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Section 1

#29 Pronounce French words like French, not like English.

That sounds obvious, but any French speaker who has been tortured by listening to dreadful American, British, or Australian accents will tell you that far too many English-speakers pronounce French words as they would if those words were English. For example, bonjour. To say this properly, the “bon” is nasalized, the “j” is very soft – almost a “zh” – the “ou” is clear and round, and the “r” is very light.

Some of those sounds don’t even exist in the English language, but many beginning students of French don’t seem to realize they need to learn a new set of sounds in order to master French. So they try to make do with their English sounds, and as a result their “bonjour” sounds like “bone-CHEWer.” Not pretty. If you’re having this problem, you may find it helps to listen to native French speakers speaking English. By imitating their “French accent,” you may actually improve your own.

play Bonjour !
Hello! / Good day!

#30 As you learn the language, learn the culture.

French is spoken as an official language in 29 countries on five of the seven continents. More than 130 million people speak French as a first language, 200 million speak it as a first or second language, and it’s the second language on the Internet.

Find out a little bit about the culture of the people whose language you’re learning. If French is not the only official language of that country, what are the others, and how does that affect the way French is spoken there? How did French come to be spoken in that region? A history of colonization affects the way the language evolved through the centuries. You’ll be amazed at the insight you gain from this exercise.

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