI, ei   - ei as in deign
EAU, eau   - eau as in beau
OI, oi   - oi as in foi gras
OU, ou   - ou as in soup
PH, ph   - ph as in phone
SC, sc   - sc as in scold
TH, th   - t as in top
TI, ti   - s as in silly
UE, ue   - ue as in suede
UI, ui   - ui as in suite

Special ligatures exist for some words.
Æ, æ   - æ as in et cætera
Œ, œ   - œ as in bœuf

There are two nasal vowels in the French language.
AN, an   - an as in stanch
ON, on   - on as in cone

Some individual letters may have diacritical marks that change the way the letter is pronounced.
À, à   - a as in father
Â, â   - a as in raw
Ç, ç   - ç as in façade
É, é   - é as in fiancé
È, è   - eh as in lehr
Ê, ê   - eh as in lehr
Ë, ë   - eh as in lehr
Î, î   - ï as in naïve
Ï, ï   - ï as in naïve
Ô, ô   - o as in hot
Ù, ù   - u as in blue
Û, û   - u as in duke

Copyright © 2014 by Dick Oakes