How to Have a French Accent

How to Have a French Accent

by Audrey Sivadier

Updated November 9, 2022

Have you ever heard Bradley Cooper speaking French? He is impressive, and his accent is impeccable! But how does he do it? Do you want to look like him? Here are a few tips, well only for the French accent, for the rest, Bradley Cooper is inimitable!

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How to make French sounds

Good news! French sounds won’t really be a problem for most English speakers. You may have to practice hardening the “r” especially when it is associated with another consonant (tr, br, cr…) but the rest of the sounds are very close, like vowels.

Do you think the French “u” is difficult to pronounce? Well, make an “o” with your lips and while keeping this lip position, try making an “i”. Bravo! Well done! You’ve just pronounced a French “u”!

Well, not so good news, I need to tell you about the nasal vowels… you know those vowels that you have to pronounce with your nose? (the air passing not only through your mouth but also through your nostrils). You can’t pronounce “un bon vin blanc”? (a good white wine) It’s normal, this sentence contains the four nasal vowels that the French have. But don’t panic, even me, being French, can’t pronounce one of the nasal vowels… So, I’m sure you’ll be able to make yourself understood by the bartender!

French Intonation and liaisons

Here’s what I suggest you focus on instead: intonation. In French, the most important syllable, no matter the word, will always be the one at the end of the word. For all words, even first and last names.

I recommend a good way to start: imagine a Frenchman who speaks your language with a strong accent. To imitate a Frenchman who speaks your language, you may not realise it, but you accentuate all the word endings more strongly. Try it with your language and then try it in French, you’ll see, it works!

Don’t forget also the mandatory link between certain words ending with a consonant and the next word beginning with a vowel, as in: “un_enfant parle à un_adulte”. This connection will allow you more fluidity, but beware it doesn’t work in all cases! How can you tell? Nothing better than a Lingoda tutor to explain it to you!

friends talking together and practising their french accent

Hear before you produce

You learned your mother tongue by listening to your parents speak! Well for a foreign language, it’s the same first step, you have to listen before you can produce sounds properly. If you’re a musician, then your ear is more trained, and you’ll certainly find it easier.

So where can you hear French? I recommend a few series made in France: “Le bureau des légendes” (for spy fans), “10% Appelez mon agent” (you’ll see many French-speaking celebrities), or the recent survivalist series L’effondrement.

You can listen to French while watching movies of course, or even the radio: the Rfi channel offers daily news in easy French, with the transcript. Or even music, like the very fashionable Angèle, Belgian and feminist.

Practical exercises for improving your French accent

As an athlete with a high level of pronunciation, I propose you very concrete training, for example if you tend to pronounce ” ou ” rather than ” u “, it’s because you need to produce a higher pitch sound, it’s said that you need to reinforce the acuity. By associating the “u” sound with higher pitched consonants such as “cu”, “tu”, “su” you should be able to pronounce the “u” without difficulty. The key is repetition!

If you have any doubts about the pronunciation of a sound, don’t hesitate to ask one of the Lingoda teachers, such as a doctor, who will first identify any pronunciation defects, then make a diagnosis and suggest similar exercises to correct the pronunciation of sounds that are resisting you.

In written and spoken language, some letters are silent! Beware of the letter H! Here are some important tips. And don’t forget that the important thing in a language is to be able to communicate, speak without complexes!

If you’d like to practise your French accent with our native speaking teachers then head over to our website and sign up for your free 7 day trial today!

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