Sing Your Way to Better French Pronunciation

As I’ve mentioned before, singing is a great way to improve your pronunciation. So today we’re taking a look at the song “Des Que J’Te Vois” by Vanessa Paradis (video here, lyrics here) and the three main ways that it can help your French pronunciation.

1: Perfect the different vowel sounds in “vous” and “vu

The links above will take you to the WordReference entry for the word. Just click on “ECOUTER” beside to word to hear the pronunciation.

Many of you will be perfectly comfortable with “vous”, which sounds a lot like “ooh” with a v in front of it.

The vowel in “vu”, on the other hand, may be unfamiliar to you. This is especially true if your native language is English, Russian, Polish, Spanish, Italian, or one of the many other languages that don’t actually use this vowel. In fact, you may not even hear the difference at first.

If you’re having a difficult time pronouncing the vowel in “vu”, try this trick.  Say “ee“, as in the word “feed” or “she”. Now make your lips round, as though you’re about to give someone an exaggerated kiss on the cheek.

There you go. You’ve got it.

Now sing along with Vanessa and try your new skills out with words like “vu”, “disaparus”, and”tu”.

2: L’e Caduc

Huh? What is that?

Basically, the French like to drop a certain type of “e” – like the “e” in “samedi”, which often becomes “sam’di” in spoken French.

Or like at the “e” in “Des Que Je Te Vois”, which sounds more like “Des Que J’Te Vois” in the song.

So give the song a listen while reading the lyrics, and see if you can find all of the places where a written “e” is not pronounced.

There are a lot of them right?

“On se ferait…” becomes “On s’ferait…”

“… je te vois…” becomes “… j’te vois…”

“… tu me vois…” becomes “… tu m’vois…”

And so on.

So if you’re having a hard time producing those strings of consonants, start singing along.

3: “-aits”

Depending on where you are in your French education, you may have heard that there is a difference between the pronunciation words like “aimer” and “aimé” versus words like “aimait”.

In French, “-er” and “é” are pronounced something like the vowel in “play”, except that you don’t let your mouth relax as you finish making the sound. Instead, the lips stay open and tense.

On the other hand, “-ait” is pronounced more like th vowel in “bed”. Again, the lips remain open and tense.

For many non-natives these sounds seem very similar. For English speakers it’s also strange to pronounce the “-ait” sound at the end of a word, because this sound usually only appear in the middle of English words (like “bed”). The words “dès” and the final syllable of “effet” are also pronounced with the same vowel as in “-ait”.

With words like “ferait”, “avait”, “fait”, “effet” and “dès” appearing over and over again, “Des Que J’Te Vois” is a perfect way to practice these sounds.

Happy singing!


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