Phonetic Spelling – IPA (2)

As I’ve said in the introduction section of this series, the consonants are very similar to that of English. You will most likely have trouble with the vowels and the semi-vowels. I was gonna write out the different IPA letters and pronunciations of the alphabet but it has been done so times already. So I figured it’d be better to take some time to explain it, rather than spending countless hours, building an html table of this…

Phonetic Spelling - Wordreference

Taken from Wordreference

I know it looks pretty intimidating but I’ll give you some tips to grasp some of the more difficult aspects. Let’s start with the nasal aspect of the pronunciation. You see those letters with a weird little squiggly line over it? It means that you have to add a nasal sound to it.

For example, for the nasal sound ɑ̃ you need to make the sound “ah”, but push a little bit of the sound from the nose. Try saying it with a bit of attitude, like you have a cold or something (weird, I know but it works). You’ll sound a bit whiny, but that’s one of the main indicators you got the right sound. This applies to all the letters with that ~ (squiggly line) above its letter.

Another thing to note is the letter [j] (the phonetic “j”), don’t end the sound as you would normally do in English. Let’s take for example the word “fille”. You want to add a bit of a “yah” at the end of the word. That “yah” sound is represented by the phonetic letter [j], when spelt in a word: [fij]. So it’d sound like (in English terms): “feeee yahh”

Remember! When trying to pronounce these, you really want to emphasis each sound slowly. Try to tap into your inner French. Break out that croissant. Purposely try a French accent and fake it ’til you make it.

At one point or another you’ll probably ask, “why are there so many e’s?” Well relax, there aren’t THAT many, just three types: [ɛ], [e] and [ə]. The difference is the degree of openness. [ɛ] is the most open. You gotta bring down your chin and open your mouth to bring the sound out. The [e] is like the “é” at the end of a verb in the past tense, like “regardé”. And for the last one (that weird upside down e), [ə] is pronounce like in “de”…. In English terms, it’s like “euh”.

The last thing  you guys should know is the difference between [u] and [y].

[u] is the sound made when you say “tout” or in English terms, “to”.
[y] is the nasal version of that (like when you say “tu” or “du” … in French).

But yeah, that’s pretty much the overall idea. Once you get more of an understanding, you can head over to WordReference and try sounding out the phonetic spelling of a difficult word. They’ll show it like /avwar/ (avoir). Try it!

If I got confusing at one point or another, leave me a comment and I’ll try to explain it further!

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